Buying a printer can be a complicated business, there are more shapes, sizes and types of printers available to the home and small business user than ever before. Printers have also become specialised for their intended purpose.
It is no longer a case of “a printer is a printer”. Printers are now designed to be good in a particular area rather than a “Jack-of-all trades”, which will do everything.
An often overlooked issue, is the very serious consideration of cost of ownership, which is all about of how much it will cost to keep your printer running (see below). So making that decision on which printer to go for can be a seriously arduous task, especially if you are keen to buy a printer that is not only affordable to buy but also cheap to run.
So here is the information that you need to know and consider, but no one tells you! We have not expanded on which printer is the best at any given time because models constantly change and you can find that information in any current glossy PC magazine off the shelf. Instead, here you will find the good, bad and ugly bits from the different types of printers available so you can make an informed decision yourself.
Inkjet printers form images by spraying tiny droplets of liquid ink onto paper. The size and precision of the dots of ink and the type and quality of the ink itself govern how good the print quality is. A quality inkjet printer can produce very near photo-quality images using specialist photo coated paper. In general there are two types of inkjet printers, those with the printhead built into the printer like Epson, Brother etc and those where the printhead is actually on the ink cartridge like HP and Lexmark. There are many arguments for and against both technologies, but in our experience we have found both to be very good, the major difference seems to be that the cost of running a printer using the “printhead” type ink cartridge is usually higher.
Inkjet ink is specially formulated for specific printer models and their purpose, much technology is involved in the development of these inks to improve print quality, longevity, drying speeds and printing speeds etc. Most inkjet ink is produced using dye based ink which can flow easily through the tiny nozzles of the printhead, this type of ink is good for photos and colour shades but not so good for longevity or solid vibrant colour, think of it like a water colour painting. In recent years pigment ink technology has advanced considerably to enable use in inkjet printing. Previously ink pigments were too large and would block up the nozzles. This type of ink is good for solid colours and longevity, think of it like an oil painting. best art printers
Manufacturers like Epson, HP and Jet Tec are now increasingly using a fusion of dye based and pigmented inks to create superb quality photo printing with vibrant colours and longevity too.
Inkjet printers use anything between two and eight ink cartridges to do their job. Generally speaking the entry-level machines use two cartridges, good all round machines use four and specialist photo printers use six or more. The two cartridge system works fine though can be a bit wasteful on the colour ink, so go for a four-cartridge system where possible especially if you do colour printing. The six or more cartridge systems produce outstanding photos, but can be costly and a pain to keep changing cartridges (printer does not work if any one cartridge is empty).
Inkjet printers are the best solution for most people and are usually the most cost effective way to print – unless you are printing large volumes.
Portable Inkjet Printers
These printers are small, lightweight and ideal for people on the move. Although the printing of high quality photographs is usually beyond this type of printer, basic colour printing is of good quality and the quality of text print is mostly outstanding considering the size of these tiny portable A4 printers. These printers are not suitable for high volume printing.