Printers buyers’ guide
The digital era has revolutionised the way we transfer and store information but sometimes only a hard copy will suffice. If you’re looking to pick up a printer, Crowdstorm is the perfect place to compare the best.
Here you can compare models from all the big names, such as HP and Epson, then click through to buy from all your favourite retailers – from Tesco and Asda to Currys and Argos.
If you’ve begun to look online for a printer but are feeling a little bewildered, don’t worry: we’re here to help. You can have a read through our buyers' guide below and get to grips with all the vital printer features and specs before making an informed decision.
Whether you’re a student looking to print essays on a cheap printer, a businessman who wants a printer with high-end specs to print reports and charts, or you simply want to print off some photos on a dedicated printer, your ideal printer is just a click away.
Laser vs Inkjet
Inkjet printers are usually considered the best option for home printing; they can print photos, graphics and text in colour but can also print in black and white to save on running costs. Standard inkjet printers are ideal if you’re looking for a cheap printer for straightforward document printing.
Inkjet printers make up the bulk of printer sales as they are generally regarded as an ‘all-rounder’ with the ability to print pretty much anything, from photos and essays to charts and diagrams. Inkjet printers can be slower and more expensive to run if you intend you use it heavily (due to inefficient use of ink and toner) and text is often not as sharp as on a laser printer.
Best for: home use, printing images, versatility
Laser printers excel at printing text and multiple sheets and tend to be quicker than standard inkjet models, but they can be bulky, heavy and noisy when printing. On the plus side, laser printers can be relatively cheap to run. Drawbacks can include not being able to print on photographic paper and not having auto-duplex, where the printer automatically prints on both sides of the paper. Laser printers can be set to print in both colour and black and white, with colour laser printers often significantly more expensive than monochrome printers.
Best for: office use, high-speed/volume printing, printing text
Other types of printer
All-in-one printers are now very popular as they have all bases covered: scanning, printing, faxing and photocopying. Modern designs have Wi-Fi or web-enabled technology, meaning you can print specific documents directly from the web without the need to use your computer. Many also have an SD card slot, meaning you can print directly from a camera, and editing options so that you can remove red-eye and imperfections directly from the printer.
3D printers are starting to become more affordable - despite still feeling like science fiction to many of us! They let you create (or download/copy) designs and then p[rint actual items using molten plastic. For less than £200 for a reasonable machine, they have revolusionised prototyping and modelling. And with new modesl now able to make food - even pizza, in space! - the sky really is the limit...
LED printers are similar to laser printers, but use an LED flash rather than a laser to create the image. They have less moving parts, making them more reliable, while they also tend to be lighter and smaller than a laser equivalent. The only real downside is that laser printers tend to have the edge when it comes to image quality.
A dedicated photo printer can be great if you plan on printing photo-quality images at the click of a button. Photo printers are usually nifty and space-saving, with print-outs that are dry to the touch as soon as they come off the printer. But costs can be very high and they lack versatility, so bear this in mind when comparing features.
Dye sublimation printers differ from traditional models as they don’t use ink cartridges, instead printing using dye sublimation. Compact printers are smaller than traditional model and produce high quality photos, but this comes at a high cost: printing packs are costly.
Other important printer considerations
- Colour versus black and white: A monochrome printer is a cheap alternative if you’re looking to mostly print text documents such as essays or reports. A black and white printer can be great if you’re on a budget and looking for a cheap printer that’s reliable. A traditional, monochrome laser model would be your best bet in this instance.
- Wireless printers: Wireless printers use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to set up a network, meaning you can print from multiple devices in a space – you don’t even need to be in the same room. Most wireless printers have a screen with step-by-step instructions on setting up the wireless connection when you turn on the printer.
- Duplex printing: Duplex printing allows you to automatically print on both sides of paper, saving you money. This is a great option for both office and home and is an ideal way of driving down costs.
- Paper handling: If you’re looking to be able to print onto envelopes or cards look for a printer with a specific feed tray for different kinds of paper. Also consider the size of the tray if you print a high volume of documents; tray size can make the difference between reloading daily or monthly.
- Total cost of ownership (TCO): TCO (the cost of ink and toner) is likely to be your biggest expense when investing in a printer. Costs vary from printer and manufacturer but as a general rule high yield ink cartridges can help keep costs down, as can separate inks for individual colours. For an estimate of cost of running add together the price of all ink and divide by the number of pages that can be printed.
- Resolution: Resolution refers to the number of dots per inch (dpi) – or occasionally lines per inch (lpi) - that can be printed horizontally and vertically. In general, a printer with a higher resolution will produce crisper and clearer results. This may be especially important when shopping for a printer that will produce the best images. A resolution of around 1200 x 1600 dpi is around average for a printer.
- Networking: A printer with inbuilt networking will allow the printer to be used by multiple computers in a home or an office. If you have a home network a printer’s networking capabilities should be something you bear in mind when selecting your perfect model. A printer with inbuilt Wi-Fi for networking is so convenient and means no cables or having to switch computers every time you need to print.
What next? Buying your printer
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