Buying a printer: how to choose the best printer for home or business

We show you how to pick the best printer for your home or for your small business, whether it's an inkjet or a laser printer

This printer buying guide covers inkjet printers and laser printers, as well as multifunction devices like scanners, copiers and faxes.

This printer buying guide covers inkjet printers and laser printers, as well as multifunction devices like scanners, copiers and faxes.

FAQs: Printers

What is the printer's total cost of ownership? Certain printer models might seem like they're good value, but the initial outlay is only part of the expense of owning a printer. The ink and toner cartridges will be an ongoing expense for the life of the printer, as will paper. Ask the sales person how much the ink or toner for a printer is gong to cost to replace, and also how long it is likely to last. As for paper, plain paper is relatively inexpensive, but glossy photo paper can cost up to $1 per sheet depending on its size and quality.

How many ink cartridges should my inkjet have? An inexpensive printer might have only two cartridges, one black and one tri-colour. Tri-colour cartridges aren't always a convenient option, as you have to replace the whole thing even if one colour runs out, so in that respect a printer with individual colour cartridges may be a better option. You can buy printers with four, six or even eight individual ink cartridges; the more cartridges, the better the printer's colour output will be. But unless you are after professional results, you won't need an eight-colour printer.

Can I print on T-shirts, create banners or perform other creative tasks with the printer? Check with the sales person about this. Most inkjet printers can handle iron-on transfers so you can print your own T-shirt designs, and many can also consume banner paper, for printing out large banners on special occasions. Your printer might be able to handle many other types of paper, so find out what options are available and how much they cost.

Is this laser printer upgradeable? Laser printers have memory that helps them store big and complex jobs. Most ship with 32-256MB, but ask if you can upgrade this and also find out if you can install a hard drive or flash memory. This will allow jobs and extra fonts to be stored on the printer and it could also facilitate printing documents from a USB stick. Ask the sales person what the best options are for your needs.

Can I refill ink cartridges? You can, and there are a few companies that specialise in this field. Using ink other than the manufacturers' supplied ink on some printers can cause the ink heads to clog up, or worse. Although you might save some money by refilling or buying refilled cartridges, you could end up with a damaged printer or less than optimal results.

Is this inkjet printer suitable for business use? Just because you want a printer for your business, you don't have to buy a laser. There are some inkjet models, especially multifunction-style models, that cater to small businesses and which offer good total cost of ownership.

Can I print photos without using my PC? Yes. As long as you buy a printer that has a PictBridge port and/or memory card slots. If both your digital camera and printer support PictBridge, you can simply connect your digital camera and use its menu system to select the photos you want to print. If your printer has memory card slots, then you can plug in the camera's memory card and use the printer's LCD screen to print photos off the card directly. Some cameras, and also printers, allow you to edit the photos, too, so you can crop and adjust the colours and brightness without using an editing program on your PC.

Will my printed photos stand the test of time? This will depend on the printer you choose. Ask the sales person to show you a model that uses ink that is splash-proof and durable. Some manufacturers rate their inks and papers as lasting up to 100 years without fading and also as being able to withstand accidental spills.

What else do I need to buy in order to use my printer? Not all printers ship with printer cables; ask the sales person if a cable is included so that you can connect it to your computer as soon as you get home. Double-check to make sure that all ink cartridges are included with the printer and ask if they are 'starter' cartridges. 'Starter' cartridges don't last as long as regular cartridges, so you’ll have to replace them sooner. You might also want to stock up on plain A4 paper for printing out everyday jobs, and glossy paper for printing our photos. Try to stick with the manufacturer's branded glossy paper, as this will give you best results.

Can I use a colour laser printer to print photos? Yes. Some models do produce good photo-quality results, but most don't produce quality that's close to the definition and vibrancy of an inkjet printer. If printing photos will be your main use for a printer, then an inkjet is definitely the best way to go.

Finally! LG 2016 OLED TV range review
What size 4K TV should I buy?
TV buying guide: What to look for when buying a TV in 2016
Home Theatre review: 4K projector vs 4K TV?
The Top 5 Best TVs in 2016 that you can buy right now
Review: Hisense’s amazing ULED TV beats Samsung’s entire range

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?