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Choosing a Business Class Desktop Printer
In the market for a new Printer?
With all the different and ever changing technology out there today, it is hard to stay on top of things. Sometimes it is best to simply know why your looking, and fill in the gaps later. Below is a list of things to remember when looking for a Small Business Printer.

Choosing the technology
Your average business will only be concerned with a few of the technologies available today. There is Inkjet, Laser and Solid Ink Laser.
  • Laser
    Today's (year 2006 and beyond) typical Laser printers have 4 color toner cartridges (one, if it is monochrome). Laser printers can print very fast, usually faster than Inkjet printers, except for the time-to-first-page (referred as "First Page Out"), which varies widely. In today's Color Laser market the single feature affecting price difference is Print Speed, and First Page Out. First page out can be an issue if you typically need to print many documents throughout the day that you need fast, but print them at sparse intervals. For example, a travel agent might need to print booking forms for someone waiting at the desk, but maybe once every half hour. Waiting 60 seconds for the printer to warm up might be frustrating after a while, and might tempt one to turn off it's ECO friendly "sleep" mode.

    One the other hand, you might need to use the printer a few times a day, but are always printing 5+ page documents/reports. In this case, look for one that prints many pages per minute (PPM). However be careful to notice the PPM for the quality that you intend to use. Printer manufactures usually highlight a Laser printers PPM in it's lowest quality setting, which may not be good enough for your needs. Try to find the printers PPM for its "Best" mode.

  • Inkjet
    Inkjet is very popular in the SMB market because of its low up front cost. When choosing technology, know that Inkjet will usually be your slowest PPM. However there are now some "Business Inkjets" that rival Laser PPM speeds, HP's K550 for example. An Inkjet is handy to have around incase you need to print photo quality images. If for whatever reason you need to print many photos, at your office, inkjet is the way to go. Even if you have to print photos out occasionally, if it is important enough, a laser "photo" might cost you that new client. When choosing printing technology Lasers can be 3 to 10 times the cost of a good Inkjet printer. Sometimes choosing Inkjet is simply a business decision. I know for some things I don't want to pay several thousands of dollars for the ability to print. I also know once I have invested that much in that printer - I'll want to protect it by continually purchasing extended warranties, which can be costly themselves. Remember - look at the cost of the extended warranties as part of the "cost" of that Printer. A $300 Inkjet, is almost disposable technology comparatively (I know that sounds bad by the way).

    There is something else you should know about inkjets. be sure to get one that has separate ink cartridges. This means four or more cartridges that each hold one color. It will save you time because you won't have to change them as often. It will also save you money because you only need to replace the ink you've used, instead of replacing all three colors (in one cartridge), simply because yellow is empty. When you do buy cartridges remember to look and see if the manufacture sells small and large capacity ones. Be sure to buy the Large capacity as it is better for your wallet. Many local stores only carry the small capacity ones. Do the research, and buy the large ones online. Hint, your looking for the ML (milliliters) spec.

  • Solid Ink Laser
    Solid Ink Laser printers are almost the best of both worlds. Similar to laser printers in terms of cost, speed, and function, except it uses blocks of ink that the printer melts. The important difference here is that usually, a higher level of quality can be attained with these. I've seen some documents that had graphics and images, and they look fantastic. I would not say it is Photo quality, but more than fine for important documents that may contain graphics and images.
Below is a list of features you will likely run into when looking for a business printer.
  • Paper Trays
    Many times we see business' that print on several different color paper throughout the day. We also see people who need to print on white paper, letterhead, and possibly preprinted business forms regularly. Multiple paper trays eliminates much of the time involved with getting up, getting the paper you need and loading it. Having white paper in tray one, letter head in tray 2 and pink receipt paper in tray 3 is extremely convenient. Many times businesses print the first page of a document on letterhead and the rest on blank paper.

    Beware of a couple things first. Most of the time certain trays can only take certain paper. So, if you plan was to load up all the trays with differently finished thick photo papers, you may be disapointed to find out only one of the trays can handle thick paper. Also, these trays can typically only handle a dozen of so envelopes. Don't think you can cram 100 envelopes into that second paper tray.

  • Duplexing
    Being able to print on the front and back of paper automatically has it benefits. First, you save paper, and therefore money. Second It can give a professional eco-friendly appearance to your clients. Lastly, if you do print anything that needs duplexing, doing it automatically really saves valuable time. Duplexing usually is included, or added for not much more.

  • Connectivity
    I find most businesses have a small network that allows them to share internet access. When buying a printer, I prefer to find one that has Network connectivity. This means the printer has a Network port on the back of it, just like your PC. You plug the printer into the network with standard CAT6 and bingo, everyone in the office can install the printers drivers and print to it. There are now many Business Inkjets that come with a network port, either standard or optionally. It is true that you can always buy a print server that will put your printer on the network. However when the port is built into the printer you #1, it was designed to print over the network and #2 it's particular features will work over the network. Sometimes people go out and buy a fancy new printer, hook it up to the network via a print server only to find they can't use some of its feature via a print server. Also, you'll need some technical know-how to configure that print server. USB, parallel, etc are great but no longer on the business map. Network connected is the way to go.
Look to see how large the ink/toner is that the manufacturer sells. Some manufacuters use the ink to make much of their money on the printer. Make sure the number of estimated pages vs price is good. Manufactures typically estimate the printed page as 15% ink coverage, you can take the price of the ink, divide by estimated pages and it gives you an ink cost per page. Since manufactures typically use the 15% coverage rule, you can do this across the board and get an idea of who is more expensive on ink - It is NOT the price of the ink/toner as some manufactures might sell larger capacity units.

  • Color Laser
    > $1000
        Xerox Phaser 8860 MFP
        HP LaserJet CM4730 MFP

    < $1000
        Xerox Phaser 6180MFP
        HP LaserJet 2800 series
        HP LaserJet CM10** MFP

  • BW Laser
    > $1000
        Xerox WorkCenter M20
        HP LaserJet M3035 MFP

    < $1000
        HP LaserJet 3055

  • Inkjet
    HP OfficeJet L7500 AiO
    HP PhotoSmart C1800 AiO
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