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Printer Buying Guide as of July 2019


This page offers some suggestions and considerations for color printers. Here’s a short list of printers that are available at Staples for pickup in store:

Buy Printers Locally

It’s helpful to purchase from a physical store so you can see what you’re getting and get a sense of the device quality and operation. Stores like Staples and Best Buy will typically have printers in stock that are highly rated. They don’t want to waste retail shelf space on products that won’t sell and they don’t want lots of returns from disgruntled customers. So, shopping at a local store can help narrow down your choices.

Buy a Higher Priced Model

Most printer manufacturers offer cheap inkjet printers. These are inexpensive to purchase but typically expensive to operate. The expensive ink supplies dry out and/or have low capacity output. Low priced printers may jam easier and print slower.

Sometimes in the same product line there will be a low, medium, and high priced version of a printer. The higher priced models offer these advantages:

  • Faster print speeds
  • Higher capacity paper trays require less frequent replenishing
  • More reliable
  • Higher capacity toner or ink cartridges
  • They are designed for demanding office environments
  • Lower long-term cost per page

So, it’s generally better to pay a little more at the time of purchase and less in the long run for supplies.

Ink Jet or Laser Printer

Black and white laser printers are known for their reliability, speed, and economical operating costs. For example, Brother laser printers costing $80 to $150 can offer reliable black and white printing.

For color printing, inkjet and laser printers in the $250 to $400 price range are about equal in print speed and cost of operation.

Multifunction – Printer/Scanner/Copier/Fax

It’s very helpful to have the ability to scan or copy documents and these features are relatively inexpensive. Note that a higher quality multifunction printer may be slightly larger and heavier than the cheaper models, but it’s essential to get the higher quality unit as explained above.

Faxing. Faxing is less common today, and some printers don’t offer fax capabilities. If you want to send and receive faxes, you will need to have a telephone line which many people no longer have at home since mobile phones are more common. For faxing you’ll need a phone jack close to where you want the printer to be located.

Scanning. HP offers fast scanning with high quality results and the ability to perform OCR on scanned documents which means you can later search your computer for text on the pages that you’ve scanned in. Be sure to check the flatbed scanning capabilities. Some multifunction devices only offer 8.5″ x 11″ scanning. There are times when having an 8.5″ x 14″ scanning ability is helpful. Many printers will claim to offer the ability to scan 14″ documents, but this is only when using a document feeder. Document feeders can sometimes jam or pull multiple pages through. So, using the flatbed and placing items on the scanner glass is best. If you have a slightly oversized receipt, magazine, book, or other item, the document feeder won’t work for those items.

Large Format Printer / Scanner / Copier

If you anticipate printing to 11″ x 17″ paper and being able to scan documents or photos that are 11″ x 17″ then you’ll want to purchase a large format printer. An ideal choice would be the HP OfficeJet Pro 7740 wide format printer for about $280. The reviews on Amazon are split with about 60% of the reviews being positive 4 or 5 star ratings, and the other 40% being 1-3 star negative reviews. So, you may want to get this printer and try it out thoroughly before the return period is over. If it is your second printer, and primarily used for scanning, then it’s a bargain compared to other large format scanning options.

Another good large format is the Epson ET-7700 for about $450. It also has mixed reviews, but seems like it should serve well and it has Supertank ink supplies which are very economical as explained below.

Epson EcoTank / Supertank Printers

Epson offers some very nice multifunction printers with Supertank ink supplies estimated to last 2 years before needing a refill. These printers will undoubtedly be inexpensive to operate since you’ll only be replacing ink rather than purchasing ink cartridges. Epson claims the savings could be $1,500 over 2 years assuming about 11,200 to 14,000 pages printed over that time.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

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