Since working in the home office (guide) has come into focus, the demands on the home printer have also increased. For many families, this means: In addition to the printouts for school, study, hobbies and household, there are also the prints for the job. The first decision is usually made quickly: It should be an inkjet printer.
However, spontaneously reaching for the next best printer model is not a recommended strategy. It is better to answer a few questions before buying. This takes a little longer, but prevents an annoying bad buy.
What should the inkjet printer be able to do?
Inkjet printers for the home and small office are often no longer limited to printing (single function). The majority have integrated flatbed scanners, which turn the pure printer into a multifunction device (multifunction) that also scans and copies. The manufacturers keep the case dimensions compact and the surcharge is also kept within tight limits. The device variants with a fax function are heavier, since they have an automatic document feeder installed that takes up more space in the height.
The greatest strength of the inkjet printer is its versatility. Since the ink penetrates the paper, the printer can also print on different photo papers in addition to normal paper, thereby retaining the typical character of a photo. The reason: Most of the ink sinks under the glossy or semi-gloss surface. The feel of a classic photo remains unchanged, the colors benefit from the shine of the paper. In most cases, this also works without a border, which further enhances the true photo impression.
In addition, the inkjet printer can also print with more than the usual four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, black), which is not possible with the laser competition. The result: the color nuances are finer, the expression is more detailed and natural overall.
What should you look for in a cheap entry-level printer?
Especially with inkjet printers, which are intended for use at home, the low purchase price catches the eye. This also applies if the device can also scan and copy. These models have one thing in common: the ink cartridges are small and therefore cannot offer a large print range. Even if you don’t print very much, you can quickly change cartridge after cartridge. That’s in the money. In addition, the colors cyan, magenta and yellow (blue, red, yellow) are often kept in a cartridge with several chambers. The print head is also housed on it. This combination ensures consistent print quality when changing cartridges, but also increases the cartridge prices.
Even with an entry-level model in inkjet printing, there is little to complain about in terms of print quality. Since the black ink is often pigmented, the black coverage on the paper is saturated. Text is easy to read. Thanks to the sophisticated printing units, the color results are also convincing. A pressure point cannot be seen with the naked eye. As a rule, the transitions are smooth and the colors are bright.
The printing speed is less positive: Very cheap inkjet printers are leisurely workers, especially in color printing. On average, they do not exceed seven A4 pages per minute in black and white and about four pages per minute in color. The information in the technical data is based on ISO standard specifications for determining the printing speed. However, the test runs only take place on normal paper with standard driver settings. If the resolution increases or another print medium is used, the speed drops significantly. Even a photo in the popular format of 10 × 15 centimeters can easily take several minutes with entry-level inkjet printers before it ends up printed in the output tray.
What Makes a Higher Quality Inkjet Printer?
If you spend more money on an inkjet printer, you will find the investment reflected in several points. The print head is firmly integrated in the housing and separated from the cartridges. Each printing color is available individually – an advantage, since only the color that has been printed empty needs to be replaced. At the same time, the filling quantities are higher than with the small ink tanks of the entry-level models, so that you can print longer with a single cartridge.
Basically, the housings of mid-range inkjet printers are more massive than those of the very cheap variants. Although they require more space at the installation site, they also bring more powerful printing units with them. With a multifunction device, the speed plus is also noticeable in scanning and copying. Print speeds of 13 to 15 pages per minute in black and white and from seven pages per minute in color are an indication of this.
In addition, the equipment features have been improved: the control panels not only offer a few keys with symbols, but also have integrated displays that can be used to conveniently operate the device in stand-alone mode. Touch screens also make handling easier – for example when integrating the inkjet multifunction device into the home WLAN network or adjusting device settings.
In mid-range models, there are more and more variants with two paper feeds – a cassette and a rear paper tray. In this way, different print media or simply higher capacities of one type of paper can be kept available. These models usually master automatic duplex printing, which also refers to copying in multifunction devices. Thanks to the built-in turning unit, both the front and the back of a sheet can be printed, thus saving paper and valuable resources.
What other features are important?
The interface selection of a current inkjet printer usually includes USB 2.0 and n-WLAN (IEEE 802.11n, Wi-Fi 4). This is sufficient for most use cases. If the built-in wireless module is marked with ac-WLAN (IEEE 802.11ac, Wi-Fi 5), it often offers a dual-band function. It not only works over 2.4 GHz, but also over 5 GHz. In addition, Wi-Fi Direct can be useful to connect a smartphone or tablet to the printer without going through the router. Depending on the application, an Ethernet LAN port is important. The inkjet printer can also be integrated into the network via cable.
The interaction of the inkjet printer with the mobile device is also gaining in importance. All printer manufacturers offer special apps so that printing and scanning from a smartphone, for example, works smoothly. The Apple Airprint for iOS and Mopria for Android standards should also be present. Because they enable communication with the output device from a mobile app such as Acrobat or Photos.
If a fax function is available, then the inkjet multifunction device also offers an automatic document feeder (ADF). In addition to faxing, the equipment feature is also advantageous for scanning and copying, since several template sheets can be processed in one operation. Some inkjet printers for the office also offer a dual scanner. It can read both-sided documents in one go. Turning the scan template is no longer necessary – this saves additional time.
Which is better – cartridge or tank?
With inkjet printers, the ink comes either from a cartridge or from an ink tank. Basically, cartridge printers are cheap to buy. The manufacturers earn money by buying additional cartridges. The opposite is true for tank printers: the device costs significantly more, but as a result causes unbeatably low prices per page. Even the color page stays well under one cent here.
The reason: The scope of delivery includes at least one bottle set, which does not differ in the filling quantities from the post-purchase ink bottles. A plentiful supply. How long it lasts depends on the amount of printing and copying. What is certain is that you won’t have to think about buying additional ink for a good while. On the other hand, cartridge printers usually only have one set of starter cartridges on board ex works. It guarantees start-up, but in the worst case it will run out after just a few printouts. A replacement is needed quickly.
But it is also worth taking a closer look at the respective model for inkjet printers with a tank system. Because here the manufacturers often save on functions. The printing speed of “cheap” representatives is only moderately fast. In addition, equipment functions such as automatic duplex printing or a display on the control panel are missing. The capacity of the paper feed is also saved or functions such as borderless printing are not available.
How good are the third-party inks?
If you don’t want to risk the device guarantee from the manufacturer, you can only use the original ink during this period. After that, it is worth looking at the range of third-party ink cartridges. Huge savings are possible here when buying additional ink. If you don’t go for the cheapest cheap offer, but trust a brand manufacturer, you save money without losing print quality. In most cases, the operation is also correct, since these cartridges can be used like the originals.
However, there can also be annoyances. Because combi cartridges with integrated print heads are refilled originals. Since they already have a life cycle behind them, failures cannot be ruled out. In the case of third-party individual cartridges, the problem-free interaction with the printer model depends heavily on how the inks are composed and how well the integrated chips are programmed. Possible problems are often stuck printheads and unrecognized cartridges.
The best inkjet printer is one that will provide years of trouble-free service with a reasonable cost of ink. Mid-range printers often turn out to be a good choice. Although they are not among the cheapest companions to buy, they offer rock-solid equipment and even fulfill one or the other special request such as additional ink for photo printing.
When it comes to ultra-cheap bargains, it is usually the other way around: when in use, it is noticeable that it constantly requires cartridge refills, thus driving upkeep to dizzying heights. Ink subscription programs such as HP’s Instant Ink are a recommended way out. However, it remains to be considered that the small printing units of the cheap home devices are overwhelmed with the additional burden of private and professional use in the long run. They’re just not meant for that.
If you want to keep the price per page of the inkjet printer to a minimum, choose a printer with a tank system. The comparison of the equipment features and performance data is also worthwhile here in order to prevent later annoyance and disappointment.