If you ever think computers change names and model numbers every few minutes, printers do, too! Our world is now full of many flavors of printers, scanners, and combinations of the two. They come in hundreds, if not thousands, of shapes, sizes, etc. To add a little bit of clarity to what types of printers are out there now, here are the basics:
Dot Matrix Printers:
These are the old-style printers that, believe it or not, are still in existence. In fact, most printer manufacturers still make them on a limited basis, and mostly for commercial use. For example, the larger dot matrix printers are used to print out forms, such as legal documents, that need to have multiple carbon copies. Smaller dot matrix printers are used to print receipts for cash registers, ATM machines, etc. Unless you have some sort of home-based business, you most likely won’t need a dot matrix printer!
Eventually, the dot matrix printer was replaced by what are now commonly referred to as “inkjets.” Some manufacturers also refer to their inkjets as “Officejets,” “Deskjets,” or some other “jet” that marketing people dream up! Most photo printers can be included in this group, too. Regardless of the marketing name, inkjet printers are simply those that are powered by ink cartridges that shoot ink onto a piece of paper. You’ll notice that even “photo printers” are still inkjets. The only difference between them and other inkjets is that the ink cartridges for photo printers shoot a higher amount of ink onto a page than their inkjet cousins.
Essentially, the more ink that a printer shoots onto a page, the higher the resolution is of the letter or image on the page. This raises an important issue for you to be on the lookout for if you go shopping for a printer: When trying to decide on a printer, take a look at the cost of what the ink cartridges is for each printer before you buy one. A single ink cartridge can cost you anywhere from $15 and up. Also, take a look at what the capacity is of the cartridge, which is the estimated number of sheets you can expect to get out of one cartridge. If it’s going to cost you more for the ink than it will for the initial purchase of the printer, take a look at printers that are designed for higher outputs (and more affordable ink in the long run).
Typically, laser printers offer the highest quality resolution of all printers. Unlike inkjets, laser printers use laser cartridges that are much bigger than ink cartridges. Laser printer cartridges (also called toner) have more ink because they shoot an even higher amount of ink onto a page of paper. Beware of this little fact, though: Some of the higher capacity laser printers, like the ones you may see at work, also need a printer drum. When buying a laser printer, make sure that you find out whether it needs only a laser toner/cartridge or a laser toner/cartridge plus a drum. Laser printer ink toner/ cartridges and drums are not cheap! Make sure you’ll even need that much ink before you buy a printer!
In general, most people choose inkjet printers for home use. Just be sure to check the on-going cost of any printer, whether it’s an ink jet or laser printer. Try to be realistic about how much you’ll actually use printer, too. Buying a printer with lots of bells and whistles is not always the best bet for your wallet in either the short or long-term. All too often, the long-term cost of ink far outweighs the initial cost of the printer. When shopping for a printer, do some research on the cost a printer’s ink, too, before you buy!