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 user 2005-06-22 at 10:29:00 am Views: 33
  • #11639

    Inkjet or Laser Printer?
     June  2005

    For many businesses a computer is useless without a printer. However, printers should be chosen carefully, as those for the office can be sizeable investments that must pay off. Generally, you have two types to choose from; inkjet or laser printers.

    Inkjet printers are relatively inexpensive, can use ordinary copy paper and offer good text quality, but not of the same quality as laser printers. Inkjet printers spray droplets of ink on the paper, and some have features that let you create your own specialty printing. Laser printers on the other hand use a laser to charge a drum inside the printer electrically; the drum then rolls through the toner, which is transferred to paper. Laser printers provide the highest-quality professional looking text and two dimensional graphics, and are generally the fastest printers.

    Inkjet printers generally have duty cycles (maximum number of recommended prints per month) ranging from 500 to 10,000 pages, while lasers range from 7,000 to over 300,000 pages. When loaded with special photo inks and paper, however, some models of inkjet printers have become one of the best options for transforming a digital image into a photograph – as opposed to lasers that handle two dimensional graphics much better. HP Photosmarts in particular are well suited for digital photography in that not only do they print with an exceptional quality, but they have built in digital card readers as well.

    Having determined your business’ monthly printing needs (duty cycle and type of printing), you should now examine speed, which also generally indicates the quality of a printer. The speed rating of a printer is normally indicated by the number of pages per minute (ppm). The higher the number, the faster the printer of course, but bear in mind that the pages per minute is the average speed printing black only; actual speed may be different based on the amount of graphics on each page. Since colour images need more ink, they take longer to print than black and white images.

    A feature to look for on inkjets is the number of cartridges. Some use one cartridge with three ink colours {magenta (a red), cyan (a blue) and yellow} and this system mixes the three colours anywhere black is needed, producing a dull black. As a result it uses a lot more ink and is slow in printing.

    Others use two cartridges, one black, and another containing the colours. Dual cartridges are less expensive in the long run because they print more efficiently by wasting less ink, and tend to be faster. Since very often the same cartridges work in different printers, and not all the models may be listed on a cartridge’s packaging, it is highly advised that you make a note of your cartridge numbers for when buying replacements.

    For modern black laser printers, text quality is so good and uniform that the outputs from different models are almost indistinguishable from each other. What distinguishes them are extra paper trays, memory, drivers, remote management, and networking capability, among other features. Of course, the availability of ink, support and spares in Guyana, must be considered as well – the two more popular and better supported brands are HP and Canon. Colour lasers, with recent drops in price, are now more feasible than ever, and among the cheaper colour lasers is the HP 3550 with a duty cycle of 45000 pages, that sells for less than US$1,000.

    Generally, the actual cost per page (black) using a laser printer is less than half that of an inkjet. Colour prints on lasers, however, are more expensive, but still work out cheaper than on inkjets. Factoring in the higher costs of a laser printer, toner and power consumption, laser printers are still more economical in the long run, since the yield per toner is significantly more as compared to Inkjet cartridges. If your printing consists mainly of text and/or two dimensional graphics, and your monthly cycle exceeds 3000 pages, you should definitely consider laser printers. Inkjets on the other hand, are better suited for home or small businesses.

    If you are printing lots of graphics using a laser printer, ensure that it comes with enough RAM or buffer memory. The larger the RAM, the faster the printer can print complex graphics. Most printers can print on paper 8.5 inches wide; however, for posters and other larger print-outs, you would need a wider printer (designjet, plotter, etc.), which is of course a lot more expensive.

    Further options can be found in multifunction printers (MFPs) which can be either inkjet or laser, and can encompass scanning, photocopying and even faxing, in addition to printing, in one machine. MFPs are usually less expensive than buying separate machines, and are compact, thereby saving valuable desktop space. MFPs, however, generally require higher system specifications, so ensure that you have the required memory and hard disk space first. For businesspeople on the go, there are also mobile printers for laptops.

    Before you purchase a printer you should check for compatibility with your computer, and ensure that the printer comes with control software (drivers). If you are not sure, ask your salesperson to help you match your computer and printer and find out what software comes with it. Practically all modern printers connect to your computer via a universal serial bus (USB) port only. USB ports allow more than one external device to be connected to the same port on a computer, and they transfer data much faster than parallel or serial ports. To meet the requirements for decent performance from most of today’s printers, your computer should have at least a 400MHz processor, 128MB of memory and 750MB free hard disk space, in addition to a USB port of course.

    Do not forget that just like computers, printers have sensitive circuit boards that need electrical protection; at least surge and voltage regulation. You should use a surge protector that has a let-through voltage of less than 40 volts (as opposed to most regular surge protectors that let through as much as 330 volts) and a voltage regulator to the required wattage. Please note carefully that laser printers have much higher power consumption than inkjets, and it is recommended that they be put on separate circuits with power protection independent of your computer, otherwise you may damage both your printer and computer. Note also that simply yanking jammed paper out of your printer may cause irreparable damage – always be extremely careful and ensure your printer is powered off.