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Choosing the right printer, that suits your printing needs

There are so many colour laser printers, multifunction printers and large format printers available that it can be very difficult selecting the right printer for your needs. Printer facia

The biggest brand is not always the best choice, by selecting the wrong printer you leave yourself open to a number of pitfalls; high running costs, low productivity, low quality, limited paper handling, reliabilty issues and general poor performance.

The following information will help you make an informed choice about the best printer for your needs.

There are a number of things you need to consider when choosing a printer, the importance of each varies with the user, but all should be considered before purchase.

Obviously you need to decide first if you just want a stand alone printer, or a multifunction printer which allows copying, printing, scanning, faxing etc. Once you have decided on this the information below should help in your understanding of how to choose the correct printer for your needs.

Laser printers go to a maximum print size of A3+, if you have a print requirement larger than this you need to look at inkjet. Epson offers the best range of professional Inkjet printers, Epson 4880 - A2+, Epson 7880 – A1+, Epson 9880 - B0+, Epson 11880 – 64”. These are the professional inkjet printer range from Epson and are often used by photographers, graphic design companies, marketing departments, architects, artists, print bureaus, etc.

Oki offers an A3 laser printer which can print on oki banner paper giving an A3 wide, 3 ft long print. Perfect for sales forecasts, year planners, posters etc.

  • Inkjet printers generally offer a higher quality print image than laser printers. If you require the best quality photo prints you should look to inkjet.
  • Inkjets are much more expensive to run than laser.
  • Inkjets can often print on more than just paper; Epson large format printers will print on canvas, fine-art papers, banner materials, flag, cotton, plastic, board, waterproof paper and many more medias. We supply all medias and will gladly send out media samples to you.
  • Laser printers can generally only print on laser paper.
  • Inkjet printers are much slower than laser for multiple prints.
  • Laser printers are capable of printing good quality photos, inkjets just offer that “real photo” look that cannot be achieved with laser.
  • We offer a comprehensive range of Large Format Epson Medias, Hahnemuhle Fine Art Papers, Epson Canvas and compatible Inkjet Canvas all for printing on with Epson and other large format printers.

    Laser printers are faster, more professional, cheaper to run and more productive than any office inkjet printer. Laser printers will allow a user to produce high quality, professional looking fast prints at a low cost (in comparisson to an office inkjet printer). Inkjet printers are often marketed as being able to print up to 30 pages per minute, anyone with prior knowledge of inkjet will know this is a huge exageration. Printing on inkjet is much slower than laser, especially if you are printing anything with images, solid colours or multiple pages.

    Colour laser printers have now reached a sensible price point and demand for colour lasers is now higher than ever. We are finding that colour laser printers are not exclusive to business users, the home user market has now realised the benfits of laser over inkjet and colour lasers are now regularly found in homes throughout the UK.

    Printing Money
    • Consumable print life is always based on 5% print coverage – therefore if a manufacturer states its toners last for 2000 Pages, chances are you will be printing on higher coverage of about 20% and will therefore only get about 500 prints from them.
    • Very few manufacturers ship their printers with a full set of supplies. Often they only ship with a starter set giving you anywhere from 25 to 100 prints, this means you will often need to immediately buy another full set of supplies to get printing, adding hundreds of pounds to your original purchase price.

    Manufacturers do not make their money from the printers they sell, their profits come from the sale of consumables during the lifetime of the printer. In the first year alone a customer can easily spend 5x the value of their printer on supplies. It is the most overlooked aspect of buying a printer, but for people buying their 2nd or 3rd printers it is often the area given the most focus.

    Consumables between manufacturers vary massively in cost, it is a good rule of thumb that the cheapest colour laser printers and Inkjet printers are normally the most expensive to run. To calculate the running cost of a printer, you need to look at all the consumables it uses and compare the cost of them to the amount of prints they offer – this will give you the cost per page.

    To find out which printers ship with full toners email us or call us on 020 7378 4729.

    The quality differences between laser and inkjet have already been discussed above. You now need to look at the quality differences of the printer type you have chosen. Print quality is measured in dpi (dot per inch) if you look at the pdf for the Lexmark C530dn you will see the quality is 1200x1200dpi (1.4million dots per square inch) this measure is a good guide to quality, but not a guarantee of it.

    The quality of a printer is also determined by the build quality, engine type, toner compound type and component quality. It is often the case that two printers both advertised as 1200dpi vary massively in the final print result. For further information on the best quality laser printers email us or request a call back. Like anything else in life the cheapest are often the lowest quality.

    It is expected that the biggest brands make for the best quality. This is definitely not case with printers. HP (the UK’s largest printer brand) are exceptional in their mono laser printers, but the quality of their colour laser printers is often surpassed by the likes of Lexmark / Oki / Konica and Xerox.

    Colour Matching

    Some printers have LED engines as an alternative to Laser (Oki C8600N as an example), this is nothing to worry about, LED and Laser produce a very similar quality output and both now come under the category of Laser. Both are still toner based and the final result is virtually indistinguishable. LED was intially developed as it had the advantage of producing faster output.

    The highest quality colour laser printers are the A3+ Graphics Models generally manufactured by the likes of Oki and Xerox. Both these manufacturers produce printers used for pre-press production and are often seen in marketing departments, graphics design companies and other creative departments. Not only are these printers capable of printing on oversive A3 paper, they also have specialist colour handling controls to provide the most accurate colour output available from a colour laser printer. In most environments getting accurate colour is not essential, but in marketing depts and pre-press environments getting colours wrong can lose you business and cost companies money. We also provide expert colour profiling solutions for business who require this.

    For further information on the best quality laser printers email us or request a call back.

    Colour laser printer speeds vary considerably from one printer to another. When choosing your printer you need to be aware that the printers speed will not be exactly as advertised. You can see on this site that each printer lists the speed in mono and colour (if appropriate). If you look at the Oki C8600N you will see the advertised print speed of 26ppm Colour / 32ppm Mono. (ppm being pages per minute) To cause confusion; this speed refers to the engine speed of the printer and reflects how quickly the printer will print a page once it has been processed. If you send a 20 page Powerpoint presentation to this printer – it will not be finished printing in less than a minute!

    Prior to printing a page the printer first needs to process the information you are sending to it. The larger the file size, the longer the printer will take to process the information. Once a page has been processed the printer can print multiple copies of that page at the advertised engine speed. If speed is vital to your work, you should also look at the other governing factors determining the processing times of print jobs; printer memory and processor speed. You can see this printer has 128 meg ram and a processor speed of 200Mhz. The more memory and the faster the processor the better.

    High end graphics printers have a lot of ram, a hard disk and very fast processors to cater for the graphics intensive images they need to process. If you look at the Oki C9650 Printer PDF you will see the printer has an 800Mhz Processor, 512 Meg Ram upgradeable to 1024 Meg and a 40 gig hard disk. All this extra processing power makes this machine dramatically faster than many others on the market advertised with the same print (ppm) speeds.

    The advertised print speed of a printer is only achieved once the printer has finished processing the job. Colour Laser Printers are fastest when printing multiple copies of the same page.

    Paper handling is often overlooked when choosing a colour or mono laser printer. It is often assumed that all laser printers are similar in their paper handling capabilities. This is definitely not the case. The things to check prior to purchase are:

    • Trays – can additional paper trays be added to the printer and if so how many? Some printers can not have any additional trays added, some like the A3 Oki C8600N printer can have 1 additional tray added giving it a total paper capacity of 930 pages. And some can take multiple additional trays like the Lexmark X945e with a maximum paper capacity of 3140 pages spread over 5 separate input trays.
    • Paper Printing Size

      Paper Weights – will the printer take the media you need to print on. Many people purchase printers with the intention of printing business cards, menus, marketing materials etc. Some printers are very limited on the weights of paper and type of paper they can handle. Some printers are restricted to printing on paperweights less than 105gsm and some printers can print on almost triple this weight. For reference purposes office photocopying paper is normally about 100gsm, business cards are anywhere between 160gsm – 250gsm, a typical birthday card would be about 220gsm. The weight of metric paper is given in grams per square meter (gsm).

    • Duplex Printing

      Duplex Capabilities (Double Sided Printing) – most printers do not print on both sides of the paper automatically as standard. Most colour laser printers can print on both sides but you must turn the paper over yourself. Often there is an optional duplex unit you can purchase for the printer which will turn the paper automatically for you. Some printers are not capable of printing on both sides of the paper at all and it can actually break the printer if you try. Automatic Duplex printing is often limited to paperweights of 80 – 90gsm as with the HP range of colour lasers. This can be very restrictive as you can almost see what’s printed on the other side of the paper because the paper is so thin. We offer a number of colour laser printers which allow duplex printing on much heavier papers, giving you a far more professional finish.

    • Paper Printing Size

      Paper Sizes – make sure the printer you choose can handle the paper size you need. Often a printer will be advertised as A4, but can handle slightly over A4 and many sizes below. Some printers will only take a very limited paper size range. Most colour laser printers leave a border all around the paper they are printing on, and cannot print to the edge of the paper. Inkjet printers like the Epson Professional Range allow full edge-to-edge printing. This is very useful for posters, photographs, maps etc. Certain A3 colour laser printers allow oversize A3 paper to be used (A3+ Paper), this allows you to print an actual A3 image on the oversize paper and then cut it down. This is very common in magazine production environments where an A3 Print is required to proof the final magazine before going to press. They output on A3+ paper using crop marks to mark the actual A3 size for their final output. Notes can also be written on the paper surrounding the A3 print. For information on printers capable of A3 oversize printing please email us or request a call back.

    Conclusion

    We hope this guide to choosing the right printer has been useful, if you have any questions or need advice then please call us, email us or request a call back from us.

    We can often arrange demonstrations on the printers we supply so please ask about this. We can also send out print samples if required.

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