If you have decided that a laser printer is the best fit for your purposes, there are still a number of factors to consider before you will know exactly which one to buy. Read on for some selection tips.
If your volume is even fairly high, or if you need to be able to print at fairly high speeds, a laser is probably a better bet for you than an inkjet printer. The laser is often not as good a printing photos as a high-end inkjet, but if you also need that feature, you may need two printers. The selection process for a laser printer has a lot of similarity to that used for an inkjet, even though the technologies are quite different.
Monochrome or color- The first big option intersection for the laser printer is a bit different than the inkjet selection process. All inkjets print color, whether or not you use the printer that way. Laser printers come in both grayscale and color models, and the price difference can be significant. A lot of office and school work cane be done in black and white. In these cases, color would just be an unnecessary bonus.
Take my case. I need a monochrome laser to print manuscripts for editors and publishers. I have a middle of the road Brother for that. I also tend to make my own fine prints of my photos to hang on my own walls, mainly 8 x 10s that I print myself on a high-end Canon photo printer. In my case, and probably many others, two printers will be the way to go. In others, the color would just be a luxury, so you would not want to spend the money for a color laser or go to the expense of having two printers. It all comes down to what you need to do. Mixing in color graphics for your work or school documents may be important enough to go with a color laser, especially if you do not want to print fine quality photos.
Resolution- If you will be using your laser printer for handing papers into school, or for your boss or clients, you will want the print quality to make a good impression. It is generally believed that a resolution of 1200×1200 is more than good enough for these purposes. Unless you will be printing complex graphics or high quality photographs, buying a printer because it has a higher resolution is probably a waste of money. However, if you will be doing a lot of photo and graphic printing, you should be looking at a printer resolution of 2400×2400.
Printer supplies- Over the life of the printer, the supplies that you use in it are going to cost much more than the printer itself. For a laser, the supplies are toner, usually sold in cartridges, and drums, which sometimes come along with the toner and are changed every time you change toner cartridges. There are advantages to both types of systems.
Before you buy, take a close look at the cost of the supplies and factor them against the number of pages that can be printed by the toner cartridge. Divide the cost of the cartridge by the number of pages it will print, getting the cost per page. If the drum unit is separate from the toner cartridge, make the same calculation. That will give you the approximate total cost per page. There is every chance that the printer companies will be exaggerating a little, but probably they will all be doing it by about the same amount. Hopefully, the printer that you will buy will fall somewhere near the bottom of the price-per-page range, although it may not be the cheapest.
Remember also that your printer should have a draft printing setting, which you should use for all printing that will not be presented to a teacher or a client. Using that setting will often use only half the toner of the highest quality setting, although it will not reduce the drum replacement cost in those printers where the drum is replaced separately.
When considering supplies, make sure that there are not many limitations on the types of materials you can print on. The printer that you select should be able to print on plain paper, various weights of card stock and labels, at a bare minimum. Make sure at least that it will print on every type of paper and stock that you will likely need to use.
Networking- How you access your printer is another important consideration. Most of us access our network via WiFi. If you have multiple computers, whether the printer is for the office of for the home, it might pay you to pay the extra money for a WiFi equipped printer so that everyone on the network will be able to use it easily. If you’re on a wired network, there are also many laser printers available with a network card already installed.
Speed- The output speed of the printer you select should be high enough so that you don’t feel like you are being kept waiting unduly. For most people, that speed falls at around 20-24 pages per minute (PPM). If you are at all worried about speed, you should go to a retailer and watch the printer you have selected based on other factors actually print. There is nothing like seeing the printer in action to know whether or not it is fast enough.
Memory- One final consideration is the amount of memory installed in the printer. Generally, the more memory the printer has the faster it will be able to print, especially the first page of every job. In addition, you should remember that graphics take a lot more printer memory than does text. The printer that you purchase should have at least 4 MB of memory. More memory is always better.
Those tips should get you through your laser printer purchase with flying colors. Keep your specific needs in mind, make sure the printer that you choose meets them, and buy your printer from a well-know maker, such as Hewlett-Packard, Brother, Epson, or Lexmark, among others. If you cover all those bases, you should end up happy with your purchase.