Whether you’re looking for a standalone home office printer, a network printer that can communicate with other office printers, or an MFP (multi-functional printer), a good way to start your search is to determine exactly what you want it to do. If you want a printer designated to primarily print plain text documents with the occasional logo, that’s one thing; but if you want it to do more — like serve as a printer, scanner, copier and fax machine, for instance — then you’ll want to select an all-in-one printer. Identifying the type of specialty printing you’ll be producing is another factor that will help you make the optimal choice. Will your printer be called on to generate envelope printing, flyer printing, brochure printing, or business check printing? Will you be printing high-quality photos? And is duplex printing (printing on both sides of the paper) important to you? Checking off these boxes on your printer needs and wants checklist will help you make the wisest pick.
Types of printers and the cost of consumables.
Among the most popular small business printers available today are inkjet printers and all-in-one inkjet printers, and laser printers and all-in-one laser printers. Inkjet printers use liquid ink from an ink cartridge, sprayed through tiny nozzles, and are known to reliably produce both color and monochrome documents, high-resolution photos, and image-heavy documents. Laser printers use a toner cartridge filled with fine powder and a heated fuser, are generally faster than inkjet printers, are better at printing high volumes of monochrome documents, and are known to excel at printing sharp black text, even in smaller fonts.
You may not want to make your selection based on the price tag of the printer without considering the cost of consumables like printer ink, toner and printer paper. Toner cartridges are generally more expensive than inkjet cartridges, but they’re acknowledged to print more sheets relative to their cost. With inkjet printers, one thing to watch out for is usage of tricolor cyan/magenta/yellow cartridges that require replacement of the whole cartridge when any one color runs out. While you can use either type of printer for printing checks, it’s recommended that you use magnetic ink to facilitate use with check-reading machines at banks and retailers, as well as business check paper, which has security features that make creating fake checks more difficult.
Other considerations for small business printers.
As with all printers, copiers and fax machines, a big consideration is whether you prefer wireless or wired connectivity. With wired, you can share the printer with others on the network using Ethernet cables attached to an Ethernet router. If your printer will be used by just one computer, you can connect it through the USB port with printer cables. A wireless printer connects via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and gives you more flexibility with placement. Most USB printers can be converted to wireless with an adapter.
Another component in making your best choice is how much usage your printer will get. To that end, you’ll want to pay attention to the duty cycle when you’re browsing different models — this will help you to be sure the maximum number of pages you can print per month without risking breakdown fits with your needs and expectations. Other features that might be important to you include the size of the printer, how big a footprint it has, and media flexibility, if you’ll be wanting to print on non-traditional materials like canvas, iron-on transfers or CDs/DVDs.