Buying Guide: 6 tips for buying business printers



The Top 10 business printers

Think acquiring a business printer is an easy task? Think again. While a printer’s primary feature is to print, there are so many permutations on the market that it would be foolish to assume that one printer is similar to the next one just because it sports almost identical specifications.

Should you go for a simple printer, two of them, how about one with scanning and faxing capabilities? Adding a dash of colour may also help as would increasing the paper printing options. Below are five things you need to bear in mind when purchasing a business printer.

1. Identity what you will print the most


Text, presentations, graphics or photos: these are the four main type of documents you will print at work. Determine how many of each roughly, you plan to produce on a monthly basis and you can get an idea of how much your consumables cost will be. Some manufacturers do offer free samples for selected printers, you might want to check them out prior to purchase.

The corollary question is whether you will need a colour printer. They are now the norm in many businesses but monochrome printouts are generally much cheaper than colour ones which means that, if you don’t need colour, a black-and-white printer would do fine. An alternative option is to have two printers with the monochrome one being the default one. One last thing, bear in mind that a monochrome MFP will copy in mono as well but scan in colour.

2. Estimate your printer costs


For some businesses, the first question to ask is how much you’re willing to spend on it. And it’s not just about the printer. Unlike almost any other computing components, a printer is useless without consumables so you need to check the total cost of ownership or TCO. That not includes the cost of the ink and paper but also the cost of electricity. Some printers can use a whopping 1KW when in use; that’s about £65 per year (about $100, AU$110). So the formula for the TCO for a printer’s lifetime would approximately be:

TCO (p) = COP + AEC + initial cost of printer

Average electricity costs (AEC) = ((monthly expected amount of printed pages * number of months you expect to use the printer) / (60 *average print speed in PPM)) * power consumption in use in kW* average cost of electricity

Cost of print (COP) = ((av. cost per printed page + cost of sheet) * monthly expected amount of printed pages * number of months you expect to use the printer)/100


COP = (1p + 0.5p) * (10000 x 36)/100

AEC = ((10000 x 36)/(60 x 10)) *0.2 * 15.2p/Kwh = £18

TCO (p) = £200 + £18 + £5400

Note that the above calculation doesn’t include standby and idle power consumption figures. Arguably, a lower total cost of ownership is highly desirable is you’re looking for the printer that will cost you the cheapest in the long run. As a side note, cheap printers usually carry higher consumable costs (which often translates into a much higher TCO).

One vendor has also introduced a subscription-type print service that charges you on how many pages you print, not on what type of pictures you print while offering some level of flexibility; your ink cartridges are even automatically shipped. Works best if you plan to print a lot of photos.

3. Do you need a simple printer or an MFP?


Printers have evolved beyond the mere act of printing. Multifunction printers, commonly known as all-in-one, can now scan and copy with upmarket models being able to scan to e-mail or memory card and faxing, very often without the need of a PC. Because of demand and supply, you will often find out that MFPs can be cheaper than simple printers despite being technically more complex. Bear in mind though that they are often bulkier and have a bigger footprint as well – vital if you plan to house one on your desk or in a small office.

4. Estimate how many pages you plan to print


Printers usually carry a monthly duty cycle which is essentially the average number of prints the device is designed to output. It can vary from a couple of thousands (which translate into a 500-sheet ream per week) or entry level models to up to 50,000 or 100 paper reams per month. Printers with high duty cycle usually have much better paper handling capabilities, which often translates into fewer journeys to the printer either for refilling or sorting out paper jams.

5. Identify who will connect to the printer


All printers can connect using the ubiquitous USB port (the square one, in v2 mode) with mainstream models (and above) offering Ethernet ports. Wireless connectivity (either via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) is also catching up with Wi-Fi direct being an increasingly popular option. Printers are also catching up with the whole cloud paradigm as well with many recent models compatible with cloud-based solutions (that enable print from anywhere and any devices) such as Google Cloud Print. Also consider whether you want one printer to be connected to an existing network to service more than one computer (e.g. in an office). Peripherals like a print server can be a helpful addition to your setup. Last, do consider that some printers can print direct from an attached storage (memory card, USB drive or even portable hard drive).

6. How fast do you want your printer to be?


Print speeds depend on how complex documents are and how many pages are to be printed. A 50-page text-only word document will probably print faster than a 100-megapixel photo printed on an A4 sheet. Printers used to rely a lot on the host computer for compute and memory resources but this has massively changed over the past few years.

Some now integrate the same base hardware as a smartphone and can rapidly process even large image files. Laser printers usually print faster than inkjet printers although (a) the latter doesn’t have to heat up (b) the fastest mainstream printer is an inkjet that can print at one A4 page per second.


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