You will have to choose between laser and inkjet printers, color or monochrome, and print only or multifunctional devices. You will also have to decide whether to buy or rent a printer, with all the advantages of the service and technological upgrade that the lease model includes. In this article we will review some of the alternatives you will face and some of the features you will surely want to have in a new home office printer. However, the decision is yours and will depend exclusively on your needs.
If you have not bought a printer lately or if you have not needed a printer until now, it is a good idea to give a quick review on the differences between inkjet and laser printers. We will do this in a very elementary way, but it will give you a general idea of how they work.
Laser vs. inkjet printers
Inkjet printers spray tiny drops of liquid ink onto a page. There are several types of inkjet delivery systems, but most consumer systems use ink cartridges plus a printhead that separates the ink into almost microscopic drops.
Laser printers create static electricity in a rotating drum inside the printer. The static electricity attracts the toner which is “the ink” in the form of powder used by this type of printer and which melts onto the paper. While toner cartridges initially cost more than ink cartridges, they also last much longer than liquid ink.
There are other advantages that laser printers have over inkjet printers, unless you need color. They are faster than inkjet printers and the quality of their text printing is more accurate, although today’s inkjet printers are accurate enough to fit most home office documents.
One way to decide whether to buy a laser or inkjet printer is to find out what you want to do with it. If color is not important to you, then a laser printer will be more cost effective and faster. But if you want to print in color the artwork your kids made on the tablet, or print an occasional photograph, then you probably need an inkjet.
If you see yourself teleworking from home in the foreseeable future, or even if you don’t, you may want to consider a multifunction printer, also known as an AIO, for your home office. These devices not only print from your computer, but allow you to scan existing documents and copy or save them as files. Some also allow you to fax or email a scanned document. They are very useful for keeping paperwork to a minimum in your home, since you can scan and save most of your paper documents as PDF files.
Of course, you can use your phone’s camera to scan and upload documents. If you only occasionally need to scan a document, this may be enough for you. However, a document scanned by a good scanner will always be of high quality.
Most consumer multifunction printers will allow you to copy and print any paper up to A4, which is commonly used for documents. You also have the option of printers that will allow you to handle paper up to A3 which is a large size for posters, for example.
Paper input and output
Most printers today work by pulling the paper from the front, passing it through a drum or roller, and then pulling it out to the output tray, also at the front. However, if you are printing on thicker paper or cardboard and do not want to fold the paper, you may want to find a printer that has an input tray at the back of the printer so that the paper passes through the machine in a straight line.
Some printers also have more than one paper tray at the front, allowing you to have different colors of paper available or to have one tray for A4 paper and the other for A3 paper.
Price per page
Without a doubt, the biggest expense of a printer is not the printer itself or the paper, it is the ink. Generally, you can find the performance per page for each computer among the statistics published by the manufacturer. But even when the page yield is available, you should bear in mind that these figures are provided by the manufacturer, so the number of pages you get per cartridge is usually optimistic. Still, this can give you a clear idea of what you’re facing: ink cartridges are filled with blood from unicorns from the moons of Jupiter, everyone knows it, and that has to be paid for.