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Laser printers : making the right choice

Laser printers : making the right choice Laser printers are fast becoming more popular than inkjet printers in many offices throughout the US because they are faster, more precise and more economical than their inkjet counter-parts. Laser printers use toner, static electricity and a laser beam to produce sharp text and images at high speed. Their ability to churn out large numbers of printed documents in minutes has made them the 'work horse' of the printer world.

Aside from speed and precision, laser printers are cheaper to run than inkjet printers because toner is cheaper and lasts longer than ink. Toner is made up of a combination of pigment and plastic. Laser printers fuse the toner to the paper rather than soaking it as in inkjet printing. The result is less fading and smudging.


The best color laser printers are now up to the same printing speeds as monochrome which means that color images, such as photos and graphics, can now be printed quickly with good resolution. The fact that toner is fused onto the paper's surface also means that laser printers work well with a variety of different types of paper including those with glossy or matt finishes.

The initial cost of a laser printer is higher than an inkjet printer despite the fact that prices have gradually been dropping over the years. Laser printers are generally cheaper to run but there are hidden costs involving consumables that need to be considered. The two main components that need to be regularly replaced are toner cartridges and the drum.

OPC drum
The drum is what the printer uses to place the image of the text or image onto the paper. The drum needs to be replaced on a regular basis because over time the surface gets worn down resulting in deterioration of print quality. Other components that also need changing are the developer unit, ozone filter and the fuser.

Toner cartridges
Like ink cartridges, toner needs to be replaced when it runs out. The main issue here is that sometimes cartridges contain the drum and this can make them expensive to replace. Recycling cartridges can save you from 25 to 50 percent of the cost of an OEM cartridge. This can be done by refilling a used cartridge or having old components individually replaced.

What to look for:

Speed is measured in pages per minute (ppm). Look out for the ppm measurements in printer specs because these normally refer to engine speed and don't take processing time into account. They basically measure how fast the printer can churn out blank paper.

Paper handling
Most laser printers are designed to take A4 paper as standard. Printers capable of handling different sizes such as A3, envelopes or labels will be more expensive. It's important to make sure the printer you choose can handle the paper types and sizes you require.

It is very important to ensure that the laser printer of your choice is compatible with the computers used in your office. The specs should tell you which operating systems are compatible.

Laser printers need memory in order to hold a document for printing. How much memory you need will depend on the resolution you need; make sure you have enough memory to print at the required resolution. Some manufacturers only include enough memory to print at low-resolution because by doing this they can lower the cost of the printer. Color multifunction machines and finding independent reviews

Multifunction machines

You can also buy multifunction laser printers that include scanners, faxes and photocopiers as part of their functions but generally these machines do not do as good a job as their single-function counterparts. If you're running a small office a multifunction machine is an ideal solution but large offices with a high volume workload are better off with a dedicated laser printer.

Buying laser printers

When you set out to buy a laser printer it's a good idea to read as many independent reviews as possible. These will give you a good idea of how each machine works in practice and which machine would be best for you and your requirements. Rely on the manufacturers specs for technical data but read what a user of the machine has to say for an honest review. Look for reviews on independent sites or from consumer advice magazines for the best information.