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90% of the Buying a printer is a simple “what is the cheapest I can get away with?” decision – or is it?

A printer can cost you anywhere from R299 upwards but buying the cheapest printer will most likely be a frustrating and costly experience in the end.

Although budget will dictate what you can afford the best approach is first to quantify what is the most important things you need from your printer, then weigh up cost vs functionality.

Quantify your needs

Answer the following questions to the best of your ability:

  • How often and how much do I need to print?
  • What do I need to print, and what it the most important – Text / Colour / High quality photos?
  • What time pressures are involved – can the printing run in the background and complete at it’s own pace or is a process or customer waiting?
  • Do I have any specific paper handling requirements or would A4 printing be fine?
  • Any specialised printing needs like high quality graphics for pictures, mobile printing etc?
  • Do I need a multi-function printer that will do scans, copies etc.

If you have budget constraints, buy based on your normal printing needs, not on your “maybe once a year nice to have”. For those instances, there are many printing shops based in most shopping centres, that can print in non-standard formats and sizes.

how to chose between Laser and inkjet printers

Inkjet vs Laser jet vs Multi-function printers

Consider these factors:

  • Capital cost vs running cost:
    • The initial cost of the printer mostly influence the buying decision. This however contribute only 10% of the total cost of ownership of a printer. Most importantly printing cost per page is the biggest contributor to the total cost of ownership of the printer. As a result it is very important to estimate the quantity that you expect to print per month and per year. This will enable you to compare the total cost of ownership between different printers. Click here for a more detailed explanation on how to calculate  your cost per page. You can calculate an estimate total cost of ownership as follows:
      • InkJet Printer: (Capital cost + cost per page x estimated pages per month x 36 months) / 36.
      • Laser Printer: (Capital cost + cost per page x estimated pages per month x 56 months) / 56.
  • Compare customer ratings – online customer ratings normally give one a good idea whether an item lives up to it’s advertised promise.
  • Compare functionality and price based on your needs:
    • List the printers in table format comparing the specifications of each printer, customer ratings, and total cost of ownership.
  • Buy a trusted brand with a good warranty and after sales support.

The big question – InkJet or Laser printer?

On a high level the difference between InkJet and Laser printers is the mechanism to get the ink / toner on the paper. InkJet printers squirts ink onto the paper via fine nozzels. Laser printers melts toner into the paper.

    • Upfront capital cost – InkJet printers are normally cheaper initially, but may be costly in the long run.
    • Speed – Although the speed of new models of InkJet printers have increased, Laser printers generally print faster.
    • Size – InkJet printers are normally more compact and lighter than Laser printers.
    • Photo quality prints – InkJet printers offer the best options for high quality photo printing.
    • Colour prints – in general Inject printers produce higher quality colour prints. Laser colour printers are available and do produce good quality colour prints.
    • High quality text – Laser printers produces sharp text printing and is highly suitable for high quantity and quality text printing.
    • Paper types and sizes – InkJet printers offer a wider variety of paper handling options.
    • Paper tray capacity – Laser Printers offer higher capacity paper trays. If you regularly do high quantity prints, the low quantity paper trays in InkJet printers could be a source of frustration.
    • Monthly duty cycle – The maximum number of pages per month that a printer can print before it runs the risk of being damaged. Laser printers have higher duty cycles than InkJet printers.
    • Intervals between printing – InkJet printers are normally recommended for low number of prints per month. With long intervals between prints there is however a risk that the ink will dry in the ink nozzels of the printing head. Hence if you do not print regularly, you should consider a Laser printer instead of an InkJet printer. Alternatively, you should make a point of printing a test page on a regular basis.
    • UPS power – It is not recommended to use Laser printers on a UPS. Laser printers has a high maximum power draw. This may overload and damage your UPS. An InkJet printer may be your only option if you require your printer to run on UPS or inverter.
    • Longevity – Laser printers normally have a longer lifespan of 5 years or more. InkJet printers has a life span of 3 years or more.
    • Cost per page – Laser printers normally have a lower cost per page.

If you do your homework, you should be able to choose a printer that is the right fit, and provide value for money over its lifetime.

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