Important Details You Wouldn’t Consider When Buying a Printer (But Should)

printer_ink_tonerThere’s something to be said for the following basic, one-size-fits-all system for any major big-ticket buying decision:

  1. You decide you need (or want) a product.
  2. You think about what version of that products suits you and your needs best.
  3. You do some research, compare prices, look at consumer ratings and/or reviews and based on that….
  4. You decide on the exact product and model that works for you.
  5. You find that product at the best price.
  6. You buy it.

In theory, that system should work as well for printers as it does for cars or anything else- unfortunately, there are some tricky, printer-specific considerations most people are either unaware of or simply don’t think about that can cause some real hassle later on.

The Triple S: Size, Speed and Specialty

Obviously, if you find a printer that’s priced very reasonably compared to similar models and rated through the roof by Consumer Reports, that model should go on the list. Before you rush out to cut a check (or swipe the plastic) however, consider what you’re going to be using it for? Is it for your personal use or for a business? A number of my friends are small businesspeople and entrepreneurs- a population that’s real thrifty and financially practical as a rule. However, I’ve known more than one of even the most responsible among them to buy the fanciest printer/fax/scanner/copier/latte-making über-printer while a separate, un-used fax sits gathering dust in the corner.

Let’s say you decided to forego the Executive Elite Whole Office Multi-Combo über-printer, realistic about the prospect of needing a fax for your personal printer. What are you going to be using your printer for personally? There’s a good chance you’ll have at least a fair idea- mostly graphics stuff; maybe a lot of arts and crafts work like iron-ons, stickers, etc.; a whole lot of photos- and will those photos need to be high resolution or low? If you love printing sharp family pictures or maybe moonlight doing graphic design for an art gallery, buying a personal printer with the sharpest, million dots-per-inch laser printer with a range of color cartridges makes sense. If you know that 95% of your output is going to involve printing out text manuscripts, getting the highest-end color printer doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Similar considerations should dictate size requirements too. If you do need a nice combo printer for your home business, getting a bigger model to accommodate its variable functions is reasonable. Of course, the same goes for a specialty image-printing unit. When you’re not going to be printing up Picassos or faxing Frankfurt, a more economically-sized personal unit should do.


Ink gets its own section because it’s a biggie. This is one of the most important research considerations you should keep in mind when buying a printer. Price-wise it is the most important. Particularly with the increasingly low prices printers are commanding these days, if you use your printer even a moderate amount you are absolutely going to be spending more on [tp lang=”en” only=”y”]ink and toner[/tp][tp not_in=”en”]ink and toner[/tp] than you did on the printer itself.

Printer ink is almost certainly the most expensive liquid on the planet. The world’s most expensive champagne? Printer ink is seven times more expensive. It blows oil and even super unleaded gasoline out of the water and ounce for ounce, printer ink is worth more than gold. Keep that in mind- especially since consumer studies on the subject show that the less expensive a printer is, the more expensive its ink will prove to be.

This is no accident- printer companies are losing money on printers and make that money back with ink. That’s why I emphasized not paying for a specialty printer or one that will require specialty ink when you don’t need it. Research the price of cartridges before you even research your printer. Once you have a decent idea about cartridge prices, check out online retailers like 24/7 Ink Toner, etc., and tailor your printer shopping accordingly.

Finally, don’t insist on paying for the “Original Equipment Manufacturer” or OEM cartridges- the stock brand name, factory-provided ones that comes with the printer. Even if your printer’s instructions demand that you ONLY replace your empty cartridges with OEMs- your printer is lying. There is absolutely nothing inferior about remanufactured cartridges (they’re like refurbished ones and can even come with MORE ink that the originals), or the compatible generics. It’s just paying for a brand.

Guest article written by: Brian Prowse is a writer and self-proclaimed tech geek. When not blogging, messing around with graphic design or traveling, Brian enjoys selflessly sacrificing his time to play around with the coolest new gadgets on the market.

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