Printer Buying Guide - Best Buy Canada

July 03, 2014

Printers Buying Guide

There’s hardly anything a printer can’t do. In addition to producing good-looking prints, these devices can scan, copy, and fax documents at the touch of a button. You can even print using just your smartphone or the cloud, so you can give your computer a well-deserved break.

Beyond Printing

Printers have become an essential part of the home and office, especially with added capabilities like scanning, copying, and faxing. You may not realize it, but there are a lot of things you need your printer for whether you’re printing corporate documents, your kids’ homework or your exclusive invite to that VIP sale. Read on to learn more about how these hardworking machines have evolved.

Types of Printers

Different printers are classified based on the technology they use to print on to paper. Think about what you will use your printer for and how often you’ll use it to determine the right one for you.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers spray tiny droplets of liquid ink onto paper in order to create rich images and crisp text. From cover letters to Uncle Dan’s perfect barbecue rub recipe, these printers can handle it all, but where they really shine is in photo printing.

Inkjets are exceptional at smoothly blending colours together so you get photo print outs that are rich and vibrant. Some inkjet printer manufacturers even offer special photo inks to help create better shading and contour in your prints.

Suited for low volumes of work, these versatile printers are also able to print on a variety of mediums, including textured stationary and specially coated CDs and DVDs.Though best for lower printing volumes, inkjet printers should ideally be used once a week to prevent the ink cartridges from drying out. If you only print occasionally, a laser printer might be a better choice as you won’t find yourself replacing ink cartridges that have dried out after long periods of inactivity.

Laser Printers

If a laser printer could talk whenever it sees a page that it’s printed, the first thing it would say is "Hey there good-looking!" This is because they are able to create high quality copies of your image or text.

A laser beam inside the printer beams an image from your computer straight on to a rotating drum. Electrically charged toner (as opposed to ink) is attracted to the image on the drum and after a quick baking process, the toner gets transferred onto paper as an exact copy of your image.

These printers tend to have higher print speeds than inkjets and can handle higher volumes of work, which makes them the ideal workhorse for a home office or small business. For the best results possible, try to use laser print paper with this kind of printer.

Multifunction Printer

You know those awesome kitchen gadgets that can slice, dice, julienne AND cook your dinner for you? A laser or inkjet multifunction printer is kind of like that. A cost-effective option, these printers come in two varieties: a 3-in-1 that allows you to print, copy or scan documents, or a 4-in-1 that lets you fax, too.

Speciality Printers

Speciality printers are usually smaller printers dedicated to performing one task like a label printer. You may also find a speciality printer like a portable printer useful. If you travel a lot, this compact device will be your new best friend. You can print while you’re at the airport, on the train, or simply on-the-go.

3D Printers

3D printers do just as they sound: they print in 3D. Starting with a 2D digital model, a 3D printer slices the model into thin layers that it can print and stack on top of each other to build its 3D print-out. Using materials such as plastic, resin, or powder, a 3D printer melts the material, expels it, and forms it into your 3D model. No longer just a tool of the future, 3D printers have become more accessible to anyone from creative professionals to the average consumer. So, whether you’re an architect who’s drawn up a dream home or a parent who wants to make a toy for her child, you can watch your designs come to life with a 3D printer.

Features to Consider

Keep these features in mind when you’re shopping for the printer of your dreams.

Print Speeds

Print speed is determined by how many pages per minute (ppm) a printer can push out. The higher the number of pages, the faster a printer can print or copy your 120-page thesis before your 9:00 AM deadline.

Paper Capacity

If you plan to print in high volumes, you’ll want a printer with a high paper capacity. Most home-based printers will have one paper tray that can hold an average of 150 pages. On the other hand, since offices tend to print in higher volumes, multiple paper trays that can hold 200 or more pages will help reduce the number of times you have to refill the trays. You’ll also want to make sure the printer can hold different paper sizes, especially if you regularly use something other than letter size.

Duplex Printing

Duplex printing is a real time saver because of its ability to print on both sides of a page. Printers that do duplex printing will often use a reversing automatic document feeder, which allows for duplex scanning and prints double-sided pages without you having to turn the paper over and re-feed it into the machine.

Management Controls

A printer with management controls is a great tool, especially in small businesses. You can create a password that allows only employees to use your machine and also set limits on how much they can print, copy, scan or fax in a day, which is a great way to lower your paper and ink costs.

Touchscreen LCD

Touchscreen LCDs make it easy to navigate your printer and quickly input data, such as the number of pages you want to print, the e-mail address you want to send a scan to or the paper tray you want to use.

PictBridge

It can be a hassle to transfer your photos onto your computer just to make a few prints. With PictBridge you can print photos directly from a digital camera without needing to upload to your PC or laptop first. Simply plug your camera into your printer using a USB cable and select the photos you think are picture frame-worthy.

Built-in Memory Card Reader

If PictBridge isn’t your thing, you can also look for a printer with a built-in memory card reader. You can print stunning photos and, with some printers, even edit your photos all without using a computer.

Wireless Wonder

Printers with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities allow you to print without directly connecting your computer, laptop or mobile device. You can even set up a wireless network that allows your devices to connect to your printer and send documents to it.

There a few other ways to get wireless convenience from your printer, but not all printers will have these features, so be sure to check the specs carefully to make sure you get the ones you need.

Apple AirPrint

Have you ever snapped a photo on your iPhone and thought, “This deserves to be blown up and hung over the fireplace”? If so, you’ll love Apple AirPrint, which lets you wirelessly print content from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

Google Cloud Print

With Google Cloud Print you can securely print your documents from your PC, laptop, Android device or iOS device from anywhere in the world. That’s right. Anywhere.

Simply connect your printer to the cloud and you can print your presentation during your morning commute and have it printed and waiting for you when you get into the office. You can even share printers with friends and family so you can send photos of the kids directly to your parents’ printer in Hamilton, ON. Google Cloud Print works with any printer and there are even printers already pre-loaded with the software.

Printing over E-mail

Some printers have a feature that assigns an e-mail address to it. When you need to print something from an e-mail ready device, like a tablet, you just load up a message window, attach your file, and send it to your printer’s e-mail address.

Home use vs. Office use

Choosing the right printer is a consideration of what you’ll print and how frequently you’ll print it. A home printer may not be able to keep up with the heavy demands of your office. Likewise, an office printer may have a ton of functions your family will never use, which means you’ll be spending more on features you won’t use regularly. Here are a few tips to help you find the right fit.

Home Users

  • Home users typically print a variety of different media – everything from web pages to homework to bank statements – but usually not at a high volume. An inkjet printer could be a good fit especially if you like to print your own photos.
  • Home users can also consider an inkjet or laser multifunction printer since you’ll never know when you may need to scan or photocopy a document.
  • You should look for consumer-centric features like a built-in memory card reader, PictBridge compatibility, touchscreen interface, and Bluetooth or Wi-Fi capability for wireless printing.

Office or business user

  • Determine if you’re in the market for a portable printer or one that will have a dedicated spot in your home office or small business. A portable printer will be handy if you travel a lot and need to print something at the airport, for example. For office-based printers, a 4-in-1 multifunction printer with fax capabilities will get the job done.
  • A printer with built-in Wi-Fi will make it easy for all your employees to print wirelessly over the network. PictBridge, Apple AirPrint, and Google Cloud Print are also excellent wireless features that can increase printing efficiency within your office.
  • Since you’ll likely be printing or copying in high volumes, look for a printer with duplex printing to cut down on paper costs.
  • To manage how much or what your employees print, you’ll need management controls like password-protected printing and access controls for colour printing capabilities.

An Inky Situation

Depending on how often you think you’ll be making prints, the annual costs of replacement ink cartridges can add up to be more expensive than a designer dress, vintage Champagne, or a week in Paris. That number can more than double if you’re using coloured ink cartridges.

It used to be that the toner cartridges for laser printers made them a more affordable option, but these days there are many inkjet printers that offer low-cost, high-quality ink cartridges. If you want to save more on both toner and ink, the easiest thing you can do is encourage your family or employees to only print when absolutely necessary. Nowadays, there’s hardly anything you can’t turn into a digital format and share via e-mail, external hard drive, or the Internet.

Best Buy

Take the Next Step

Whether you’re a home or office user, you’ll be able to find the right Inkjet printers, laser printer or Speciality printers for your needs at Best Buy. We also offer a great selection of high-quality ink cartridges, toner cartridges, and paper to stock your new printer with.

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