Buying A Printer? But How Long Will It Last?

by: Robert Michael

Printers, like so many other pieces of electronic equipment produced nowadays, last forever, even though in some cases they may be considered obsolete a year or two down the road.

But you don't need to care about obsolete if you're a student, or an individual who makes personal use of it, or even a SOHO entrepreneur who doesn't offer graphic arts or desktop publishing services. Obsolete is just a word that manufacturers and retailers made up to suggest it belongs in the trash, when all it really means is there is a new improved model out there.

If your printer is working just fine, there's absolutely no reason to trade it in unless and until there is no one around to repair it and no part with which to replace a broken one once your printer breaks down.

If you're shopping for a printer, unless you're filthy rich (and if you are you probably got that way partially by making wise decisions about how much to spend) you want a printer that can do only what you need it to, and costs you the least amount to do so.

Basically, the first choice you'll want to make is between an ink jet and a laser printer. If you typically produce multiple color copies ink jet will actually cost you less. If, however, what you're going to be doing most of is word processing - i.e., printing out black text on white paper - you might be better off with a laser printer.

Depending on how much printing you'll be doing. A typical black ink inkjet cartridge will produce 500 letter size pages. If you're going through one of these every couple of weeks you probably would be better off owning a laser printer. Yes, you'll spend more up front, but your ink will cost considerably less. Laser jets generally wear better, with minimal break down and have a longer life than ink jets.

No matter which printer you choose, ink jet or laser, you'll need to shop for brands and features. What you'll want to know about each choice is the cost of the cartridges and paper that you'll need to use with it, the quality of the finished product, whether it connects by USB or parallel port (new ones will most likely be USB but is your old computer?), whether the paper path is straight or curved (if you're going to be creating your own business cards, for example, you have to have a straight paper path), and if you have any warranty. You also need to find out if that warranty offers a loaned printer while yours is in the shop.

A few other important features are the speed of the printing (how many pages per minute) it will deliver. This may not mean much if you're printing out your resume, but if you have a 200 word document it may seem like forever, and may also slow up or make nearly impossible anything else you want to accomplish on your computer.) You also want to know its resolution range, measured in dots per inch. The higher the resolution, the better the image quality.

One thing to keep in mind, too, before you buy that lesser known inexpensive brand is that the well-known brand names are well-known because they offer the higher quality product as well as the better technical support and service.