Home Office Printer Buying Guide

As you look into the best home office printer for your needs, it's important to consider a few basic points before going into the store. It is very easy to get overwhelmed at your local electronics or office store by the wide variety of printers on the market, and the price points vary widely. By focusing on exactly what you need, you can easily find the printer that your home office needs to keep humming.

Types of Home Office Printers

All-in-One Printers

are exactly what they say - almost everything you need in one machine. They typically offer printing, copying, scanning, and faxing capability in one machine. These machines are typically bigger than single-purpose printers since they have the glass scanning bed and associated equipment. They also come with a larger price tag. However, they do relieve your need for multiple pieces of disparate equipment in your home office.

Single-Purpose Printers

do one thing and one thing only - print. These printers are often smaller and less expensive than their all-inclusive cousins. Single-purpose printers sometimes offer specialty cartridges or add-ons for photo printing, which make them more versatile than they would be otherwise. In addition, some people find it simpler to only have one type of function in the equipment and thus only one point of potential failure.

Pay attention to

Laser vs Inkjet

The very first decision point when choosing a printer is whether you're buying a laser or an inkjet. Laser printers create permanent-set prints using heat and toner. They are, however, much larger and more expensive; in addition, laser cartridges are sometimes more limited in in-store availability. Inkjet printers shoot liquid ink onto the sheet, and the ink is readily available in almost any office supply store as well as discount stores for more common models. These printers are smaller, but the print isn't permanent and will run when wet.

Cost of Supplies

The cost of supplies is a key factor when choosing your home office printer. Laser supplies are more expensive, and you need a waste container in addition to toner cartridges for the machine to function properly. Laser toner, however, typically lasts longer and doesn't dry out as compared to ink if a color is unused for a period of time. Inkjet supplies often go more quickly than laser, so you it's important to look how many pages you should get per cartridge to get a true price comparison.

Wired vs Wireless

The location of your machine and how many users need access can determine if you need a wired or wireless machine. If you're in a multi-user environment where everyone will be connecting to the printer from different areas, a wireless printer will allow everyone to print without using other equipment. However, if you need either one printer right on your desk or have the printer connected to a server, a wired server is usually faster and more secure since there is no wireless connection that can be hacked.

Unique Printing Needs

Always make sure you know any unique printing needs you may have regularly. If you're going to print photos on a regular basis, a printer with a photo module or cartridge will give you better quality than just feeding photo paper into the printer. If you regularly do 2-sided printing to save space and paper, you need a printer that has duplex capability.

Physical Machine Size

Home office printers are available in a variety of sizes, so make sure you know where yours is going before you buy. Some machines are small enough to fit on a desk next to your laptop, but others need a separate printer cabinet or table. Another key consideration is the weight of the machine. Laser printers are heavier than inkjet, and a bookcase or side table may not be able to bear the weight.

Top Brands and Product Lines

HP

HP controls the majority of the U.S. printer market, offering machines for both home and business use. HP offers both laser and inkjet printers for almost every budget under the LaserJet and OfficeJet lines.

Brother

Brother is best known for its laser printers, making the line more appealing to business users. Brother laser printers are known for both speed and quality of printing.

Canon

Canon printers are often recommended for people in the entry-level market for each printer variety.

Epson

Epson's WorkForce line is known as a strong mid-range line for business use.

Lexmark

Lexmark has emerged as a provider of large, high-end business laser printers.