There are 2 main types of printers available on the consumer market - inkjet and laser printers. Both have strengths and weaknesses, and your choice will largely depend on what you plan on using your printer for. This guide will concentrate on information about inkjet printers - for a detailed rundown of laser printers, please see the guide under the Laser/LED printer category.
So, inkjet printers. As the name would suggest, these printers function by squirting a thin, focussed stream of black & coloured ink onto the page. This process makes inkjet significantly slower than laser printers, however there are capable of printing far more vivid colours, higher detail photos, and are generally far more preferable for colour-dependant printing.
Inkjet printers are generally cheaper than laser printers, however they have significantly higher running costs. This is because the individual ink cartridges used for the printing (usually 4 - black, yellow, magenta & cyan) are expensive to purchase, and are used up far quickly than toner cartridges for laser printers. Therefore though inkjet printers may seem like a good bargain when you first buy them, they may be a false saving if you only print black and white documents - a laserjet will save more money in the long term.
On the subject of cartridges, there are two main types of ink cartridges used for these printers - dye and pigment inks. While there isn’t a massive difference between the two, dye inks give more vivid and brighter colours, whereas pigments inks are more resilient, and less prone to fading. However recent improvements to both types of ink have shortened the gap between them, meaning you won’t really go wrong with either choice of ink type.
Inkjet printers are significantly slower than their laser printing cousins. However even within inkjet printers, there is a significant variety in print speeds - some models of inkjet printer can take double the time to print a page when compared to newer and more efficient models. All of our printers have detailed stats on the number of pages they can print a minute, broken down into black and white, colour, photo, etc. This will allow you to make the best decision as to the printer that best suits your needs.
When choosing an inkjet printer, print quality is among the most important considerations. The output quality of the printers on our site are measured in dots per inch (dpi) - higher dpi printers use more ink in denser configurations. This allow for far more detail and colour depth to be packed into every inch of the printing, leading to far higher quality prints.
It is also important to consider the number of print nozzles when choosing an inkjet printer. The more nozzles a printer has, the higher the density of ink it can apply to the page. Printers with a very high number of nozzles will be more expensive than other models, but you will gain far higher-quality prints from it, so it may well be worth the expense.
While not as high quality as dedicated photo printers, inkjet printers are still effective at printing high-quality photos - far more so than laser printers. If you are interested in using your inkjet to print photos, it would be best to look for the printer with the highest print quality (dpi and colour depth). You will also need specialist photo paper to get the best results from photo printing - this paper is thicker and has a glossy coating that is specifically designed to stop the inks from blotting or merging, and provide a professional-level result when printing photos at home.
Most models of inkjet printers have several different network connectivity options to make printing easier and more efficient. Ethernet connectivity is now a common feature in modern printers - so data can be transferred over a network without having to plug your computer into the printer directly. This makes it far easier to share printers with groups: the printer can be placed in a central area and used freely by everyone around.
Additionally, many models of inkjet printer also have wifi and/or bluetooth connectivity. These options mean that you do not even have to use a wire to use the printer - data can be transferred over wireless connection.
Finally, the newest models of printers have support for cloud or app printing. These options allow you to send a document to print from anywhere in the world - from a browser over the cloud, or from an app on your smartphone. While you will pay more money for these options, the convenience they provide may be worth the extra expenditure.