BUY­ING GUIDE

Consumer Voice - - Comparative Product Test -

Inkjet print­ers have be­come the stan­dard for home-com­puter use. They can turn out colour pho­tos that are nearly in­dis­tin­guish­able from lab-pro­cessed pho­tos, along with stick­ers, trans­paren­cies, t-shirt trans­fers and greet­ing cards. Many pro­duce ex­cel­lent black-and-white text. With some very good mod­els sell­ing for much less than Rs 12,000, it’s no sur­prise that inkjet colour print­ers ac­count for the vast ma­jor­ity of print­ers sold for home use.

That said, laser print­ers still have their place in home of­fices. If you print reams of black-and-white text doc­u­ments, you prob­a­bly need the qual­ity, speed, and low per-copy cost of a laser prin­ter.

Print­ers use a com­puter’s mi­cro­pro­ces­sor and mem­ory to process data. The lat­est inkjets and lasers are so fast partly be­cause com­put­ers have be­come more pow­er­ful and con­tain much more mem­ory than be­fore.

Be­fore you start shop­ping, de­cide whether to get an inkjet or a laser model, and a plain prin­ter or an all-in-one. You can base your de­ci­sion on what you’ll be print­ing. This prin­ter guide will help.

Inkjet vs Laser

Text only. If you’ll print only text, a laser prin­ter is your best choice for fast, low-cost, top-qual­ity black-and-white text. The best inkjet can match lasers’ ex­cel­lent text qual­ity and cost, but not their speed.

Colour text and graph­ics. For print­ing graph­ics or text in black and colour, go with an inkjet. Though you can find them for much less than Rs 15,000, colour laser print­ers are still much more ex­pen­sive than their mono­chrome coun­ter­parts. And un­like black-and-white laser print­ers, they use four toner car­tridges that can re­sult in costs higher than that of an inkjet, even con­sid­er­ing the greater ca­pac­ity of a laser’s toner car­tridge.

Text, graph­ics, and pho­tos. While tops for text, lasers aren’t well-suited for print­ing pho­tos. Even mod­els that can print in colour aren’t in­tended for use with glossy photo stock or other spe­cial­ity pa­pers, and photo qual­ity is poor. Inkjets of­fer ex­cel­lent print qual­ity for colour pho­tos and text, and ac­cept a va­ri­ety of pa­per types and sizes. Most can print pho­tos di­rectly from a dig­i­tal cam­era. But keep in mind that ink car­tridges don’t last long, so sup­ply costs can be high. Inkjets also print slower than lasers do.

Plain or All-in-One?

Inkjet and laser print­ers are avail­able ei­ther as plain print­ers or as all-in-one (mul­ti­func­tion) mod­els. Be­sides print­ing, all-in-ones copy, scan and some­times fax. A space-sav­ing all-in-one can be less ex­pen­sive than buy­ing sev­eral sep­a­rate de­vices.

Print­ing Only

For the money, plain inkjets are the best choice for print­ing text and colour pho­tos. Most can print al­most any­thing, in­clud­ing pho­tos up to 8x10 inches or larger, text, and graph­i­cal items such as greet­ing cards. You can also use var­i­ous types and sizes of pa­per.

Print­ing, Copy­ing, Scan­ning, and Fax­ing Black Text

If you don’t need to print or scan colour pho­tos, an all-in-one laser pro­vides su­pe­rior qual­ity and faster print speed. Most have a feeder for mul­ti­page copy­ing. The down­side of any mul­ti­func­tion de­vice, whether inkjet or laser, is that if one func­tion breaks, you have to re­pair or re­place the whole unit.

Print­ing, Copy­ing, and Scan­ning Text, Graph­ics and Pho­tos

Inkjets excel at print­ing pho­tos, so if you need them, go with an all-in-one inkjet. The best can pro­duce ex­cel­lent colour pho­tos and text, and most will print pho­tos with­out a com­puter. A few can fax as well as copy and scan. They may have fewer fea­tures than stand­alone scan­ners, though.

Print­ing Pho­tos Only

Snap­shot print­ers are con­ve­nient, small and fast, with speeds as quick as a minute per 4 x 6 photo. Some have han­dles and run on bat­ter­ies, handy for use on the road. All can print pho­tos from a dig­i­tal cam­era with­out re­quir­ing a com­puter. Many mod­els use dye­sub­li­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy to make prints that are more wa­ter-re­sis­tant than those from inkjets. The draw­back is that snap­shot print­ers can print only small pho­tos; they’re not in­tended for text or graph­ics.

How to Choose

Con­sider sup­ply costs as well as price. High ink- or toner-car­tridge costs can make a bar­gain-priced prin­ter a bad deal in the long run. Shop around for the best car­tridge prices, but be wary of off-brands. We have found that brand-name ink car­tridges have bet­ter print qual­ity and fade-re­sis­tance, and per-page costs are of­ten com­pa­ra­ble.

Also, con­sider whether an inkjet has a sin­gle colour car­tridge or sep­a­rate colour car­tridges. Those with a sin­gle colour car­tridge usu­ally have a sep­a­rate black car­tridge for text. But some have in­di­vid­ual colour car­tridges. De­pend­ing on your pho­tos, sep­a­rate colour car­tridges may be more eco­nom­i­cal.

Another way to save money is by us­ing plain pa­per for works in progress and sav­ing the good stuff for the fi­nal re­sults. Glossy photo pa­per costs about Rs 15 to Rs 60 a sheet. We got the best re­sults us­ing the rec­om­mended brand of pa­per. You might be tempted to buy a cheaper brand, but lower-grade pa­per can re­duce photo qual­ity.

Print Pho­tos With­out a Com­puter?

This saves you an ex­tra step and a lit­tle time. Fea­tures such as a mem­ory-card reader, Pic­tBridge sup­port (a stan­dard that al­lows a com­pat­i­ble cam­era to be con­nected di­rectly to the prin­ter), or a wire­less in­ter­face are con­ve­nient. With­out the com­puter, though, you lose the abil­ity to tweak image char­ac­ter­is­tics such as size, colour and bright­ness. You can do some edit­ing on a prin­ter that has an LCD screen, but your op­tions will be very lim­ited.

Weigh Con­ve­nience Fea­tures

Inkjets can make bor­der­less prints like those from a photo fin­isher. That mat­ters most if you’re print­ing to the full size of the pa­per, as you might with 4 x 6-inch sheets. If you plan to use 4 x 6-inch pa­per reg­u­larly, look for a prin­ter with a 4 x 6-inch tray or a sec­ond pa­per tray, which makes it eas­ier to feed pa­per this size. With those small sheets, though, the cost per photo might be higher than com­bin­ing a few im­ages on 8½ x 11-inch pa­per.

Con­sider Con­nec­tions

All print­ers have a USB port for con­nect­ing to a com­puter. Many also of­fer wired or wire­less net­work­ing, which lets you print from any com­puter on your net­work. You can share a prin­ter that lacks this fea­ture, but the com­puter it’s con­nected to must be turned on in order to print from a dif­fer­ent com­puter.

Mem­ory Re­quire­ments

While inkjet print­ers use a com­puter’s mem­ory to process the print job, laser print­ers have their own on­board mem­ory, which must be large enough to hold full pages of the most com­plex graph­ics you need to print. If you print large files with a lot of graph­ics or have mul­ti­ple users on your net­work, look for a laser with at least hun­dreds of MB of on­board mem­ory, or the abil­ity to add more.

Be Scep­ti­cal of Ven­dor Specs

When shop­ping for a prin­ter, you’ll no­tice a num­ber of specs, such as print speed and res­o­lu­tion. Those num­bers are not all that use­ful, even for com­par­i­son pur­poses, be­cause each com­pany per­forms its tests in a dif­fer­ent man­ner.

Your Speed May Vary

Print speed varies de­pend­ing on what you’re print­ing and at what qual­ity, but the speeds you see in ads are gen­er­ally higher than you’re likely to get in nor­mal use. You can’t re­li­ably com­pare speeds for dif­fer­ent brands be­cause each com­pany uses its own meth­ods to mea­sure speed.

Don’t Get Hung up on Res­o­lu­tion

A prin­ter’s res­o­lu­tion, ex­pressed in dots per inch, is another po­ten­tial source of con­fu­sion. All things be­ing equal, the more dots a prin­ter puts on the pa­per, the more de­tailed the image. But dot size, shape and place­ment also af­fect qual­ity, so don’t base your choice solely on res­o­lu­tion.

http://www.con­sumer­re­ports.org/cro/print­ers.htm

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.