Buyer's guide to Printers

When buying an office printer, your first consideration should be the type and quality of printing that your business needs. If your output is primarily text-based documents with occasional demand for high-quality colour pages, an inkjet is a natural choice. But, if you need to print multiple high-quality photographic or black and white documents, a colour laser will be the faster and cheaper option.

However, relying on a single printer to do everything can be a false economy. If you need to regularly print high-quality photographic images but you also need to output black and white documents, a sensible solution would be to buy a laser and an inkjet printer. We’ve pulled out the main features to consider and our quick info panel provides an at-a-glance guide to printer specifications.

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Performance Features Design Features
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Printer speed

Printer speed is an important figure to look at when buying a printer. Speed is measured in Pages Per Minute (PPM) and is usually based on an industry standard coverage, which is quoted for colour and black and white prints. In terms of productivity, it is obviously better to choose a faster printer but this means you will pay more. It’s also worth noting that if you choose a model capable of printing on both sides – duplex printing – the print speed will be significantly reduced, as printers add time for flipping the page and waiting for the ink to dry before printing on the second side.

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Duty cycle

Once you have decided on the type of printer that best suits your office requirements, you need to consider the duty cycle, speed, printer and paper capacity – important factors that can make a real difference to office efficiency and the longevity of the printer.

The duty cycle is the maximum number of prints a device is designed to handle per month. The model you choose should have a duty cycle far higher than your expected monthly demand – if you print more, the printer life will be shortened and the guarantee will be void if anything goes wrong.

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Ideally, the printer should connect directly into the business network, so it can be shared across the business, rather than being attached to a single PC. However, it might be necessary to also have some printers set up individually, particularly where there are business-sensitive documents to be printed.

A relatively new requirement for printers is the ability to work wirelessly and to process print jobs from mobiles, tablets and laptops via Wi-Fi links. If your business has numerous users working via mobile devices, a wireless printer with its own Android and iOS applications will quickly pay back any additional costs in the time saved by employees when transferring files to the network.

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The size and quality of printing stock has a significant impact on the type of printer you choose. All printers will print on A4 or letter format paper but if you need to print on smaller format, larger format or on card stock, many business printers won’t be able to cope. Some laser models print up to A3 but will have problems with pages smaller than A4. To print on card or thick paper stock, you’ll need a printer that has a straight feed, so the card doesn’t bend as it passes through the printer.

If adding paper is an office gripe, you can solve this issue by choosing input and output paper trays with a large capacity. Units that offer multiple 250 or 500-page input trays are ideal.

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No one likes changing printer toner, which is why it’s important to look at the printer capacity when choosing a printer – this is the number of pages you can print before you need to change the cartridge or toner. Large capacity units are cheaper and it means you’ll spend less time changing cartridges.

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While the initial purchase costs for printers can seem cheap, you need to factor in the paper, ink and toner costs. The total cost of ownership (TCO) is therefore an important metric when looking at a printer purchase. Ink costs can be expensive, so look for printers with separate inks for each colour and with larger capacity black tanks. Many new printers come with the ability to reorder ink online at a reduced cost. HP’s Instant Ink replacement service allows you to select a regular monthly payment plan based on pages printed, and this can significantly reduce the TCO costs by 50% or more. Laser printer owners should also look at the costs of replacement printer drums – as well as toner costs – when selecting a new printer.