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Knowhow - IT and Technology Help

Knowhow is the award-winning end-to-end services brand supporting Currys PC World. Knowhow strives to better serve customers throughout the lifetime of their products and to help them get the best from their technology. Services include delivery and installation, set-up, repairs and protect.

This article series will be introducing new technologies as well as helping us enjoy and make the most of new products for years to come.

Knowhow No. 37

samsung printer

Picking a new printer can feel like a real challenge, especially if you've never had one before. This guide can help you make the right choice from the broad range available.

One of the key decisions you’ll face is whether to go for an inkjet or laser printer. Knowing a bit more about them can help you decide which to go for. Both types have their strengths and weaknesses, which we’ll look at below.

Top 4 things to remember when you're choosing a printer

What's the difference between inkjet and laser printers?

Inkjet printers work by squirting jets of ink onto the paper through small jets in the ‘print head’. This sweeps side-to-side across the paper, printing across a small area on each pass. When it reaches the edge, the paper moves up so that the next area can be printed. But all that movement takes time, and some models can be quite loud.

Laser printers use heat and light to fix a particular type of powder called ‘toner’ to the paper as it goes through the printer. With fewer moving parts, they’re generally quicker and quieter than inkjets, and need less maintenance.

Which gives the best quality results?

Inkjets and laser printers are very different, so judging them against each other directly is a bit like comparing apples with oranges. If you play to a printer’s strengths, you should get high-quality results that look as good as you’d expect.

Inkjet printers can deliver rich colours and deep blacks that laser printers can only dream of, which helps make pictures look more natural. Photo inkjet printers will give the best results, but remember that printing high-quality images can use a lot of ink.

Laser printers are kings of the text document, with even the smallest fonts crisp and easy to read. Simple graphics and line drawings will print clearly too, making laser printers the best option for text-heavy documents.

How fast do they print?

If you usually only print a couple of pages at a time, you probably won’t notice much of a difference between lasers and inkjets. Print more than a few, and the laser printer’s speed advantage becomes obvious.

Inkjet printers are quick to respond, with almost no time delay between pressing the “print” button and it starting. Typical print speeds are 4-6 pages per minute (ppm) for text, falling to 2-3 ppm if you’re printing images.

Lasers use a heated drum to ‘fix’ the toner, so there’s a short delay while this heats up before the printer starts. Once it’s started printing you can expect 18-20 ppm, with some monochrome laser printers reaching up to 30 ppm.

Do they cost the earth?

Think about lifetime cost, not just the price of the printer. Inkjet printers usually last around 3 years, with lasers generally lasting about 5, so factor replacement cartridges into your calculations. Used inkjet cartridges can often be refilled, reducing waste and helping to keep costs down, but toner cartridges can't be.

As an example, take a typical home user printing 10 pages a week, or about 500 pages a year. That’s roughly the output of a set of full inkjet cartridges, so you can expect to buy 3-4 sets during its life. Also, if you don’t use an inkjet printer very often, the cartridges can dry out, and you’ll have to replace them sooner.

Laser toner cartridges often print 1000-1500 pages, and have the added advantage that they don’t dry out, so you might only need to replace the toner once or twice. They’re more expensive than ink cartridges, but powdered toner isn’t as wasteful as ink and will print many more sheets than their liquid-filled counterparts.

Summary

When it comes to choosing the perfect printer, it's worth taking time thinking about what you're likely to print, before you start looking. That way you're far more likely to buy one that fits your needs, not just the one that seems like it's good value.

Inkjets are versatile and well-suited to light family use, printing out the occasional picture and piece of homework, but struggle with lots of text. Laser printers are fast and efficient, but there can be a high price premium to pay if you want a colour model.

There are some other factors to think about too, like whether to get a wireless model or an all-in-one model with a built-in scanner, but they're more about how you utilise the printer, not what you want to print.

 

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