Looking for the best office printer for your small business? Your choice of printer can affect worker productivity and your running costs, so choose wisely. This office printer buying guide provides you with all you need to know about printer technologies, so that you can choose one that’s right for your scale.
A law office, for example, might print thousands of pages per month of black and white legal documents and contracts. A monochrome laser printer is the best bet here. A real estate office that prints lots of color brochures to give to clients likely should check out fast ink printers like an HP Color MFP or a Lexmark CS820de.
How much do you print? This is an important question about duty cycle, and manufacturers rate their printers by pages per month—not to be confused with pages per minute (PPM) which measures the time it takes to print a page. To figure out your needs, check how much stock paper you order per month. Tally up your invoices, and remember to project for growth. Make sure your printer fits your workload; don’t buy a printer that is rated for more pages than you need.
Laser printers use toner instead of ink. They tend to print pages faster, and are designed for higher volume work compared to their ink counterparts. A laser printer typically is a larger, heavier, more expensive piece of equipment, which is why up until a few years ago, office laser printers were relegated to medium sized and larger offices. Modern laser printers, however, have much lower prices now. They’re lighter and more compact than ever. Today it’s not uncommon to find a laser printer in a small home office. Start here: Brother HL-L2350DW (SMB); Okidata B4600 (midlevel); HP LaserJet Enterprise M506x (enterprise)
Inkjet printers have separate cartridges for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, or CMYK. Modern ink printing deals with process of putting ink on paper is called drop on demand—named as if part of your cable subscription—and it happens when heat is applied to a cartridge to push out tiny amounts of ink. The technology is compact enough for mobile printers. The latest drop on demand systems are either piezoelectric or thermal: (deep dive into the nuances). Start here: if you’re looking for good total cost of ownership ratings: Brother MFC-J460DW (inexpensive cartridges; 200+ page yield) HP Office Jet Pro 8710 (+ subscription to HP instant ink).
Important total cost of ownership considerations to note
How do you calculate the most cost-efficient printer? Be careful when comparing any specifications about cost per page that printer manufacturers post. Here’s why: it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Some manufacturers may claim a lower color print cost than the others, but in that estimation might assume a lower percentage of color ink per page than estimations by another manufacturer.
Who makes the most efficient ink cartridges? Beware of manufacturer ratings for pages per ink cartridges. Again, it’s not apples to apples. They may assume that printers never power down and the ink heads are never cleaned. The reality is you lose a significant amount of ink (15-50 percent) to power cycling and head cleaning. The less you print, the more ink you lose to cleaning and cycling. If you’re buying a printer for the enterprise or a large institution like a university, there’s also institutional costs to consider for each PO or p-card. Take that into account when figuring printer total cost of ownership.
What resolution dpi do you need for basic printing? Ink printers have ratings for dots per inch (DPI) ratings that range from 600 to 6000 or more. The more dots that an ink printer is capable of putting on paper, the sharper the image. If you’re printing plain text documents with a chart or simple graphic, 600 dpi is fine. If you want lifestyle images to pop on your brochure, consider printing at 1200 dpi or higher. Printer DPI isn’t the only determinant of detail and crispness; make sure the copy paper is correct for the job as well. For example, if you print high-DPI ink onto standard letter paper, you’ll have a wet, flimsy print.
Is duplex printing worth the extra cost? Usually duplexing pays for itself long-term by saving paper costs. When users can easily print on both sides of the page, it encourages them to make a more paper-efficient choice. Of course the nature of your printing should be conducive to double-sided copies.
Printers With Enhanced Sharing and Network Capabilities
Do you also need to buy scanner? A fax? A copier? Multifunction peripheral (MFP) can be four pieces pf equipment in one. In fact, some manufacturers call MFPs a 4-in-1, others call it an AIO, or all-in-one. Unless you need high-volume performance, buying an MFP for a small office or workgroup is a no-brainer for cost efficiency.
How many people will use the printer? Nearly every office printer you buy today connects over a LAN, WLAN or W-Fi connection. Security features become important the more users you have. Check out the Xerox VersaLink C405/DN: all of the modern Xerox models follow modern printer security guidelines plus a few nice extras — electronic security keys, firmware verification, run-time intrusion detection, and white listing. HP LaserJet Enterprise 500-series has many of the same features, and self-healing features which resets the BIOS should corruption occur.
Don’t forget to buy ink & toner
Manufacturers usually ship printers with half-full cartridges of ink and toner unless the product page explicitly states otherwise. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to stock up on printer cartridges when you purchase the printer. When choosing your office printer, be sure to get one that is quick enough for your print volume and has the features you need. Businesses that only need monochrome print functionality should probably stick with faster monochrome laser printers. Whatever your price range and feature set requirements, you’re sure to find the right office printer that meets your needs.