TOP TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BUYING A PRINTER:
1. How much do you want to spend?
This is the number one question of the season considering the current economic climate. So before you hit the stores, ask yourself exactly how much money do you have to spend on this purchase? For an idea of what you can get in each price bracket, check our holiday buyers guide.
2. How much will consumables cost?
The second most important question although some would argue it’s the first. Either way, it’s important to get a general idea of how much it will cost to run your new printer over the long run. Check to see what kind of ink or toner it takes and then find it in the store or online. Most manufacturers will have a general ball park number on prints per cartridge listed on the packaging; divide that by the cost of the cartridge to get an estimate of cost per print.
3. Is Multifunction the ticket?
More than ever, manufacturers are advertising the fabulous All-in-One (AIO) or Multifunction printer (MFP). They mean the same thing; that you’ll be getting a printer AND several other functional devices. The question is do you really need a scanner and copier OR could you save money by just purchasing a single function printer?
4. You decided yes. So which AIO or MFP is right for me?
Most AIOs or MFPs offer print, scan and copy capabilities. However, many of these multifunction devices now offer fax and/or high quality photo capabilities as well. 4-in1 or 5-in-1 devices will almost always be more expensive than their 3-in-1 counterparts so make sure that fax and/or photo capabilities are something you need.
5. To go wireless or not? That is the question!
Cutting the cord is more prevalent than ever in today’s world and the printing industry is not immune to the trend. Many manufacturers are touting a built-in wireless connectivity as a major feature but should you pay major money for it? Well, two questions can answer this dilemma for you: do you have a network in your home or office? And do you have more than one computer you want to print from? If the answer is yes to both, then you’ll want to consider either a Wi-Fi or Ethernet (wired network) connection. If the answer is no to either, than a plain old direct connection via USB will work just fine.
6. Am I a colorful person?
This question really only applies to the shoppers looking for a Laser or LED printer as inkjet printers always print in both black and white and color. Consumers can save a good amount of money purchasing a monochrome printer in both initial cost and long run usage because there is no color element. But be careful to make sure black and white is really right cause a colorless world can be pretty dull.
7. I love color; can I print lab quality photos?
You won’t be getting lab quality photos from a Laser, LED or Solid Ink printer anytime soon. While all of these machines print beautiful colors and have their place in many households and businesses, if you want photos, inkjet or dye sub is the way to go. The real question is will you be printing photos for the home or photos to share? If you have a semi serious photography love, you want to go with a dedicated photo printer.
8. I’m into the green movement, is there a printer out there for me?
The answer is yes. When you buying a printer ask a salesperson (or look yourself at the specs) to see if the printer is Energy Star and/or RoHS compliant. Both are environmental programs helping to conserve energy and protect consumers from harmful materials. Plus, most Energy Star compliant devices will save you money on your energy bill you can’t beat that!
9. So Ill conserve energy, can a printer do more than that?
Again, the answer is yes. Two-sided printing (duplexing) is another feature you’ll want to look for when interested in conserving whether it be for Mother Earth or your wallet. Make sure you check to see if the printer has automatic duplexing; many times a manufacturer will advertise duplexing as a feature but the users will actually have to flip the document in order to get double-sided results.
10. What extras will I have to purchase?
Depending on how you answered the above questions, you will have to buy supplies for your new printer. Every printer comes with a starter kit of ink/toner (at least that I’ve come across) but you may want to purchase a second set depending on your print volume. Paper is important; typically copy paper will be fine for most prints but photo paper or professional paper may be needed to accomplish some goal. Finally, you need to make sure you have the right cord for your connection. If you plan on setting up your printer over an Ethernet or USB connection, you will need an Ethernet cable or USB print cord. It should say on the box or in the specs whether either is included. If not, ask someone!