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Printer types explained WiFi Printers, InkJet and LaserJets

Photo Printers, Ink-Jet, Laserjet Printers Ink Subscription Services

The printer market has developed rapidly in recent years with the increase of people using phones more than digital cameras. Printer makers have had to adapt and be more interactive and flexable in their products. You can still buy inks and larger inks if needed, with many makers accepting that many people use unofficial inks even if some features will be disabled.

Printer makers also give the option of using a subscription model and service with the printers connected depending on your plan the number of prints you can print or roll over. And when you need ink it will auto bill and send out a new ink for you. So for heavy users you need to compare the price against using a high use cartridge.

People take for granted the high quality images we can take now, and need to print and use more. High quality photo printing is possible at home but it can be a pain if you need photo paper and then need to cut/adjust the size.
So I often opt to use online printer or offer from photobox or similar. Please use are links and let us know if you find a good service.

Check Epson Printer Prices or Canon Printer Prices check yourself using our feed pages [HERE]

Inkjet Printers

These are the most popular printer for home and small office use. Depending on the model you may have four cartridges or even six, six primarily feature in the photo and all-in-one versions but these can depend on the product and maker.

HP Smart Tank Plus 555 All-in-One Wireless Inkjet Printer Canon PIXMA PRO-100s Wireless A3 Photo Inkjet HP DeskJet 2620

Many printers include memory card readers and screens for review, navigation and can allow you to view, crop and resize images and print directly from the memory card without the need of a PC.

Most printers used to use dedicated Ink colours of Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow, alongside a dedicated black cartridge. Depending on the model the three colours may either be in separate cartridges or combined into one. If separate this allows for just the one to be replaced rather than the whole cartridge. Many now include additional cartridges often six, which include additional colours to help reproduce higher quality image output.

Inkjet printing works by the print head marking dots of colour onto the page this pattern along with the other nozzles and colours combines to form the picture.

Laser Printers

Laser printing has typically been limited to the office as the unit costs and ongoing costs of toners made it out of reach to the majority of other users. This is starting to change with makers now selling mono lasers for around £50+.

HP LaserJet Pro M118dw Monochrome Wireless Laser Printer brother dcpl2510d mono laser printer.jpg

Laser printers are still superior in terms to speed compared to the Inkjet, here the PPM is normally at least double the Inkjet at 20-30PPM. Instead of using Ink these printers coat toner powder onto a drum which has been charged with an electrical current and where the laser has marked points, effectively drawing the letters onto the drum, the toner is attracted to the discharged points then this is rolled onto a sheet of paper. Lasers are easily more cost efficient on a cost per page basis.

Colour laser printers are still very costly at several hundred pounds the output quality is very high most organisations either buy both and keep the Laser for text and use the Inkjet for images and graphics. Or if that is not practical stick with a quality Inkjet even though the text quality and speed performance will be lower.

Standalone Printers

These could be a label printer or a dedicated printer connected only to one PC or Computer and not accessable from other devices. MAny also include the ability for basic function to be used without a PC. These were before what we can do now on most Wireless printers, connect a device say a USB or phone and playback and print, often not ideal but allows you do do it if needed. I prefer just doing it on a PC or sending the photo somewhere.

Standalone Photo Printer Standalone Photo Printer

These normally include both a memory card reader and a LCD screen to view images. Some include features to allow resizing and minor adjustments to improve the image prior to printing.

Online Photo Printers

Printing your digital images means you either need to print them yourself which is fine. Although it can be time consuming if you do not have any software to help you resize the images to a standard format.

You can still take your images to the high street, however places are getting fewer in number and most are self service now so no more needing to leave you prints or device or email/upload. I would reccomend you copy pictures to a seperate USB or SD card... I am amazed the amount of people who connect their phones to a cable and they then need to go through on their screens/interface through hundreds of Facebook or private pictures!

Either way at least you dont have to post away and wait, and sometimes get someone elses snaps back.

Printing in store will be cheaper than doing it yourself online, but you will get the prints on the photopaper and size you want within minutes for ~50p+. Online it will cost 5/10p per image depending on the size of the image and the more you order and possibly postage costs or minimum order value.

Points to consider

When choosing a printer you should not only take the price as the main factor, but look at the cost of buying replacement cartridges and any papers. If applicable try to estimate how much printing you are likely to require this The ongoing consumable costs is where the makers make most of their money and often take a loss on the main units themselves to compete with the competitive market.

It isn't unusual to see printers for sale for under £30 this may seem a good deal, but often the replacements inks will cost the same or more than the cost of the unit. Subscription services are great for example HP offer a service which is under £2 a month with any unused prints credited to the next month.

The Size (Footprint) the amount of space the printer takes up is also worth thinking about as the larger business models may not fit on your existing desk. For most people the units are fairly standard, or would a mobile portable printer be useful? Also remember to take into account additional room for trays and paper feeders.



Printer Resolution is measured in dots per inch (DPI) which is standard for all printer formats. DPI is the number of individual dots a printer can print next to each other on a line one inch long. The resolution is just one of the factors that determines how good a printers output is, the only real way to check is to visit stores and view test prints so your eye can see what the quality is like.

Printer Ink

Branded Ink Cartridges are how the companies make most of their money as during the printer's lifetime they hope you will have purchased countless cartridges and thrown the empty ones away. And competition between brands as meant the Printer initial unit price has come down to very cheap, I have seen printers on speacial for £20. Make sure you re-use these empty cartridges by using a local or printer makers free return scheme, or if you want to try buying a refill kit you can try. Many makers now include chips and remove features to try and put people off using refill methods, so do your research first and weigh up the pros and cons.

Epson Printer InksLexmark Printer InksToner Box For Laser PrinterHP Printer Ink

In my experience this process does work and can save you a small fortune however it can be messy. Results especially on images can sometimes be of a lower quality than a branded or cheaper compatible standard cartridge.

You can of course use the branded versions which for Inkjets can easily cost £20-£30 as you will typically need four or six cartridges, or you could use one of the compatible brands available. These are available at a much cheaper price often just one or two pounds per cartridge. Normally sites offer special deals which means for the cost of a branded set you could afford two or three compatible versions.

Again people's experiences will differ but I haven't noticed any problems with performance or results by using the cheaper compatible cartridges.


Printer Speeds

The speed of a printer is given in pages per minute (PPM). I have yet to come across a printer which has achieved the quoted PPM. So I would suggest you take this into account as the quoted speeds I would imagine when printing at a low resolution, when printing at high resolutions the time to print each page will ultimately take longer to print.

Printer Connections:

The most popular method of connecting the printer to your PC now is usually Wireless.
Wi-Fi Printers make setting up and printing easy and allow you to easily print from your phone or any device with ease using the printer makers apps. And of course you can setup to print from Laptops and Computers and share it as normal.

USB was the standard for a long time and made plug and play and installing easier, USB is included on most Wi-Fi Printers, and are useful still if the printer will remain next to the Computer and you have a spare port.

Or if the printer is older or aimed towards Business users it may not come with Wi-FI it might just have USB or Ethernet.
Why Ethernet you may ask? Well Ethernet or Gigabit cabled networks are still used heavily in office environments and often in the home.

Sure Wireless is in the air, but with Cameras and devices able to be powered from Ethernet ports without dedicated sockets they have great usage.

Also if you have static desks for printers or printer pods or areas you will still choose to cable for the reliability, you can easily cable it, add it to your rack or comms room etc by using the faithful cables and floor ports.

The older way of connecting Printers to early days Computers was for a long time was the older Parallel Port connection which allowed you to connect via a separate lead to your Parallel port on your PC. The Cable was a 25-Pin cable if memory serves with a chunky thick cable, printing was slow, but back in the day it was just text and short documents or older still Dot Matrix or as I called them Tractor Feed printers and ribbons for the Ink...

Parallel ports have not been included on Motherboards for sometime now as the space and lack of use due to USB and other methods has left them fairly redundant, you can still find or make devices which use them and if needed find an add-on card.

USB Connector On Left, And Parallel On Right

Ethernet is also included on many printers especially the models aimed for Business use as this allows you to easily connect the printer to your whole network or switch and use the exisiting trunking and cabled network, great for reliability and pushing settings to multiple users.


Driver Software

We now take for granted that you can connect devices and they almost always work within a few seconds as the standards have been around and followed for many years. However before with Printers espeically and the different Windows versions in the late 90's especially you would need to install a Driver CD or Floppy Disk and tell your Computer, go to the D:\ and choose the correct .inf file which contained some instructions or install the makers setup program which would map the device together and appear ready for use.

Now you can connect wait for the noise or notification and your mouse, or drive is connected and woring.

Before Windows and Operating Systems Printer software now includes more than just the basic driver. Most include utilities to control the settings of the printer; you can often change the resolution and orientation and choose which tray to print from. Other tasks include indicating the ink level in a graphic form and of course telling you if any errors occur and maintenance tasks to keep the printer in good working order.

Application Programs

The bundled software which comes with the printer is often limited and some what basic but allows you to get a feel for the printer by starting to produce items such as posters and flyers. Some include a Photo suite so you can start manipulating the latest batch of photos before printing or emailing.


Summing Up

Whatever your budget is there is a printer that will fit your needs. As I have mentioned printers can start from as little as £30 and can go through the hundreds to thousands of pounds for a multifunction fast colour laser printer.

Inkjets are the most affordable to the masses and for around £30 you will be able to buy an easy to setup and maintain printer capable of printing quality text and photo images.

Lasers cost now from around £80 for a colour model or from around £50 for a mono. They are faster and do provide much better print output quality than Inkjets. The laser toners will be pricey and may put you off but depending on your usuage they can be cheaper, print more at crisper quality and no smudge.

Where possible compare the main features such as resolution, print speed and quality along with size as you may have a small area. Any essential ports or readers needed. Do you need a better scanner or much faster Laser Printer for double sided printing etc.