Shopping Advice on All-In-One Printer: buying guide
If you are running a business then you should think about all-in-one printers that combines fax technology to help you keep in touch. You might also think about a device with optical character recognition (OCR) that can help you scan documents into your computer for editing later and a machine with an automatic document feeder for consecutive scanning or faxing.
• InkThe price of replacement ink cartridges will have a significant effect on running costs for an inkjet-based all-in-one. The high prices have seen a small industry spring up in the refill market with 50 per cent savings to be made. However, continual refilling may eventually have an effect on the printer and may cause some conflict with manufacturer's warranties. Avoid colour cartridges that combine three colours - when one runs out you have to throw away what remains in the other two sections.
• Toner cartridgesToner cartridges for laser-based all-in-ones can be more expensive initially but last longer which brings eventual running costs down.
• PaperGlossy sheets for photographic images, 6" by 4" for prints, plain white for copying, heavier weights for business cards - most all-in-ones can handle a variety of paper types and sizes. Specific paper is available for inkjet printing to reduce "bleeding".
LaserA laser printer tends to be faster than an inkjet and while toner cartridges for laser printer are more expensive than ink, they last a lot longer. Laser printers generally give clearer and sharper text reproduction and may be better for handling envelopes, cards and non-standard paper sizes.
ResolutionThis may vary for the different elements but in the case of the copier, printer and scanner the key measurement is dots per inch (DPI). Simply put, the higher the DPI, the greater the detail that is likely to be reproduced. DPI may vary for black and colour printing. Additional proprietary technologies may be used by individual manufacturers to improve resolution. Maximum black and white printing resolutions on inkjet printers vary from 600x600 DPI to 1200x6000 DPI.
ConsumablesThere is a reasonably close correlation between the low price of some machines and their high running costs that means that some machines are not the bargains they might at first seem. A higher-priced machine with a lower running cost in terms of ink cartridges is likely to pay for itself pretty quickly. Comparing costs can be difficult but will save you significant amounts on even average usage.
InkjetThe original advantage of the inkjet printer was that it could reproduce colour when only very expensive laser options could. That price differential has all but disappeared, but inkjet technology can now produce photographic quality outputs. Print speeds and text quality can be lower than laser-based versions and running costs can be considerably higher. An inkjet is the right choice for all-round use.
Monochrome or colourAll-in-ones with monochrome printers (most common among laser-printer types) may well have colour scanners but are only able to print in black and white. Most inkjet printer are able to print in colour and black and white, but some cheaper inkjet printers can print both but not at the same time. If you want to print a page which contains black and white text and colour images you will need an inkjet printer with four colours.
Bit-depthThe higher the bit-depth of a scanner the higher the quality of the scan. Most colour scanners are 24-bit and collect 8 bits of information about each of the three primary colours red, green and blue. This gives excellent quality. Scanners with 30 or 36 bits are also available.
MemoryAll-in-ones require printer memory to store and process information while printing. Measured in megabytes (MB), the more memory the device has the faster it will print.
PictBridgeAllows you to transfer images from the memory card in a digital camera directly to a compatible all-in-one without a computer or editing software. Print size and layout can be set using the controls and the LCD on the camera. PictBridge is becoming the standard for digital image transfers and replacing proprietary solutions.
Fax typeFaxes can be sent either directly from your computer or by printing a document and feeding it through to send.
Fax memoryWill store faxes sent to you when machine is not in use.
DriversUsually supplied with the software for the machine, a printer driver controls the communication between your computer and the all-in-one. Updates to drivers are commonly made available from the manufacturer's web sites.
Twin-sided printingSometimes called duplex mode means you can print double-sided documents.
Maximum printing speedsPrint speeds (usually expressed in pages per minute) for all-in-ones will vary so if they are going to be important to you, you should compare competing models. Most models on the market will print between 20 and 25 black and white pages per minute. Colour pages will take longer depending on the quality selected.
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