If you’re in the process of setting up a new home office, you’ll probably want a printer. But how do you choose the best home printer for you?
To help, let’s take a look at the different types of home printer available and some of the top rated printers for home use.
Types of home office printer
There are so many great home printers available, how do you know which printer to choose? In fact, with so many different types of printer, how do you even know where to start?
Do you need a wireless printer? Should you buy an inkjet or a laser printer? What exactly is an all-in-one printer?
Let’s begin by looking at the types of home office printer, so you can decide exactly what you need.
An ink jet printer is a type of printer that creates an image by spraying ink on to paper.
Most inkjet printers contain two printer cartridges: a black one and a color one. The color cartridge contains cyan, magenta and yellow.
Cyan is a blueish color and magenta is a pinkish-red. Together, the four colors are known as “CMYK”, where the K stands for black.
Not all inkjet printers have two cartridges though.
- Some inkjet printers have a single CMYK cartridge.
- Others have a separate cartridge for each color.
- And some inkjet printers, such as the Epson EcoTank and Canon MegaTank series, have refillable ink tanks. This saves you having to buy new cartridges. Instead, you just buy more ink, which is cheaper.
Advantages of inkjet printers
The main advantages of inkjet printers are price and size.
- Price: Basic inkjet printers are the cheapest printers on the market. Just remember to take into account the cost of ink and paper (more on this below!)
- Size: Inkjet printers tend to be small, which is great if you have limited space in your office. However, you shouldn’t buy a printer based on its size. Your printing needs is a far more important consideration.
Inkjet printers are also a good choice for printing photographs on to photo paper.
Disadvantages of inkjet printers
The main disadvantages of inkjet printers are speed, drying time, ink drying up, and cost of accessories.
- Speed: Inkjet printers can be slow to print each page. If you have a large document to print, you could be waiting a while.
- Drying time: Inkjet printers spray ink on to the paper, so you need to wait for the ink to dry. This will take longer for documents with solid blocks of color.
- Drying up: If you don’t use your inkjet printer regularly, it is possible for the ink to dry up or for the inkjets to become blocked.
- Cost of accessories: Cartridges and paper for inkjet printers can be expensive. You need special paper to print using an inkjet, and it costs more than normal paper. And if you’re printing a lot, you’ll need to replace cartridges and buy paper frequently.
If you print regularly, but not many pages, and you aren’t worried about printing quickly, an inkjet printer will be the best home office printer for you.
If you need to print a lot of pages, you’d be better looking elsewhere. The money you save buying an inkjet printer will soon be spent on expensive ink cartridges and paper.
Top rated inkjet printers
Laser printers are different to inkjet printers. They don’t spray ink. Instead, laser printers take a powder, called toner, and melt it on to the paper.
Like inkjets, laser printers need cartridges. However, instead of ink, the cartridges contain toner.
Unlike inkjet printers, laser printers also have something called a drum unit. The drum unit transfers the toner to the paper and, like the cartridges, also needs to be replaced. Some laser printers have integrated drum units, which are attached to the cartridges. Others have drum units that need to be changed separately.
Advantages of laser printers
The advantages of laser printers are speed, running cost, and the fact there is no ink to dry up.
- Speed: In a race against an inkjet printer, a laser printer wins easily!
- Running cost: Toner cartridges can print thousands of pages, so don’t need to be changed as frequently as ink cartridges. In other words, you’ll pay less per page printed.
- No ink: Unlike ink, toner doesn’t dry up. You can happily not print for months, safe in the knowledge your printer won’t have dried up when you come to use it.
Disadvantages of laser printers
The disadvantages of laser printers are up-front cost for the printer, size, and drum unit replacements.
- Up-front cost: Laser printers are more expensive than ink jets, so you will pay more initially. However, if you print lots, you’ll make savings later, as you will avoid buying lots of in cartridges.
- Size: Laser printers tend to be larger than inkjets. You’ll therefore need to find more space in your home office.
- Drum unit replacements: For those laser printers with separate drum units, this is another thing to replace, in addition to cartridges. However, you should need to change your drum unit fairly infrequently.
Another disadvantage of laser printers is arguably that ink jets are better for printing hi-resolution photographs. This is true, though it also depends on the printers you are comparing. Many modern laser printers can now make a decent job of this.
Top rated laser printers
All-in-one “multi-function” printers
All-in-one printers, also known as multi-function printers, can do more than just print. They can also scan and photocopy, and may be able to fax or email too.
The advantage of owning an all-in-one printer is that you only have to buy one device. For example, if you need to print and photocopy, your mutli-function printer can do both. There’s no need to buy a separate printer and photocopier. This also saves precious office space.
We’d recommend buying an all-in-one printer if you think you need to do more than just print. Or if you think you might need to in the future. Modern machines can do multiple jobs to a high standard, so there’s really no downside to buying an all-in-one device.
If, however, you’re confident that you only need a print function, buying an all-in-one printer would be a waste of money.
If you only need to print, we suggest buying a standard printer, rather than wasting money on functions you won’t use.
Top rated all-in-one printers
Wired or wireless?
As well as choosing what type of printer you want, you may also be faced with the decision between wired and wireless models.
As you would expect, wired printers connect to your computer, or your router, via a cable.
Modern printers usually connect to your computer via a USB cable. This is very easy to setup. In some cases you can simply plug in the printer and your computer will do the rest!
The main advantage to choosing a USB printer is a guaranteed high-speed connection between your printer and your computer. There’s no risk of interference causing your computer to lose its connection, or transfer data slowly, as can happen with wireless printers.
However, USB-connected printers are not so good when you are sharing a printer between multiple users. If you shut down the PC that the printer is plugged into, other users will lose their printer connection too.
Another type of wired printer connects via ethernet cable, rather than USB. And it connects to your router, rather than your computer.
This is only necessary if you’re going to have multiple users all using the same printer and it can be a little tricky to set up.
For a home office where you’re working alone, we wouldn’t bother. Only consider a network printer if you are setting up an office where you will work with colleagues.
Wireless printers connect to your computer via wi-fi or bluetooth.
While this is more difficult to set up than a wired printer – for example, you may need to enter your wi-fi network password – it’s not normally too difficult.
The main advantage of wireless printers is that you can position them anywhere in your home office. If you’re looking to hide a printer in your home office, rather than have it on display, a wireless printer is a great option.
The downside is that wireless printers can have connectivity issues. This can slow data transfer, or even cause the printer to stop working entirely. They are also generally a little more expensive than wired printers.