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Printers and Scanners Buying Guide

For home users and businesses, a variety of printers and scanners are widely available on the market. Knowing what type of device specifications you need is key. The last thing you want to do is discard your new printer or scanner because it proved inappropriate in meeting your needs. This buying guide will point you to some key features to look out for.

Types of Printers and Scanners

InkJet Printer

An Inkjet printer works by propelling tiny ink drops onto the print surface. The ink is stored in a removable ink cartridge. Color inkjet printers cost less to print per page than on Colour laser printers. But it is cheaper to print on a monochrome (black-and-white) laser printer than on an inkjet. Inkjets are also slower than laserjets and printed-out texts don't look as sharp as on laserjets.

Laserjet Printers

Laser printers make use of a laser beam and a "drum" to produce printouts. In place of ink, these printers use toner powder, which is stored in a removable toner cartridge. Laser printers are generally faster than inkjets. Monochrome laser printers print cheaper per page than Inkjets. Color laser printers cost more to print, even in black-and-white.

Dot Matrix Printers

Dot Matrix Printers produce print-outs by using a print head to strike dots on an ink ribbon. These printers have the cheapest cost per print. Dot matrix printers can also print carbon copies and also print on continuous sheets. However, they are slow, noisier and produce poorer colour prints. They also print at lower resolutions. Dot Matrix Printers are used in many point-of-sale terminals such as cash registers.

Photo Printers

Photo printers are designed purposely for printing photos. Most feature an image display screen, higher print resolutions, paper-edge printing, specialty ink cartridges, and direct printing from a camera or memory card.

Flatbed Scanner

A flatbed scanner has a glass surface where objects are placed prior to scanning them. They are not suitable for scanning multiple sheets because each sheet has to be loaded one at a time. Some flatbed scanners, like the HP ScanJet Pro 3500 f1 Flatbed Scanner, has a sheet feeder suited for multiple sheet scan jobs.

Sheet-Feed Scanner

Sheet-Feed Scanners are suitable for scanning multiple sheets at a time without having to scan the sheets one at a time. They are not suitable for thick, fragile, and oversized objects which cannot easily pass through the sheet-feed slots.


An all-in-one usually has print, scan, and photocopy and sometimes fax functionality. Some also feature flash drive ports and smart-card readers. They might also be inkjet or laser printing-based.

Features to look out for in Printers and Scanners


A higher resolution usually translates to a well defined print or scan output. Printer resolutions measure the number of dots printed per inch. It is measured in dpi. A resolution of 600dpi should be good enough for many text and photo print jobs. Scanner resolutions are also measured in dpi. Scanning at 200dpi should be good enough for many of your scan jobs. A larger scan resolution can produce very large files which may not be suitable to send as email.


Most printers will have a USB port connection. Additionally, others printers would have anethernet port to wire the printer to a network. Some printers have built-in Wi-Fi support. An improved Wi-Fi feature called Wi-Fi Direct will enable you issue print commands to the printer without connecting the printer to a network. With Cloud printing services, like Google Print, you can also issue print commands from you computer or your phone over the internet. The printer must also be connected to the internet to receive the print command. Photo printers in particular also have PictBridge capabilities. This allows PictBridge-enabled digital camera to issue direct print commands to the printer. Other printer also have memory card slots built-in.

Paper Handling

Consider the size of the printer tray especially if you do a lot of print at a go. A 250-paper tray would be good for large batch jobs. If you need to print A3 sized sheets or bigger, consider that many smaller printers will not have that capacity. For bulk scanning jobs, choose a device that has a paper feeder. If you want don't want your print-outs or scannable items to bend as it pass through the device, get a machine with a straight-through paper path.


Printer and scanner speeds are measured in pages per minute (ppm). The ppm value advertised on a product will not be the same in all printing and scanning scenarios. Printing or scanning a document at a higher resolution results in a slower ppm. Speeds also depend on the type of paper you are using.


A Duplex-capable printer or scanner can automatically print or scan both sides of a sheet of paper without any manual intervention. The printer or scanner might either flip the sheet to complete the duplex in a dual-pass or have two print/scan engines installed in the machine to complete a duplex in a single pass.

Other Features

- LCD display: It could be text or graphics based. This is an added convenience for setting up and managing the printer menu . - Optical disc printing - 3D printers and scanners

Efficiency Tips

- Get a printer that has a refillable ink or toner cartridge. - As much as possible print in economy or draft mode. - Companies should consider Pull Printing. - Use print preview and shrink to fit. This will avoid blind-printing too many pages. - Maintain and clean your printer or scanner regularly. - Use a black-and-white laser printer for bulk print jobs - Print in black-and-white as much as possible - Tape torn sheets before loading them in a sheet feed or tray. As much as practical, remove paper clips and staples before printing or scanning.

What’s your Budget

Inkjet printers cost more to buy than black-and-white laserjet printers. But printing cost per page is higher on an inkjet. Colour laser printers cost even higher to buy and replace the toner cartridges. A dot matrix printer, comparable in size with an inkjet or laser printer, may cost more to buy but it cost cheapest to print per page. On scanners, flatbeds are generally cheaper than sheet-feeders. The more additional features a printer or scanner has, the higher the purchase price.

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