Smart checklist when purchasing a printer

Purchasing a printer nowadays is so hard given the variety of choices, price range and technical capability. Is there an easy way for consumers to select the right printer to avoid paying a premium for unnecessary features? Here is an easy and smart checklist for you to use when buying a printer.

smart checklist for buying a printer


A. Printer types

1. Do I need a printer with multi-functions?


unchecked-box I need an all-in-one or 4-in-1 printer with print, fax, copy and scan capabilities.

unchecked-box I don’t need fax function in a printer. I need a 3-in-1 printer with print, copy and scan functions. (Tip: college students would find scan function useful.)

unchecked-box Single function printer is good enough for me as I won’t use it for fax or scanning.


2. Inkjet or laser printer? Color or black and white?


unchecked-box I need to print large volume of black and white documents. Go for black and white laser printer. (Tip: monochrome laser printers generally have faster printing speed than inkjet printers and are good for printing large volumes.)

unchecked-box I want to print homework assignments, sometimes color presentations and web pages. Go for low-end color inkjet printer. (Tip: replacement color toner cost is generally more expensive than cost of replacement color inkjet cartridges. To calculate the cost per page, divide the cost of replacement cartridge by the cartridge’s page yield at 5% coverage. For example, for compatible Brother LC61 magenta ink cartridge available at, the cost per page is $4.5/325 = $0.0138.)

unchecked-box I want to print photos on photo paper. Go for photo printer such as HP, Epson or Canon color printers. High quality home-use photo printers mostly use inkjet technology and today’s good photo printer normally uses 6 or more different color cartridges. (Tip: besides checking user reviews of the printers, it is always wise to compare the cost of replacement cartridges before making purchase decisions.)

unchecked-box I want to print good quality color presentation such as home inspection reports, and flyers for my home business. Color inkjet printers are still more cost efficient in most cases. (Tip: it is important to consider the printing speed, cost per page, the color quality on plain paper and resolution. Resolution is the number of dots that the printer prints in a square inch. The resolution is expressed as dpi (dots per inch) such as 5760 x 1440 dpi for a photo printer. A dpi of 1440 or higher is considered good resolution. When printing color images, some color laser printers are very slow as compared with color inkjet printers. See our article: 6 cost saving tips for small businesses.)


3. Wireless or AirPrint?


unchecked-box I want to print from my Apple device such as MacBook, iPhone, iPod or iPad. Go for AirPrint enabled inkjet or laser printer. (Tip: with AirPrint printer, there is no need to download printer driver. Our blog article on AirPrint printer discusses this in detail.)

unchecked-box I don’t have Apple device and I just want to be able to print wirelessly from my computer and tablet that run on Windows and Android operating systems. Go for wireless printer. (Tip: check the compatibility of the operating system between the printer and your device.)


4. Other features to consider


unchecked-box I need a mobile or portable printer which can be used when I am on the road. (Tip: purchase considerations include rechargeable battery capacity, Bluetooth wireless capability and functions.)

unchecked-box I want to print from memory sticks and digital camera cards without having to go through my computer. Choose a printer that has slots for memory stick and/or digital camera card.

unchecked-box I want to print banners and large-size signage. Choose wide-format printer which is usually more for commercial use.


B. What is my cost concern?


  • Inkjet printers are more popular for home use while monochrome laser printers are preferable among small businesses. The cost of replacement ink cartridges is generally cheaper than toner cartridges. However, for high volume printing, cost per page is the better gauge for cost efficiency.
  • Besides comparing the initial cost of printer, it is wise to also compare the cost of replacement cartridge, the cartridge’s page yield at 5% coverage and the cost per page. Sometimes a printer that is below $100 may turn out to be a costly purchase because of the high replacement cartridge cost.
  • The cost of color laser printers has been decreasing over the years and color laser printers appear to be more affordable to consumers. During promotions, occasionally the printer is offered free of charge. However most consumers are unaware of the fact that laser printers usually come with sample size toner cartridges. The page yield of these sample size toner is only a fraction of the full size toner. The real cost to the consumers is therefore the replacement toner cost. In some color laser printers, when one of the color toner is empty, it will cease to run until the toner is replaced. This means that consumers cannot continue to print black and white text or image when the magenta toner is used up for a color laser printer.

Other useful resource is available at this Consumer Reports article.

Inkjet Star, Inc. is your reliable online supplier of quality replacement ink and toner for Brother, HP, Samsung, Lexmark, Xerox, Canon, Dell, Epson, Kodak, Konica-Minolta, Panasonic, RICOH and Okidata printers. Go to the Ink Blog archives to see all of our blog articles.


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