For this reason, it is important to understand how they work and alternatives available on the market so you can choose the best printer for your needs and your pockets.
The printers are not all the same, there are printers of all kinds so, before making a hasty or wrong purchase, we have to stop for a moment and buy a device more durable, richer in features, more economical over time and higher quality.
Let’s see together in this guide how to choose your printer based on the type of technology (ink or laser), the advantages and disadvantages of the two technologies and why one model is preferable to the other.
In the end, we will also show you the ones we believe are best printers that you can buy online at the moment, so you can save something compared to buying in a store or a mall (where often offers dazzle and lead easily to error).
- Inkjet Printers (Inkjet)
- Laser printers
- Features of a good printer
- Buying Guide
Inkjet Printers (Inkjet)
Inkjet printers work through small nozzles that spray ink on the paper at high speed: scrolling on the sheet generates the image by scrolling perpendicular to the sheet, until the area of the sheet is full of details and contours to be printed. The print cartridges contain the color pigment that will be sprayed onto the sheet through a print head (which takes care of opening only the nozzles needed to pour that precise point of color onto the sheet at that precise moment).
Inkjet printers are very popular and sold because they are good for all types of prints, including photos. They can print black and white documents, color photos and print on different types of paper (see here guide to print digital photos with your home printer).
A defect of these printers is certainly the speed of printing: they are notoriously slow, even if this speed changes a lot depending on the type of print requested (fast enough for black and white documents, slow for photos and images that fill the whole sheet).
Even if the inkjet printers seem cheap to us at the time of purchase, the real expense is on the cartridges: if a new printer can cost less than 50 euros, when you need to change the cartridges, you go to spend 30 euros or more to change a complete set; multiplying this expense 2 or 3 times a year, we realize that management costs are very high. If we don’t want to spend so much we can always buy compatible cartridges (not original) even if the print quality suffers a lot.
On balance inkjet printers are perfect for those who print few documents and for those who print a few photos every now and then: they, therefore, lend themselves very well to home use.
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The other type of printer involves the use of a laser-based printing process: an internal cylindrical plate is loaded with a negative electrostatic charge, therefore a laser head removes the charge in the parts of the image in which the toner should not be laid. Once the negative is created, the plate passes over the toner and imprints the image on the sheet (which in the meantime has been positively charged, in order to attract the toner). At the end of the process, the toner is fixed on the sheet with a fuser and presser roller (this is why the sheet comes out slightly hot) while the cylindrical plate is emptied of the residual toner and its residual charge removed, so as to be able to immediately print the next sheet.
The difference with inkjet printers is the greater speed since with a single turn of the cylindrical plate a whole sheet can be printed and the whole process can be repeated in a few seconds. The toner used in these printers is dry in laser printers so it can withstand months or years if it is not used for so long. The maintenance cost is also very low compared to the printed pages: a single toner can last up to 5,000 sheets and more, and compatible toners further reduce spending.
Even if the initial cost is higher, over time you can be sure of considerable savings. The only real flaw lies in the dimensions: they tend to be larger and heavier than Inkjet printers, so we won’t be able to place them anywhere in the house (often it will be necessary to allocate a corner or a piece of furniture only to the laser printer).
The evolution of laser printers is the LED printers with a solid-state matrix to speed up the printing process even more, without losing quality.
The laser printer is ideal if you make frequent printouts of black and white text documents but also to print in color (even if the costs of handling the toner grow out of proportion in the latter case).
They are the ideal choice for small offices, businesses and for all professionals who print many sheets during the day.
Features of a good printer
Once you’ve decided which type of printer you want to buy, there are still so many features and differences to consider. Let’s see than the main technical parameters written on each printer label:
- Resolution / DPI: DPI is synonymous with dots Per inch and indicates how many ink or toner points are deposited within a square inch of the printable area. The nomenclature of dots Per inch for printing is completely different from that of the nomenclature of pixels per inch used with monitors: a computer monitor is much more detailed and always has a higher color rendering than the printed ink. Printing technology has improved so much in recent years that the number of DPI has become irrelevant. 150 DPI is already an acceptable level for draft prints while 300 DPI is perfect for the magazine quality. Low-end inkjet printers generally have a print capacity of 300-600 DPI; if you spend more, you get even over 1,000 DPI. Laser / LED printers range from 600 to over 2000 DPI.
- Print speed: Almost always it is expressed in PPM (pages per minute), but you can also see other abbreviations like CPM (characters per minute) or, if you are going to photo printers, IPM (images per minute). Laser printers are significantly faster than inkjet printers. Very often, manufacturers tend to inflate the print speed value.
- Types of connection: Long gone are the times when printers connected to computers via serial or parallel ports; the current standard for cable connections is the USB. Some printers come with a card cable or wifi network and this becomes very convenient if you want to put the printer away from the computer.
- Remote printing: One of the most recent features of new printers is the support for cloud printing that becomes excellent for printing documents or photos from your mobile phone. There are specific printers to print via Airplay from an iPad or iPhone while for Android, Blackberry and the same iOS you can always use the free service Google Cloud Print. HP provides its own cloud printing service called ePrint.
- Internal memory: Classic inkjet printers usually have very little internal memory while those with scanners have more memory. Laser printers generally have larger amounts of internal memory (ranging from 128 to 512 MB). Generally speaking, network-enabled printers and Wi-Fi have enough memory to handle print jobs from multiple computers. Unless you intend to print large volumes of material in a short time, printer memory is an irrelevant parameter.
- Multifunction / All-In-One: Multifunction printers are those with additional features including, typically, there are the scanner and the fax. The scanner integrated into the printer allows it to be used almost like a photocopier. Personally, I always recommend the printer with a built-in scanner because it is really useful.
- Printers without PC or Stand-alone: this type of model is mainly used in companies and are independent printers that work even without a computer connected. They have a USB port that can be used to take files to the device and print them. If you use to print photos, stand-alone photo printers are very convenient because you just need to stick the SD card of the machine.
- Compatibility with operating systems: Who uses Windows has no such problems but those who use Mac computers and, above all, Linux should check if there are compatible drivers.
- Duty Cycle: this value is often found in the technical specification sheet and indicates the number of printable pages in a month without problems. This is an indication of robustness and wears resistance. Obviously, as the printer ages, the Duty Cycle decreases.
- Front back (also automatic): some printers allow you to print on both sides of a sheet automatically, while others need to be configured manually, which is very inconvenient.
- Multi-purpose tray: If you print on different types of cards, cards, envelopes, or any other type of format, the multipurpose tray is important to respect the margins.
- Cost of consumables and cartridges: before buying the printer, it is advisable to check the prices of the cartridges and see which ones are the cheapest. I do not want to talk about brands or models because they are numerous and because it is impossible to have a complete overview. I would just like to point out an interesting difference between Epson printers and HP DeskJet: the Epsons use 4 different cartridges whose cost is around 8 Euros each, the HP instead use two cartridges: one in black and white for 15 Euros and one in color from 20. The difference is that with HP you can only buy the black and white one and the printer works normally while Epson obliges the user to always buy all 4 cartridges. I also recommend checking if it is possible to use refillable cartridges (in the case of Inkjet) or if there are good cartridges that are not original. For laser / LED printers make sure that only the toner drum can be replaced.
After sewing together the best features of both types of printers, let’s see together which models to buy online. We will present the best inkjet models and the best laser models, divided in turn into monochromatic models (which print in black and white) and color models.
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Cheap inkjet printers
- HP Deskjet 2630 (€ 35)
- HP Deskjet 3735 (€ 42)
- Canon Italy PIXMA MG3650S (€ 43)
- Canon Italy PIXMA TR4550 (€ 39)
- Epson Expression Home XP 257 (€ 49)
- HP OfficeJet 3831 (€ 62)
Monochrome laser printers
- Brother HL-1210W (€ 63)
- Samsung SL-M2070 Xpress (€ 103)
- Brother DCPL2550DN (€ 158)
Color laser printers
- Brother HLL3210CWYY1 (€ 157)
- Oki C332dnw (€ 178)
- HP Pro M281fdw (€ 229)
If we are looking for specific printers for photographs, please refer to our guide below.
READ ALSO -> Photo printer to print color photos: which to buy