By Joel Montgomery // 7 August 2009 // Related Categories: Tips
Checklist for buying a new printer
If you're thinking of investing in a new printer then put aside a few minutes to review your options. Don't just jump for that printer for under $200 at Harvey Norman. Printers may appear cheap up-front, but the cost of ink, toner and components over the life of the product can really add up. Here are some tips to help you buy the right printer for your office at the best possible price.
- Inkjet or Laser? - As a rule of thumb inkjet printers are a must for long-lasting, true-colour photos, while laser printers are best for producing high volume, text-based documents. Inkjets usually cost more per page to print compared to lasers, although they are almost always cheaper to buy up-front.
- Multi-Function Printers (MFPs) - You'll generally pay more for an MFP (also known as an "All-in-one" for inkjet printers) because they combine print, fax, scan and copy into the one device. If you do the math you'll likely find it's cheaper to buy an MFP than buy each function separately.
- Colour prints - Printing a colour page is typically ten times more expensive than printing mono. If you buy a colour printer then I suggest you set the default print settings to mono so your staff don't unnecessarily waste those expensive colour cartridges.
- Paper size - Most printers can print up to A4 paper size. A3 printers are much more expensive, and if you think you need something bigger than A3 then you should consult a printer expert before you fork out thousands.
- PAY ATTENTION to your Cost Per Print - The ongoing cost of ink or toner cartridges will be many times the cost of your initial printer purchase. I urge you to calculate the cost per print for at least three printers before you buy. Find out the cost of both the mono & colour cartridges as well as the estimated number of pages that each cartridge can print (the "yield"). Then divide the cost by the yield. For example, a $100 toner cartridge that can print 1,000 pages will cost you 10c per page ($100 / 1,000). A good inkjet printer should cost you < 5c per mono page and a good laser printer should cost you < 3c per mono page. If you're planning on buying non-brand or after-market cartridges then make sure you buy from a reputable manufacturer because your print quality may suffer. You can read more about Cost Per Print here >
- Networkable printers - If your new printer will support an office with multiple users then your printer should have an in-built network card (called a "networkable" printer). Network cards are fairly cheap these days and it will save you from having to connect through a server or a colleague's computer to print.
- Print speed - For an office environment I suggest you buy a printer that can print at least 25 pages per minute (ppm) because in the real world you will expect to see about half the speed promised by the manufacturer. Another less known measure is "time to first print" which refers to the time it takes to print the first page after the printer has been in an idle state. Anything more than a 20-second time to first print will be frustrating.
- Duty cycle - A measure of durability, duty cycle refers to the maximum number of pages a printer can reliably print per month before it's components start to "wear & tear". Generally speaking the higher the duty cycle, the more reliable (and well-built) the printer.
- Print quality - This can be very subjective and you'll find two brands of printer with identical specifications will produce quite different results. Printer resolution no longer correlates directly with higher image quality however it still has some bearing on the quality of text and curves, especially on premium papers. My suggestion is to look at some sample prints and compare multiple brands. I personally believe Japanese brands deliver the best quality prints.
- More features - Other common things to look for in your new printer include duplex printing (the ability to print on both sides), paper handling (the quantity of sheets that can be held in an input & output paper tray before it needs attention) & on-board memory (the higher the on-board memory, the more documents can be queued on the printer).
Don't just settle for the most popular brand of printer. Look for a brand that has a reputation for quality and delivers a low cost per print. We partner with Fuji Xerox and Dell for these reasons. And if you are looking to roll-out a fleet or printers (say more than 10), then you should consider leasing your equipment with Managed Print Services from Lexmark or Fuji Xerox.
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