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    (Closed) Consumer Reports - Printers

    The preferred device for home computer output today is an inkjet printer. Along with banners, stickers, transparencies, T-shirt transfers, and greeting cards, they can produce color images that are almost indistinguishable from lab-processed photos. Excellent black-and-white text is produced by many. The great majority of printers available for home use are inkjets, with some very good versions costing less than $200.

    There is still a role for laser printers in home offices. The quality, speed, and cheap cost per copy of a laser printer are probably necessary if you frequently print large quantities of black-and-white text documents.

    Printers process data using a computer's microprocessor and memory. The newest inkjets and lasers are so quick in part because computers today are considerably more potent and have far more memory than they had in the past.


    A small number of well-known brands control the majority of the printer market. The market leader is Hewlett-Packard. Brother, Canon, Epson, and Lexmark are some further well-known names.

    The ports on a printer determine what kind of computer it can work with. A printer can be connected to Windows or Macintosh computers using a Universal Serial Bus (USB) connector. A parallel connector is included on a select versions, allowing the printer to function with earlier Windows systems. All of these printers don't have serial ports, therefore they can't connect to older Macs.

    inkjet printers Droplets of ink are used by inkjet printers to create text, images, and graphics. One cartridge for the cyan (greenish-blue), magenta, and yellow inks, plus a second cartridge for the black ink, are found in some printers. Others use separate cartridges for each type of ink. Many inkjet printers also come with extra cartridges that include lighter versions of the cyan and magenta inks, as well as red, gray, blue, and green inks.

    For black-and-white text, the majority of inkjet printers print at 2 1/2 to 11 pages per minute (ppm), but color photographs are printed much more slowly, requiring 1 1/2 to 21 minutes to print one 8x10. A black-and-white page printed with an inkjet can cost anywhere between 3 and 7.5 cents, depending on the manufacturer. A color 8x10 photo can be printed for anywhere from 80 cents to $1.50.

    Cost: between $80 and $700.

    printers with lasers These function similarly to plain-paper copiers by imprinting toner (powdered ink) onto paper as it passes over an electrically charged drum. Sharp black-and-white text and visuals are produced by the method. With speeds of 12 to 18 ppm for producing black-and-white text, laser printers typically outperform inkjets. In general, the price of a black-and-white laser printer is comparable to a midrange inkjet printer, but they are less expensive to run. For a cost of 2 to 4 cents per page, laser cartridges that cost $50 to $100 may print thousands of black-and-white pages. There are also color laser printers available. Price range: $400 and up; $150 to $1,000 (in black and white) (color).


    The level of detail that different printers can generate varies. Dots per inch (dpi), the unit of resolution, is frequently cited as the primary indicator of print quality. However, other elements, such as how software commands from the printer driver shape dot patterns, also matter. Inkjets currently available typically have a resolution of 600x600 dpi at their default settings, which is often how they're meant to operate. The dpi can be raised for photographs that are in color. To 5,760x1,440 dpi, some printers can print. Home laser printers typically have 600 or 1,200 dpi. Higher dpi settings can result in smoother color shading when printing color inkjet photographs on specialty paper, but they can dramatically slow printing.

    A monitor for ink lets you know when you're running low on most inkjet printers. Generic ink cartridges typically cost less, but since they typically yield much fewer prints than name-brand inks, the cost per print may not be all that lower. Also possible drawbacks include print quality and fading resistance.

    When printing a document double-sided, you can print the odd-numbered pages first, then turn them over to print the even-numbered pages on the next pass through the printer. Some printers can automatically print on both sides, but doing so causes printing to be slower.


    Consider the advertised speeds with caution. The print speed you get varies depending on what you're printing and at what quality, but the print speeds you see in advertisements are typically faster than you're likely to get in everyday use. Because every business has its own way of measuring speed, you can't compare speeds between different brands with any degree of reliability. On all models, we perform the same tests by printing text pages and images that are comparable to what you might print. We can compare our scores across brands since they are realistic.

    Don't focus too much on the solution. Another possible area of confusion is the resolution of a printer, which is specified in dots per inch. Generally speaking, the more ink dots a printer uses to print an image, the more detailed it will be. Don't make decisions entirely on the basis of resolution, though, as dot size, shape, and positioning also influence quality.

    A printer's cost should be taken into account as well. A cheap printer may turn out to be a terrible investment in the long term due to high ink cartridge expenses. Shop around for the lowest prices on cartridges, but beware of off-brands. We have discovered that name-brand cartridges generally produce higher print quality, and that costs per page are frequently comparable.

    Use plain paper for drafts and keep the good stuff for the finished products since glossy picture paper costs between 25 and 75 cents per sheet. We've found that the suggested brand of paper produces the greatest results. Although you might be tempted to purchase a less expensive brand, keep in mind that inferior paper may not be as fading resistant and may actually impair photo quality.

    Choose whether you want to print pictures without a computer. You can save some time and an extra step by printing without a computer. Convenient features include memory-card compatibility, PictBridge support (which enables a compatible camera to be connected straight to the printer), and a wireless interface. However, when you print directly from your camera to your printer, you give up the flexibility to edit the size, color, brightness, and other aspects of your images—something that may have initially drawn you to digital photography. Additionally, you are unable to print on larger media while using a 4x6 printer.

    Check out the comfort features. Most printers produce prints without borders, similar to those from a photo developer. This is especially important if you plan to print on 4x6-inch sheets at full size. If not, you can trim the edges.

    A printer with a 4x6-inch tray will make it simpler to load paper of this size if you frequently use 4x6-inch paper. However, the price per picture on these tiny pages can be more expensive than grouping a few pictures on an 8 1/2 × 11 piece of paper.

    For some models, you must remove the black ink cartridge and swap it out for the photo-ink cartridge in order to use the photo inks for the optimum picture quality. The black must then be swapped out for text or images. This could grow tiresome. Models that can accommodate all of the ink tanks at once take care of that inconvenience.

    Think about connections. These days, USB 2.0 connectors are pretty prevalent on printers. They do not, however, allow for considerably quicker print speeds than simple USB. Both USB and USB 2.0 ports, which are present on all modern PCs and printers, are compatible. More than six-year-old computers might only have a parallel port.

    Determine if you require copying and scanning. While minimizing space, a multifunction device offers scanning and color copying. The scanners in multifunction machines may not have as high of a resolution as the most recent standalone scanners, which is a drawback. Negatives and slides are handled best by standalone scanners. Additionally, the entire equipment needs to be repaired or replaced if even one component of it breaks.