Computers, Laptops & Tablets Accessories & Hardware What to Consider Before Buying a New Printer Everything you should know prior to popping in the cartridge By Taylor Clemons Writer Taylor Clemons is a tech writer who has written for IndieHangover, GameSkinny, and Steam Shovelers. Taylor specializes in PC components, operating systems, and gaming console hardware. our editorial process Twitter Taylor Clemons Updated December 04, 2019 Guide To Buying a New Printer Guide To Buying a New Printer Printer Basics What is an Inkjet Printer? Why Printer Ink Is Expensive A Printer's Cost per Page Guide to All-in-One Printers Guide to Laser and LED Printers Best Printers Best Printers of 2019 Best Home Printers Best AirPrint Printers Best Canon Printers Best Epson Printers Best HP Printers Best Inkjet Printers Best Black & White Laser Printers Best Printers for Under $100 Best Photo Printers Best Portable Photo Printers Best Printers for College Students Best Sublimation Printers Best Laser/LED Printers Best Home Photo Printers Best Office Multifunction Printers Best Mobile Printers Best Wide-Format Printers Best 3D Printers Best 3D Printers Best 3D Printers for Beginners Best 3D Printers for Under $500 Best Printing Essentials Best Wireless Printer Adapters Best 3D Printer Filaments Tweet Share Email With so many home and office printing options on the market, choosing the right one for your needs can be a bit daunting. Should you get an all-in-one, or will a single function printer be enough? Will an inkjet printer handle your print load, or do you need a laser printer? Whether you're shopping for a basic model to handle the occasional homework essay or online receipt, a home office unit, or a fleet of printers for your company, we've broken down the process for you to make your purchasing decision easier all year long. Home vs Office vs Home Professional The first step towards choosing the right printer is to determine what sort of workload you'll need it to handle. Some printers are able to handle massive amounts of documents, printing thousands or even tens of thousands of pages in a month; these are great for both small businesses and more globally oriented offices. If you're a home-based professional or a student, you'll need a printer that will be able to handle a more middling workload (monthly expense reports, term papers, etc.). If you're looking for something that will be used sparingly, it's best to choose a printer with a small loading tray and is able to be stored as compactly as possible to make room for things that will be used more often. Inkjet or Laser: Which Kind Should You Get? There are two different kinds of printers: inkjet and laser. Inkjet printers use cartridges of black or cyan, magenta, and yellow ink to print documents and photos. These are most commonly what you would use in your home or dorm because they are affordable and easy to set up. Inkjet printers are also suited to printing high-quality photos because they can use pigment-based inks and will print higher concentrations of color than other printer types. Laser printers, on the other hand, use toner cartridges and a complicated drum set up that "fuses" the toner to paper to produce documents. Toner cartridges are able to handle much larger workloads than ink cartridges and are better suited for office settings. Printing cost is another factor when choosing between these two unit types. Laser printers are themselves quite expensive, and so are their toner cartridges. However, the toner can last up to a year depending on the workload you give it. Inkjet printers are much more affordable, as are the ink cartridges. The tradeoff is that the cartridges only hold a small amount of ink and will last just a couple of months under even the lightest workloads. Ink cartridges are also prone to clogging if they aren't used often; dried ink can congeal on the print heads, causing error messages, frustration, and blotchy documents or photos. Document and Photo Printing Both inkjet and laser printers are capable of printing documents and photos with a high degree of quality. But if you're looking to create stunning, true-to-life photos and art, you may want to consider buying a dedicated photo printer. These kinds of printers use specialized inks and high-gloss photo paper to make lab-quality prints of whatever picture you'd like. Some even directly connect to your social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram to print your candid shots. Inkjet and laser printers are best suited for printing documents. Inkjet printers, especially, tend to use a lot of ink in order to create a document, and printing a photo with one of these models can run the risk of smudging and ink bleeding due to long drying times. Laser printer toner doesn't get the same amount of rich color saturation. So while it is possible to print in color toner, it would be better for printing out visual aids for meetings. All-In-One vs Single-Function All-in-one printers, also known as multifunction printers (MFP), provide a whole host of functions; printing, copying, and scanning. There are models that also offer the ability to send and receive faxes, making them great for small businesses and larger offices alike. The print/scan/copy models are more suited for home-based professionals and students who handle multiple document types and projects in a month and need a way to quickly and easily create and send reports and images. They're also great for artists who work with traditional media as well as digital art programs; you can sketch and draw on paper, then scan the image into your favorite program to do line art and coloring. Single function printers do one thing: print; but they do it well. Single function models are ideal for homes with school-aged children who need to write and print essays or other assignments. They're also perfect for those who just want to occasionally print things like online shopping receipts and confirmation emails for personal records. Single-function models tend to have smaller loading tray capacities and lower volume printing capabilities, as well as very attractive price points for those looking to print on super strict budgets. What Makes a Printer Mobile? Mobile printers are made for traveling professionals whose offices are wherever they happen to be that day. These kinds of printers tend to be lightweight, compact, and some even have built-in batteries for printing on-the-go. Most models can easily fit into a backpack or laptop bag for travel, and they can also connect to your mobile devices and laptops via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for printing with or without an internet connection — great for professional contractors who may find themselves out in the middle of nowhere without a reliable network connection. Mobile printers are also a good choice for commuter college students looking to print essays or other assignments when they don't have access to (or time to run to) the on-campus computer labs. With a compact, mobile printer, you can easily print last-minute papers in your car and have them ready before class.