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Inkjet Printers buying guide

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Inkjet Printers - An Introduction

An inkjet printer is a computer printer that creates a digital image by propelling drops of liquid ink onto the page. Inkjet printers, also known as inkjets, are the most common printer type, ranging from inexpensive models for home and small business use to large, expensive professional machines.

Inkjet print technology was first developed in the 1950s, and by the late 1970s, inkjet printers for computer printing were available. Epson, Hewlett-Packard, and Canon led the development of the technology. These companies along with Lexmark are the top inkjet printer manufacturers worldwide based on sales.

Inkjet printers have a number of advantages over earlier technologies, such as quieter operation, finer print details, and higher resolution. Compared to laser printers, they have shorter warm-up times, although they may be more expensive to operate than a laser printer. Disadvantages are that the ink can be expensive, and if you use a water-based highlighter to mark your documents, the ink can blur if your inkjet uses water soluble ink.

If you want to buy an inkjet printer, Price Inspector will help you find the cheapest prices possible. Our buying guide will make it easy to find the right model, and we bring you the best prices in the UK.

Inkjet Types and Features

There are three primary types of inkjet printers: thermal, continuous, and piezoelectric.

  • Thermal inkjets are the most common for consumer use. The print cartridges have small electrically heated chambers. The printer sends a current through the heating element to cause a steam explosion and form a bubble, which sends a drop of ink to the paper. These printers use water-based inks, and the print heads are usually less expensive.
  • Continuous inkjet printers are used in commercial applications such as marking and coding products. A high-pressure pump emits liquid ink through a nozzle in a continuous stream. An acoustic wave vibrates, which causes the stream to form droplets at controlled intervals. This is the oldest of the inkjet technologies.
  • Commercial inkjet printers usually use a piezoelectric material instead of a heating element. Voltage is applied to the material, which changes its shape or size. This creates pressure in the fluid, which forces ink from the nozzle. These printers are also known as Piezo inkjet printers, and they are usually more expensive.

    You also need to understand the differences in the print heads, with fixed heads and disposable heads each having their advantages and disadvantages.
  • Fixed heads have a built-in print head designed to last for the printer’s lifetime. It reduces ongoing costs, and the head can be more precise than with a cheap, disposable head. However, if it is damaged, you will probably need to replace the printer completely.
  • Disposable head printers use a printer head that is part of the replaceable ink cartridge. When you replace the ink, both the print head and the ink cartridge are replaced. This makes your ongoing costs higher and can reduce the precision, but a damaged print head will not require you to buy a new printer.
  • A duplex inkjet printer lets you print on both sides of the paper. This feature is becoming more common and affordable in mid-range printers. It does usually reduce your print speed, as the paper has to travel a longer path.
  • An Ethernet inkjet printer uses a high-speed Ethernet cable to transmit large amounts of data from your computer to the printer quickly. This reduces the print delay time.
  • A wireless inkjet printer is a good option for several reasons. For example, you may need to locate your printer where cables would be dangerous or inconvenient. It can also be good for a networking option, letting more than one computer print to the shared printer.
  • For photo printing, a PictBridge inkjet printer gives you the ability to print from your digital camera or its memory card without a printer. Regardless of brand, this technology enables your printer to read the pictures from the camera or memory card.

Popular Brands

There are several leading brands and models of inkjet printers, including Samsung, Tyvek, Ricoh, Konica Minolta, Hewlett-Packard, and Fujifilm.

  • The Canon PIXMA iP4700 gives superior photo printing quality and duplex printing. With the smallest colour droplet size, it creates crisp, border-less photos up to 8.5 x 11 inches. The printer includes auto-fix software to correct your pictures, and it also offers a PictBridge connection for computer-free printing.
  • The Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 922 lets you print photos and colour or black & white documents, as well as offering scanning and photocopying. This compact printer is a great option for home or small business use.
  • Brothers Color Inkjet Wireless All-in-One Printer lets you fax, copy, and scan with its 15-page auto feeder. You can connect multiple users with its wireless or Ethernet network connections. The wide LCD screen gives you easy access to help menus and photo corrections. Print directly from memory cards using PictBridge connections.
  • A popular Lexmark inkjet printer is the Lexmark Z2420. This wireless single function printer uses built-in wireless connections so you can print anywhere in your home. The optional photo cartridge gives you maximum print resolution for brilliant photos. The toolbar makes printing from the Internet easy, letting you print from your favourite web sites.
  • The Kodak ESP 5250 is a wireless inkjet printer, scanner, and copier. Print lab-quality photos and colour documents for less money, using Kodak’s inexpensive, high-quality ink cartridges.

Tips to consider before buying Inkjet Printers

  • Ongoing costs for inkjet printers can be higher than with laser printers due to the more expensive print cartridges. If cost is your main concern, you might want to consider a laser printer instead. However, inkjet printers will give you much more photo-realistic printing, which is not possible with laser printers.
  • If you are interested in high-quality black & white photography, consider a monochrome ink cartridge, which will give you the best monochrome photo reproductions. Just remember to run a cleaning cartridge when you switch between colour and monochrome ink cartridges.
  • Some ink cartridges communicate the remaining ink level to the print. This can cause a false error message that the cartridge is empty and the printer will refuse to print. Make sure the printer you choose will let you ignore this error message, or you will be forced to replace ink cartridges that aren’t empty.
  • Find out how many colour cartridges are in the inkjet printer. A standard four-colour printer may have two cartridges (one black and one that holds cyan, magenta, and yellow), or it may have four separate cartridges (one for each colour). With two cartridges, you’ll have to replace the entire colour cartridge if you’ve used up all the magenta, even if yellow is still full.
  • While three-colour inkjets printers are disappearing from the market, there are still some out there. They cannot hold the black and tri-colour cartridges at the same time, which means you’ll have to switch cartridges to change between colour and monochrome printing. Since they are priced the same as low-end four-colour printers, there is no reason to buy a three-colour printer.
  • Decide whether you want a stand-alone printer or a multi-function printer (MFP). An MFP combines a printer, scanner, and copier, and it may also have a fax capability. Older MFPs did not provide high quality for all the functions, but modern MFPs have resolved this issue, increasing their popularity. It costs less to buy an MFP than to buy separate equipment, and it saves space. However, you might find it difficult to find the exact features you want for every component.
  • Consider both the upfront and the ongoing expenses. A more expensive printer may have less expensive ink cartridges, which could offset the initial cost difference over time. Even a small cost savings per page can add up quickly if you have a large print volume. If you print only a few documents each month, however, you may not recoup the difference quickly enough to make any difference.
  • Make sure the printer can hold all the paper types and sizes that you want to use, such as larger paper or heavy stock. If you switch between paper types frequently, consider a printer with multiple paper trays.

Jargon Explained

PictBridgeTechnology that lets you print photos without a computer. You can connect your printer to your digital camera or insert the memory card directly into the printer. 

Buying Guide to Inkjet Printers
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