Buying a Printer

Inkjet, laser and photo printers all offer different advantages. The trick is to find one that best suits your needs. This guide to buying a printer examines the benefits of each to help make the process easier.

Printers 101: Assessing Your Needs

The first step in buying a printer is to assess your family’s print needs. How many people will be using the printer, and how often? If the volume will be high you’ll need a printer that’s up to the task. On the other hand, your family may only need a simple machine for occasional printing. Students in the house will want to print rich colours for projects and presentations. And let’s not forget the home office: it will require a printer that can handle a wide range of tasks, from printing design drafts or envelopes, to scanning, faxing, or collating legal-sized documents. 

Types of Printers:


Inkjet Printer

An inkjet printer can accommodate many of your family’s basic needs. The technology is fairly simple, which keeps their price relatively low compared to other printers. The print cartridges are cheaper too. Inkjets are great if your family only does the occasional print job. The printing speed is slow, but you may find the vibrancy of the ink well worth the wait. These printers can usually handle about 200 pages before their cartridges (red, yellow, blue, and black) need to be replaced. Inkjet cartridges can also dry out, so replacing them isn’t just a matter of ink consumption. 

Laser Printer

A laser printer applies toner to the paper and then seals it with a heat roller. This is an especially quick way of printing, and great for high-volume print jobs like large projects and reports. The finished product has an extremely professional look — an important consideration for the home office. The toner cartridges cost more than their inkjet counterparts, but they don’t dry out or expire when sitting idle.  

Photo Printer

A great solution to faded, fragile home-printed photographs, the photo printer applies coloured dye in a continuous tone from a ribbon onto specialized “glossy” paper. The resulting glossy prints are much-favoured by photographers and scrap-bookers. For printing basic documents, however, an inkjet or laser printer is likely a better option. Photo printer cartridges are often more expensive than inkjet, but the results will be worth it for the creative members of your family.

All-In-One Printer

If your print needs include scanning, faxing, copying, collating and printing, then a multifunction printer is probably your best bet. It will deliver the versatility and performance that a small business or busy household needs. These printers tend to be a bit more complex and harder to maintain. Multifunction printers come in both inkjet and laser varieties; review the sections above to decide which will work best for your family.


Portable Printer

A portable printer allows you to print wherever you are. Travel between home and office is a snap, and the ability to print documents on-site with a client can save time and fuss. Paper capacity is usually low, so bring extra to avoid getting caught short. Portable printers can also be a bit tricky to load and maintain, but with a bit of practice you should master it quickly. The iPhone portable printer is particularly handy — especially if you never leave home without your iPhone.   
scrap-bookers. For printing basic documents, however, an inkjet or laser printer is likely a better option. Photo printer cartridges are often more expensive than inkjet, but the results will be worth it for the creative members of your family.

Printer Tips:

  • Always check the cartridge and paper costs before purchasing
  • Measure the printer before purchase to ensure your intended placement at home allows space for loading and printing
  • Read any manuals or documentation thoroughly before assembly or installation
  • Review proper printer use with your children before giving them access
  • Update all of your relevant drivers after installing your printer

Printer Features:

Ink/Toner Cartridges +

These replaceable devices contain the ink or toner, which is used in printing. Typically loaded into designated ports within the printer, they should be easy to remove and install, usually by following simple directions on the device itself. Inkjet and laser printers have their own specific cartridge types, so be sure to select the right one for your printer before purchasing.

Paper Tray +

Sliding out or unfolding from the printer, the paper tray is the intake mechanism for paper. Capacity varies between printers, and most can be adjusted to accommodate a range of paper styles, such as legal sized paper or envelopes.

Connection Methods +

USB is the traditional way for a printer to connect to a computer, and all printers will have a USB port. But many printers also offer wired or wireless networking, which lets you print from different computers on your home network. Not every printer on your network needs to have this feature, but at least one that does must be turned on. You can also purchase Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or infrared wireless adapters which allows you to turn your printer into a short-range wireless printer. It’s most convenient with mobile printers, but can work well with compact photo printers as well.

Printer Memory +

Laser printers use their own onboard memory to process print jobs, so the memory must be large enough to hold whatever graphics you need to print (some are quite large and complex). In this case you’ll want a laser printer with several hundred MB of onboard memory. Some printers are also equipped with a slot to insert a memory card. Inkjet printers use your computer's memory for processing print jobs, so you needn’t worry about restrictions.

Print Speed +

Your print speed depends mostly on the size and type of document being printed. A large PDF file requires a lot of background work, especially if file is full of color graphics. On the other hand, a black-and-white text document should print quite quickly. A laser printer will take 20-30 seconds to warm up, whereas a photo printer is ready to print right away. One way you can speed up print jobs is to set your printer’s default to Draft. Colour and font clarity will suffer a bit, but you’ll save a lot of time (and ink!).

Scanning, Faxing & Copying +

A multifunction printer (also called an all-in-one printer) combines scanning, faxing and copying functions in one package. This eliminates the need for other machines and frees up space in your home office.

LCD Screens +

Some printers also incorporate a built-in LCD screen. This allows you to view and edit images from a memory card. Most printer LCD screens are small, but you can find displays that are 10 cm or more in width.

Ink System +

Depending on your printer, it will have one of several ink delivery systems. This makes up much of the internal mechanism of the printer, and houses the removable ink cartridges. These systems vary between printer types, from the relatively simple and user-friendly inkjet to the technically complex photo printers.

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Printer Maintenance Tips:

  • Be sure to keep food and all liquids away from your printer
  • Keep your printer dust-free by lightly dusting under the lid and in the paper intake
  • Try to keep your printer’s drivers up to date; most will be able to run an auto-update program
  • Follow paper loading instructions carefully to avoid paper jams and further maintenance
  • Check ink levels regularly and purchase new cartridges in advance

Did you know?

3-D printers use a polymer-layering system to create 3-D objects. This lets you create custom tools, Tupperware and much more!
Did you know?
The fastest laser printers developed today can print about 40-50 double-sided pages a minute.
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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