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A basic introduction to Printers

This guide gives a basic overview of your options when purchasing a modern printer

What is a printer?

In computing a printer is a peripheral which produces text, photographs, images and diagrams of documents from your computer onto various forms of paper.

There are many different types of printer for all imaginable uses and they can be connected to computers in many different ways including USB, Ethernet network connections, WiFi wireless, over the internet or by legacy connections such as serial and parallel.

What printers should I look at?

The first thing to consider when looking to buy a printer is what type of printing you will be using the printer for. Different people will use the printer for different uses with the main ones being the following.

Home Use: Printers designed to offer good performance in all areas for most printing tasks. Generally these printers are relatively cheap to buy and run and offer good quality prints, however on higher volumes of printing they will often work out more expensive than a professional printer due to the costs of replacement inks and lower print speeds. If you are after a basic printer for homework, letters, basic photo printing and home office then a multi-functional or inkjet printer below £150.00 will normally be perfectly suited to your needs.

Professional Use / Small Office: These printers are a continuation of the home use printers, although generally offer higher levels of print speed and photographic print quality. You will find these printers have comparatively lower costs per page and can print at higher speeds than the basic home models. For most professional level Laser and Photo printers you will normally be looking at pricing starting just over £100.00.

Business Use: Business printers often have wired or wireless network connections to enable many people to print from them at the same time. The represent the fastest print speeds and lowest costs per page. Their initial cost is normally very high compared with home or small office printers however due to the low cost per page and superb durability they work out to be very good value over the life of the printer. For a business printer expect to spend £200.00 for the most basic model rising into the thousands for specialist models.

What types of printer are available?

There are three main types of printer available to buy that most users would consider, they are Inkjet, All-in-ones and Laser printers.

Inkjet: Versatile machines particularly suited to producing complex colour documents such as photographs.

Laser: Generally more expensive to purchase but can print of huge reams of text documents in record time while having a lower cost per page than most inkjet printers. They are normally very large so ensure you have desk space before you buy.

All-in-one: These are simply a printer combined with a scanner and photocopier. Some models also feature a built in fax machine and are also known as multi-functional printers. They are available in both inkjet and laser forms with most consumer models being of the inkjet variety.