Buying a Printer
Printers 101: Assessing Your Needs
Types of Printers:
- 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
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
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