Seeing it in print

There's more to printers than just the jammed paper tray and the blinking red light.

March 5, 2009 12:05
Seeing it in print

printer 88. (photo credit: )

Powerful, exciting and good looking. Printers usually never meet any of these criteria, but there's more to them than just the jammed paper tray and the blinking red light. For the past two decades and more, many people have talked about the upcoming arrival of a paperless society. A nice thought that has not yet become a reality. In fact, the World Wide Web, which allows almost any computer to read and display another computer's documents, has increased the amount of printing done. Sure, there's a paperless haven awaiting us in the future, but in the meantime we're still depending on paper documents, while printers are still best buddies with computers. When it comes to printing, you've got two choices: laser printers and inkjet printers, each using a different type of technology. For office users who need to handle a high volume of printing, the speed and reliability of a laser printer will be appreciated. But for home users who print documents occasionally, and want a good quality printout of photographs, a color inkjet printer is a far better choice for most everyday applications. If you're in the market for a new printer, the manufacturers now offer a range of products that produce quality output at affordable prices. When choosing a printer, the first thing that you should do is to determine your needs. Will the printer only be used for printing photos, or will it also be used for printing general text and graphics? Consider both the quality and the quantity of the documents that you will print. Some inkjet printers are much better than others for printing regular color documents. However, lower-end printers are a great buy, so go for it. But to be happy at the end of the day, you will need to do a little research and consider a few pointers. Running Costs One important thing you should be checking out when shopping for an inkjet printer is the operating costs. The money in inkjet printing is in the paper and the ink cartridges, which usually cost as much as the printer itself. A price difference of NIS 100 to NIS 200 between printers is equivalent to the cost of one set of ink cartridges. You may find that such a small difference in price will buy a big increase in printer quality. Comparing Features Common brands sell "families" of printers which use the same print technologies and inks but have different feature sets such as built-in memory card to print directly from a digital camera, wireless connectivity, duplex printing or color LCD displays to preview pictures. Extra features always cost extra money, so it is worth considering whether the features will be useful for you. Multifunctional All-in-one printers (printer/fax/copier/scanner) make sense for saving space and money. It's often less expensive than buying a separate printer, fax machine and copier. This should, however, be intended for light usage of each of the functions. For instance, if you expect to receive many faxes every day, it's better to have a stand-alone fax machine, otherwise the faxing function would interfere with the printing and copying functions. If you won't be using the extra devices, a stand-alone printer would be sufficient. Need for Speed Another feature the manufacturers take pride in is the printing speed. After testing a few printers, I found that it's best to ignore the speed ratings, since manufacturers often base them on text-only printing at standard resolution. Printing graphics or printing at high-resolution settings will slow them down, but it's worth the wait if you want high quality. Resolution Factor The resolution of an inkjet printer tells you the quality of the finished print when you use the highest setting. Printers usually have three settings: a draft mode that saves ink, a standard mode for general use and text and a fine or high-resolution mode that creates the most detailed prints. Resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi) and expressed as horizontal resolution x vertical resolution, such as 1200 x 720. Horizontal resolution tells you the maximum width of printable images, but it's the vertical resolution that matters. This number tells you how good your prints will be, and more horizontal dots per inch equal higher-resolution, sharper images. If you want to skip the photo lab and print your digital photos at home, it's worth investing in a printer that can produce a resolution of at least 1440 x 720 dpi. Feed Path Design Some printers have relatively straight paper feed paths, while others have tightly curved ones. If you frequently print business cards, greeting cards or other items that use thick, specialty papers, it's better to have a printer that loads pages from the top instead of a tray. If you do choose a printer that feeds from a tray, check the capacity and the tray size. Making the Connection All current inkjet printers have USB ports to connect the printer to the computer. Some printers have both USB and parallel ports. Be sure that your computer has a USB port and that your operating system is WIN 98 Second Edition or Mac O/S 8.6 or newer before you purchase a USB-only printer. Lexmark X7675 A well-built and functional multipurpose inkjet (print, copy, scan, fax) that delivers an impressive combination of efficiency, quality and reliability. A large angled control panel with a color LCD display sits at the front, alongside a set of slots, enabling you to browse and print direct from memory cards without using a PC. It has a two-sided printing option (duplex) that can increase productivity and save money. There are three connectivity choices, all of which are easy to set up: USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi, which enable you to print from virtually anywhere in your home or office over your wireless network. Printing speed is a little slow but with up to 4800 x 2400 dpi resolution, the printouts look crisper than many of the all-in-one photo printers. For NIS 899 including the manufacturer's five-year guarantee, this all in one is an ideal choice for a home office or small business. NIS 899 HP Officejet J4580 This all-in-one, which prints, copies, scans and faxes, is fast and economical. With 4800 x 1200 dpi color print resolution, this printer is a great choice for home office use. It has the HP Real Life technology which features red-eye removal and adaptive lighting. Special fax functions include auto redial, speed dial, group speed dial, fax forwarding, delayed send and junk barrier. This model also features high-speed USB 2.0 connectivity and includes an automatic document feeder. NIS 500 HP Photosmart C4583 A versatile wireless printer that produces great-looking photos and can adequately handle scanning and copying. It comes in a white glossy case where the front control panel is simple, with six buttons and a 1.5-inch color LCD display. It's pretty fast, and the printing software will help you conserve ink from the somewhat expensive cartridges. NIS 550 Brother MFC-465CN Engineered with cutting-edge technology and high quality print resolutions, this all-in-one from Brother has smooth and sharp fade-resistant printouts. It offers the convenience of all the essential features in a size that fits easily at any home or office. The MFC-465CN comes with a built-in networking feature so multiple users can share its functions One-touch buttons are readily accessible for fax, copy and scan. The wide color LCD display allows you to view and print direct from your digital camera or USB Flash Drive. In addition, the dual-purpose tray comes with two paper compartments for different media printing convenience. The printer has four individual ink tanks which means less ink wastage and thus is cost-effective. NIS 599 Epson Stylus C110 If it's speed you're after, then this is definitely the printer for you. A compact yet powerful, high-performance printer with individual ink cartridges which gives you control over ink usage, by replacing only the cartridge that you need. Delivering laser quality text and brilliant color photos, it's the perfect addition to any home office. NIS 299 Epson Stylus CX 4300 This high-quality printer has one of the easiest operation panels available and an automatic document feeder, making it a perfect entry-level color inkjet product. Ideal for the home and small office user, it offers a complete printing and copying solution for glossy photos and is resistant to water, smudging and fading. It is also cost-effective because there are four individual inks, so you only replace the color you use. NIS 199

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