1. How do you plan to use the inkjet printer?
The first question to ask is what you intend to print with your inkjet. Is the printer going to be used to print text documents or do you also plan on printing photographs? If you're not printing color, you may be better with a laser printer. If you plan on printing many pictures, then you may want other features such as:
- Direct connection of digital cameras to printer
- Picture viewer on printer
- Borderless printing
- Ink cartridges and papers designed for photos
- Memory card reader
- High resolution
2. What paper types and media do you plan to use?
Another item to consider is the different paper types and sizes you print. Some ink jets handle only common sizes whereas others print wide paper, banners, transparencies, DVDs and so on. The more variety in media sizes and media types, the greater the printer cost.
If you plan on using thicker paper or card stock than normal, you might consider getting a printer that is top loading. Top loading printers have a more direct path for your paper such as greeting cards or business cards.Bottom loading printers use rollers to grab the paper and pull it in as opposed to using gravity. With thicker paper, the rollers don't always correctly feed the paper in.
You should also consider the type of your print jobs. For example, if you routinely do mail merge jobs of 200 letters, you'll probably want a paper tray that can accommodate that amount. The same may be true for envelopes. Can the printer accommodate multiple envelopes or do you need to feed them in manually? Do you have a need for multiple paper trays?
Most printers allow duplex printing . However, they differ considerably in their implementation. Some printers require you to remove the first part, flip the paper and reinsert to print the back side. Other printers do this automatically. Still others sell duplexing as an optional package.
3. How many pages do you expect to print each month?
I know this isn't the easiest question to answer, but you need to answer this as it determines your overall expense. If you plan on printing high volumes in the thousands, you should check the printers duty cycle. This figure indicates the maximum number of pages a printer can handle on a monthly basis according to the manufacturer.
The second reason to determine usage is so you can approximate your page cost exclusive of paper costs. There are two factors that play into a page cost calculation. The first is called the page yield and the other is the page coverage. You would think with just two factors that it would be easy to do comparisons. There is an ISO standard test for determining inkjet cartridge yields that some manufacturers use.
One way to do an analysis is to start with the maximum black ink cartridge the manufacturer offers for the printer you're considering. For example, Company A has a black ink jet cartridge with the following specs:
Size: 21 ml
Yield: 800 pages at 5% coverage
These specs mean you can expect this ink cartridge to give you 800 pages where 5% of the page has black ink whether its text or graphics. This is assuming you're not using any ink-saving utilities like PrintWhatYouLike. This average black page costs about 3.5 cents ($27.99/800). You're going to have to do an eyeball analysis to see if the 5% coverage figure is correct for your needs. HP provides an article on how they test which includes some test images that might be useful.
Once you've considered the costs for black ink, you need to consider the same for color. Although 5% may be an acceptable figure for black text, the color coverage figures may be 15% or even higher if you're printing photos.
Some of you may be thinking that this page cost could easily be adjusted by buying a larger cartridge or finding another supplier. You may even think of refilling your own cartridges. Keep in mind that many printer manufacturers strictly regulate their cartridge production.
The sad truth is some printer manufacturers dictate which print cartridges can be used in their products. They put chips on the cartridge which identify the cartridge as being an authentic manufacturer product and not a counterfeit. While you may be able to get a similar product, the manufacturer may void your warranty or limit features such as ink monitoring.
The print cartridge size often makes a difference as your larger capacity cartridges have lower page costs. Some inexpensive ink jet printers only offer one small cartridge size. You could see that black and white page cost increase to 9.9 cents.
Size: 5 ml
Yield: 150 pages at 5% coverage
If you're an infrequent printer, you may want to consider where the print head is located. This is the mechanism that squirts the ink droplets through very fine nozzles onto the page. With some printers, the print head is on the cartridge. If by chance the print head gets clogged, you lose just the cartridge. On other models, the print head is not on the cartridge and you may need to replace the printer. Generally, inkjet cartridges with a built-in printer head cost more.
You should also factor in how many cartridges your printer needs. Although it may make things simpler to have just a blank and combined color cartridge, it may be more costly. The combined color cartridges assume you use the color inks at the same level. That's highly unlikely. As a result, one color will run out sooner than the rest so you'll either throw away ink or print in another color.
4. How fast do you need to print?
This is another figure that helps you compare results within the same company. The figure becomes less useful when you try to compare speeds between different companies as they use different test pages. My experience has never approached the speed stated by the manufacturer.
The print speeds also differ based on colors and ink displacement. For most ink jets, black copies are faster. For black copies you can expect a low range of 9 pages a minute upwards to the high 30s. Printers that require heating the ink before dispersing may take longer.
5. How much do you want to pay for the inkjet printer?
Inkjet printers have a huge price range with a low of $30 upwards to $1400. You should be able to narrow this range considerably based on how you answered the previous questions.
Some manufacturers offer trade in promotions if you buy additional equipment or recycle. Sometimes these bundles offer a nice savings, but you still need to do your research. It could be the bundle involves a printer that doesn't meet your needs or is more costly in the long run.
6. Do you plan on sharing the printer with other computers?
Many of us have several PC in our offices or homes. Ideally, we would like to share the printer with more than one PC. Make sure the printer you're interested in can work with the other computers. Some models may just work with one operating system and others may limit the number of PCs that can share a printer.
7. How do you plan to connect to the printer?
A few years ago, this was an easy decision as the main choice was a parallel port connection. Now, you can connect using parallel, USB, wireless or Ethernet. One item to note is few manufacturers will give you the cable. Make sure that at the time you buy your printer, you have the correct spec for the cable or wireless. As example, if you plan on connecting with a USB cable know if you need USB 1.0 or USB 2.0. You should also know how long a cable you'll need.
8. Does the printer look durable and easy to use?
I'm a big believer that you need to see the product that interests you. There are certain items you can't tell from looking at a spec sheet or picture. When you see the printer in the store, you get a different perspective.
I also like to test the printer at the store. This gives me a good idea of the noise level. Does the paper feed in smoothly or do you hear clicking and clacking noises during the process? Sometimes the printer I was reviewing wasn't hooked up. Usually, I can get a salesperson to help, but some will say that the unit needs to be connected to a test device. That's true to a certain extent as these test devices are programmed for a specific model. But you should be able to hook them to another model by the same company. Rather than getting the correct test page, you may get a print out saying that the test device is not hooked to the correct printer.
If your aim is to get an ink jet for printing photographs, see if you can find out if the demo printer is using regular ink cartridges. Some test printers are configured with photo ink cartridges and photographic paper to give the best impression. There is nothing wrong with using the better inks and paper, but the page may look different with the inks and paper you plan to use. Better quality costs more.
I also like to see how easy it is to access the print cartridges. I had a printer quit on me and there was no way to retrieve my ink cartridges without breaking the unit or using a special tool. Some models only allow access when the unit is powered on and the cartridges reposition to the middle.
You might also want to check the printers controls. Are they simple push buttons or are there many intimidating menus? How do you feed envelopes or special paper sizes?
9. What warranty and support options are available?
Nothing lasts forever and that includes inkjet printers. You should note the warranty coverage and time period. What are your repair options when the warranty expires? Some companies will have a local contact, but that may be inconvenient to your location.
When my last inkjet printer broke, I learned I was better off buying a new one rather than going to an authorized repair facility. The repair process was cumbersome as I needed to make an appointment to bring the printer in to get a quote. I would then be without the printer between 2 and 5 days.
10. Where do you plan on placing the printer?
Sometimes people place printers in different rooms than the PC. This is fine, but you'll want to make sure your printer doesn't need you to physically turn it on before each job. You should also make sure you have ample room for the printer including space for paper trays.
You may also need to consider where the print output appears. Is there a dedicated tray for the output or does it just fall out? My printer is fine for handling short jobs. However, if I have a document over ten pages, I need to make sure the output path is clear as the pages either fall on the floor or stack up and interfere with subsequent pages. For long jobs, I now open my file cabinet draw and let the pages fall in there.
Placement is also important if you intend to use a wireless connection. You'll want to make sure you're in range and that walls and other objects aren't creating interference.
To make your selection process a bit easier, I've provided links to some of the major inkjet printer manufacturers. Once you've narrowed your selection down, I would review the support page and even the online forums. This can give you an idea of what are the common issues and how they are resolved.
Last Updated (Saturday, 19 June 2010 14:01)