Laser Printers Buying Guide

To help you in your decision making process, we present some of the issues and questions you should be considering when choosing a laser printer.

Networking support

Gone are the days of hefty print servers and dedicated computers; these days you can easily connect most laser printers directly to a wired or wireless network. Even some of the most basic monochrome laser printers offer an Ethernet port or integrated Wi-Fi, and set up is usually quite easy.

The more computers you add to a network, the more congested a print queue can become, so be sure that the laser printer has enough memory to meet your office’s needs. Though wireless printers can usually create an ad-hoc network that connects directly to multiple computers, it is best practice to connect the laser printer to your existing wired or wireless network.

Networking a printer can raise security issues, which some manufacturers solve through features like password-protected printing and network authentication. As with any network, make sure your printer workgroup is secured both at the router and at the printer if possible.

Green credentials

A laser printer may include environmentally friendly features. These include overall power consumption, power saving modes and green cartridge disposal. For instance, Fuji Xerox’s solid ink consumables have no external packaging, so you just need to dispose the resulting thick wax after you're finished with them.

Jargon Buster

CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black

The four colours used in most colour laser printers. In combination, they can replicate just about any colour in the visible spectrum.

Consumable

A part of the printer that needs to be replaced regularly. Though the toner is the most common consumable, others include drums, fuser units and waste toner units.

DPI (dots per inch)

A measure of a printer's resolution. It refers to how fine the dots are, and consequently how noticeable they are (the higher the dpi, the better).

Automatic duplexing

The ability to print on both sides of a sheet of paper without manual intervention. Some printers offer a manual duplex option; this means that the printer will print the odd pages, then allow you to reinsert the printed pages before it prints the even pages.

LED printer

LED printers are considered to be part of the same category as laser printers (and are sometimes marketed as 'laser printers'). LED printers use an array of light-emitting diodes (which are also used to backlight some recent TVs) instead of a laser to etch an image on the printer's drum. LED printers offer several advantages, including being cheaper and smaller than laser printers while providing comparable speed and quality. They work best for long, continuous print runs rather than frequent short runs, as the drum will wear out faster if it constantly has to stop and restart.

Memory (RAM)

Used to store fonts and documents in the print queue. Memory (RAM) is generally more useful for networked printers, as it allows the printer to spool more documents from a range of sources, or temporarily store documents for reprinting or under password protection.

Emulation languages

The page formats that the printer understands and can translate into printed documents. These formats make little practical difference to most users as the printer's software driver will convert digital documents to printed pages. However, emulation languages can be beneficial in network printing and when using an operating system that a manufacturer doesn't support.

Toner

The 'ink' that a laser printer uses. Toner is fused onto the paper's surface, rather than absorbed into it (as is the case with ink), and so it does not bleed or smudge like ink does.

OPC (organic photoconductive) drum

The drum is important to all parts of the printing process. The printer's laser (or LED array) strikes the drum, reversing the polarity of its static charge and magnetising certain parts of the drum (the parts where the toner is meant to stick). The drum is then rolled through the toner, which 'sticks' to the magnetic parts of the drum. Finally, the drum is rolled over the paper and the toner is heat-fused onto the paper.

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