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Essential Terms to Know Before Buying a Printer

Essential Terms to Know Before Buying a Printer

by January 15, 2021 0 comments

Choosing the right printer can be a daunting affair, especially when the market is flooded with so many options to choose from. The job can get a little intimidating as there are so many cryptic terms used to explain a printer’s features. So, to make your printer-hunting process easier, we’ve put together a list of the most commonly used terms that you keep in mind before buying a printer.

Image Quality

There are many terms that determine a printer’s image quality. Knowing them can help you decide which printer would be right for your needs.

Resolution – Printers can print at different resolutions, which determines the level of detailing in your print-outs. Print resolution is measured in dpi or the number of dots a printer is able to print in a line across an inch. The more dots it can place, the higher the resolution, and therefore, the better the print quality.

For monochrome text-based print-outs, a resolution of 300-600 dpi is good enough, but for graphics printing, you obviously need higher resolutions. So don’t go for anything less than 1200 dpi.

Ink Configuration – Professional color printers come with more than the four basic cartridges (CMYK) found in traditional printers. These can range from 6, 8, and 12 color cartridges; where more cartridges implies a wider gamut of colors in your prints. It will also more closely match the colors you see on the screen.

Though the printout will never be an exact replication of what you see on the screen, but the wider gamut of colors will ensure richer image quality. This, along with color calibration using software will ensure a more accurate print output.

Ink Droplet Size – This is typically measured in picoliters (pl), where lower the number means a sharper image. So when choosing a printer for great quality photo prints, look for the minimum droplet size. The typical range is from 4-12 pl.

Ink Tank – One challenge that most inkjet printers face is that the ink runs out very quickly, requiring you to replace or refill the cartridges. Refilling traditional ink cartridges can be a huge challenge and lead to spilling and wasting of the ink. Replacing them can be equally tough.

Ink Tank as the name suggests is a new technology where the inkjet printers have separate ink tanks that are very easy to re-fill. Moreover, while the initial cost of an ink-tank based printer can be higher than a traditional inkjet printer, their cost per print can be quite low, which makes them a worthy investment in the long run.

Media Handling

Printers can print on a wide variety of media types. Paper alone has a lot of variety—glossy photopaper, matte photopaper, high-resolution paper, semi-gloss photo paper, greeting cards, envelopes, and the list goes on. Besides paper, there are so many other media types that a printer can print on—T-Shirts, photo stickers, Iron-on transfers for color fabric, etc.

If your need is to take print-outs on more than plain A4-sized sheets, then it’s important to check which media types are supported by your printer. Usually, printer manufacturers have a complete media compatibility chart for their various models.

Besides media type, it’s also important to look for media capacity, or the number of sheets of paper a printer can support in its input as well as output tray. Heavy-duty printer will be able to support a higher number of sheets of paper, which means that you won’t have to keep rushing back to refill paper in your printer. A high-capacity output tray means even if you need to take volume prints, then they won’t spill out of the tray and spread all over the floor.

Duplex Printing

This means having the ability to print on both sides of the paper. Duplex printing can be automatic or manual. As the name implies, in automatic duplex printing, you don’t have to do anything. The printer will automatically print on both sides of the paper. In the manual, it will print on one side of the paper. You’ll then have to re-feed the paper into the printer to print on the other side.

Printing Speed

Printing speed is measured in PPM or the number of pages it can print per minute. Here again, besides PPM, you should also check how long does a printer take to print the first page. Plus, remember that in inkjet printers, the print speeds can vary depending upon the level of detailing and ink coverage on paper. When a vendor gives the print-speed of an inkjet printer, it’s given based on a certain percentage of ink used per sheet of paper.

Ease of Use

While this is not a technical term, it’s nevertheless an important aspect to consider while buying a printer. How easy is it to load and unload media from the printer? How intuitive is the printer’s control panel? Is it easy to navigate and customize the print settings?

Ease of handling consumables is also important. How easily can you pull out and replace the toner cartridge in case of a laser printer, or re-fill/replace the ink cartridges in case of an inkjet printer? Can you, for instance, easily clear a paper jam should it occur?

Many printers nowadays support Wireless printing. How quickly and easily can you setup you printer for WiFi printing from a laptop or a smartphone?

Availability of universal drivers is also important. If you lose your printer’s drivers in the future, or your system becomes corrupt and requires re-installation, how easily will you be able to setup the printer on it?

Connectivity

Nowadays, you can connect a printer by various means—USB, WiFi, Bluetooth, and LAN cable. If you’re planning to buy a printer for your office so that multiple people can use it, then you should seriously consider network connectivity. Even in WiFi, printers nowadays support Dual-Band WiFi, which basically allows them to connect to two different frequencies-2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. This allows for a more stable connection and higher speed connectivity.

PictBridge Printing

This is an industry-standard that allows you to fire a print to a printer directly from a digital camera, without first transferring the images to a PC or laptop. In this case, both the camera and printer need to be PictBridge compliant.

Other Terms

There are many other terms you should consider before buying a Printer besides the ones we’ve just explained. Duty cycle for instance is another important term to keep in mind and look out for it in a printer’s specifications before buying. Duty cycle is the number of pages that can be printed by a printer per month at its rated print quality, without any kind of deterioration.

The duty cycle is usually arrived at by the printer manufacturer after a lot of stress testing. Printer drum is another term to be familiar with. It’s found in laser printers and is an electrically charged cylinder that fuses the toner powder onto the paper to create the printouts. Drum is a consumable, so it’s important to know its life and replacement cost while buying a laser printer.

So there you have it. All the essential terms you should know before choosing a printer. Understanding them will make your printer buying process very smooth and efficient.

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