Choosing the Right Printer for You

Everybody body hates doling out more money for ink cartridges, and yet they keep getting more and more expensive. But what about the cost of a good printer.

That is where the savings comes in. It’s not in the cost of the printer but in the couple of years you are buying those ink cartridges you have to worry about. That is the second thing you should look for in a printer.

Of course, there is the first thing, what are you using it for. There are several good printers out there but the one thing you have to decide is what is the major area that you are printing in. Pictures, quantities of text or multi-tasking.

There are the two types of printers, ink-jet and laser. For the large quantities of text such as an office environment you would want to go with the laser printer. For quality and long lasting pictures ink-jets are for you.

You can get a decent ink-jet printer from $50-$150 and then go upward from there for the better ones. The laser printers start at $200 for good and fast text and graphics. If you do not plan on doing a wide range of tasks you should be able to pick one or the other easily.

But we come to the part of the everyday person, not the business or small photo enthusiast. For everyday printing with a broad range of functions there are many you can choose from. The best for your needs also has to fit your pocket book.

There are printers for home use, then there are ones for portability, and there are ones that combine features of a scanner, printer and copier, multi use printers. There are printers that specialize in photos that you can print the 3×5 or 4×6 photos directly form your camera.

You need to decide what you are using yours for and choose the one with the features you like the best. Of course, photo printers will have better quality, while portable printers will be a bit slower than others. There are trade offs when it comes to the different printers and what you will be using yours for.

Some key points are the ink and how fast the printer prints. Does the printer have separate ink cartridges for each color, or just one for black and one for the three colors, red, yellow and blue. If it is the two cartridges you will be buying ink when the one color of the three in the cartridge of colors gets low. They do not all three get used the same.

I have found that I use more red ink than I do yellow and blue on my printer. I’m not sure why, some study has probably been done on this by somebody,, but I do use more of it. I also like one feature of my printer. I can get a more expensive cartridge but it holds more of the black ink, it’s a large capacity and it holds more ink.

I’m not sure if it is more economical but I change the cartridge less often. Which means less trips to the store to buy more ink.

I have found that I like the separate cartridges. It just makes sense to have them separate. If you get one that is not due to features that a particular printer has, you may find those features do not match up to the cost savings of ink cartridges.

I don’t like to have to wait anymore than anyone else. That is why I wanted to find a printer with a faster PPM or pages per minute. That is the one techy word you will want to look at when searching for your new printer.

If the page per minutes is down low you can expect to have to wait longer, this means that you have to sit and wait for your page to print. I have found that the photos at best quality of course take the longest and that is the best way to judge a printers speed.

By low I mean less than 2 or 3, not that that will mean much. The reviews at CNET take the printer and run it through tests to see exactly what the printer will do for them. They don’t take the word of the manufacturer.

For instance, my printer, Epson Stylus C84, rates at 22 PPM for basic black text which is accurate. And the best quality photo is at about 2 minutes and 18 seconds, according to Epson. This is about right from what I have been printing, a good quality 8×10 picture on glossy paper at best quality setting takes around 2 and a half minutes. Long enough to go grab a bite to eat while it prints.

CNET rated them almost exactly the same on their tests, they said it took them 2.3 minutes when they printed out the same type picture, best quality setting on glossy paper. This is an average of three tests that they do so that they get a decent and fair rating.

But when you see the manufacturers speed on their specs don’t believe it unless they tell you exactly what kind of picture or print it was. If it is a common text document with only black it will go fast. That maybe what they are talking about. If they outright say it the best color photo they can print then they have to stick to that for their specs.

If they don’t say what kind of print it was, then it probably is a lower quality and you can expect a better picture of yours to take longer. When you go to a website such as, they have real world reviews of printers that you can judge what the speed of each printer is.

You have to look at what the printer can print as far as types of paper and what you want to print. I have found I can print professional looking envelopes quickly with mine, the specs say it takes a wide range of envelopes and paper types.

You may want to look at the specs and see what you can print on it. For instance, do you want to print out your own Christmas cards, does the printer do it. That is another thing you want to check out for a printer you are looking at buying, the variety of papers you can print on it. Is the tray set up for full pages and anything else just goes through that or is there a slider bar to adjust or a separate slot for the smaller stuff.

If there is a slider bar or recess for the envelopes, postcards and such it will print straighter and be less apt to jam. That is one thing you don’t want, jams can be hard on your printer. You want to make sure the printer takes the different kinds of things you can see yourself printing.

Cards and regular 4×6 pictures are some of the things I print and wanted to be sure the printer could take just those sizes. It takes less time to just print out the picture than cutting them from whole sheets.

If the printer has a slider bar you need to make sure it is easy to use, some are kind of picky as to how you physically move the bar over. Others have different recesses in the tray that the smaller the paper or such falls into. This is something you should look at when you are looking at a printer.

The cost of the ink is a major concern for you. Go not to the printer but to the ink cartridge area of any store and compare the prices. See what the price is for the printer you are looking at and think about having to purchase the set of them all at once.

The Epson Stylus C84 costs about $72 dollars for all three colors and the high capacity black. That may seem like a lot but I only replace the one cartridge that needs to be changed. I also use a lot of ink when my kids are doing projects for 4-H.

Pictures such as good quality photos take more ink, and just black text takes no color but all black. You have to figure that you will be spending the cost of the cartridges every so often while using your printer. Depending on how many good quality pictures you print, you may be spending more and more.

Some laser printer are very expensive for the cartridge. They last much longer than ink-jet but you still have to consider the cost.

Another thing you have to look at is resolution or print quality. Have the store print out a sample picture. If they can’t, go elsewhere. You want to see what the picture will look like on that printer, it will be a best quality on very good paper, but you can figure that is what you will be printing.

You can compare the specs on CNET but just go with how they rate the quality, you don’t need to understand all the resolution jargon to understand how they rate the quality on a one to ten scale. They rate the performance of the printer on a one to ten scale including the quality and the speed.

You need to make sure the printer connectivity is compatible with your setup at home. This just means that the cable or whatever for the printer uses such as USB has a place to plug into on your computer. Many printers have a Parallel cable as well as USB. Check the printer and make sure it hooks up to your computer.

You will also want to see how easy it is to replace the cartridges, and any other maintenance you may perform on the printer. On mine you have settings for the alignment in case the printer starts to drift on the page.

This means you can physically move the print head jets for a better picture. The printer does this for you, it prints an alignment page and you tell the printer which lines are off on the print. Then it adjusts the head and prints another page.

Another maintenance you will want to be able to perform is head cleaning, this will spray some ink out of all the ports of the head and clear out any obstructions. Also on some it will run the head across a small pad to wipe off the print head.

Overall these are the things you need to look at when you purchase a printer; speed, quality, cost of ink cartridges, and use you are going to be putting it through. Style and design are not as big a factor in purchasing things like this. You need to get the quality and speed before the style.

You need to compare not only in the stores but on the internet. Go to the website and see what they say. You should also see what the manufacturer says compared to the printer review on a site like CNET.

If there are wide differences, be wary. If the manufacturer says it’s printer does this that and the other thing such as print speed, and every other web site puts theirs as lower, it’s a warning that the manufacturer is probably boosting their printer.

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