Printer woes are certainly in the top five of reasons for calls for help to us at Compu-Home. By its perverse nature, it seems like a printer issue never warns you in advance; instead, the problem arises at the very moment that you need that piece of paper and it’s uncanny how the printer seems to know how important this particular job is, to choose that moment to malfunction.
: Laser or inkjet. Laser printers are more expensive than their inkjet counterparts. Unless you get into something very high-end, they print only black. Their cost per page is significantly cheaper than inkjets, their toner cartridges don’t dry up over a time of disuse like inkjet cartridges often do, and (unscientifically) they don’t seem to have quite as many delicate moving parts to break if you give them a sideways glance. On the other hand, inkjet printers usually do a better job than colour lasers at printing colour images.
: Manufacturers. This is one area where we think you are pretty safe. All of the machines produced today come from long-established and reputable companies. There are lemons to be sure, but the old days of us suggesting that you don’t buy this or that brand are in the past.
: Repairs – not likely. The Printer Doctor in the west end of Ottawa is one very reliable source of parts and service, and they do come up with miracles sometimes, but often it’s just not viable to pay an hourly service charge to fix an inexpensive printer. The Printer Doctor will give you honest advice on the phone.
: Warranty – always! If the store where you are buying your printer offers an extended warranty, it is almost a no-brainer to go for it. Printers are very often a source of huge frustration for the reasons mentioned above. They are the one piece of computer equipment with the greatest number of moving parts and the most likely to have to be replaced after what usually seems to be a premature lifespan. If you are “lucky” enough to have your printer fail during the warranty period, the most likely scenario will be for the store simply to replace it on the spot.
: Price. Printers have risen in price over the past few years. Apart from the manufacturers’ claims about improvements (some of which are actually significant) the fact is that there are fewer machines that only print; most printers nowadays are multifunction units, with scanning, photocopying and sometimes fax capabilities. Because these functions all make use of the same technology, it makes sense to combine everything into one device, thus saving money and a lot of space on your desk. Another sophistication that is almost universal now is for printers to be able to operate wirelessly, which is very often a great convenience.
: Model. Unless you require unusual speed or high quality in your printing, a fairly basic model will likely suit you. This is particularly true of laser printers, where the specifications of the least expensive units compare pretty favourably with their pricier cousins. In the case of inkjet machines, the capacity and the price of the cartridge will be prime considerations, along with the frequency of use and number of pages in a usual month. Some people are quite satisfied with a model that can be as little as $50.00 or less, while others who print more often might be more comfortable with something in the $100.00 range.
: Cartridges. Naturally, all manufacturers insist that only their own branded cartridges work reliably in their equipment. Most of our customers have found that generic alternatives, often available online at sources like Amazon.ca, do a very satisfactory job at a big saving. Infuriatingly, ALL printers come new with a “starter” cartridge that is only about one-third full and so you can’t judge the capacity of the full cartridge from that. Many people have found that with the very wide range of prices of cartridges for various brands and models, it becomes a significant factor in their choice of a printer.
Next post we will address problems and solutions.