What type of printer do you need? Do you need prints fast, or is quality more important? What sort of documents will you print the most? Will you print from one computer, or lots of devices? And how much do printing costs matter to you?
Clarifying your needs will help you narrow down your selection. Our chooser tool can help you decide which type of printer will suit you best.
Printers can generally be split into two main categories, based on the ink technology they use: inkjet or laser.
They’re also referred to in terms of their features – like wireless printers – or the tasks their best suited to – like home office printers. Below you can find out the characteristics of the different types of printers to decide which will suit you best.
How much should you spend on a printer?
You can buy a new inkjet printer for less than N25,000 and you don’t need to spend much more to get a good one.
The more you spend, the more features you’ll get from your printer. But, these days, even an all-in-one printer/scanner with wi-fi and Apple AirPrint could only cost you N40,0000. For over N80,000 you’ll get home-office features such as a fax function or an automatic document feeder, or automatic double-sided printing.
Which? tests printers for every budget, ranging from affordable inkjet printers to business-ready laser printers. We assess their quality, speed and running costs, and go deep into their features and ease of use. Each has its place and purpose. We help you narrow down your search so you find the right printer for you.
Inkjet printers are great all-rounders. They can handle text-heavy documents such as a student’s coursework or minutes from a meeting, but they can also print photos – and do a better job of it than a laser printer.
They’re quiet and unobtrusive, and they also take up less desk space than a laser. However, inkjets are usually more expensive to run than laser printers, costing you more in ink per printed page than you would pay for laser toner.
That’s not necessarily the case with a few business-focused inkjet printers, but as a rule of thumb inkjets cost you less up front, but more in the long term. Pros Smaller and cheaper than laser printers, can produce good-quality colour prints Cons More expensive running costs, slower to print black text pages than a laser
Laser printers shine when it comes to printing a lot of black text, and while colour models are more expensive than colour inkjets, they also produce professional-looking business graphics. They’re normally faster than inkjets when it comes to this kind of job, and can handle a heavier workload if you’re planning to print a lot of pages every month.
What’s more, while the toner cartridges are expensive, each one prints a lot more pages than an inkjet cartridge, so the actual cost per black-and-white or colour page is usually much less. However, laser printers are usually bulkier and noisier than the equivalent inkjet printer and will take up more space on your desk.
While they can knock out good graphs and charts, colour laser printers aren’t much good at printing photos. Stick to an inkjet if you’re likely to print off your holiday snaps. Pros Fast prints and good-value printing for black-and-white pages Cons More expensive to buy, bulkier and often noisier than inkjets.
You can buy straightforward inkjet or laser printers, but a device that scans and copies as well won’t cost you a whole lot more. Most have wi-fi connectivity built-in so that you can print from several PCs or laptops, not to mention tablets or smartphones. Some include a fax function, too.
Pros Can scan, photocopy and fax as well as print
Cons Tend to be larger models that take up more space
The term ‘photo printer’ covers a wide range of devices. To some, it’s an A4 all-in-one that’s really good at printing photos. To others, it’s a dedicated compact photo printer that only prints small photos. Or perhaps you want an A3 specialist model with dedicated photo cartridges and high-resolution print heads for lab quality photo prints.
Photo printers usually have memory card slots and a USB connection on the front, so you can plug in your camera’s memory card or connect the camera itself and print away, with or without a PC.
Pros Optimised for photo-sized prints
Cons Can’t guarantee better print quality than a more flexible regular printer You can read more about the Best photo printers here