Printers buying guide

Feb 01, 2011 1 Comment by

What to buy

There’s more to printers these days than you might imagine.  This Fogey still uses an HP Laserjet 6P from the mid-Nineties for printing black and white documents.  It’s quick and effective and the single toner cartridge seems to last for ever.  But he also has an HP Photosmart all-in-one for photos and colour documents.

The scope for what can be achieved in terms of small office or home printing has gone through a sea change since the 6P debuted and even since the HP Photosmart C5280 was launched.

Multi-function printers don’t just print; they scan, copy and (sometimes) fax.  They print lab quality photos – some in sizes up to A3 – passport photos, business cards, CD and DVD labels, booklets and all manner of visual bumph that used to have to be packed off, at great expense, to a print company.

Such all-in-one inkjet printers seem to be the best solution for anyone who has occasional but varying printing requirements.  They can be quite bulky, though, so make sure you have the space.

If you buy a dedicated photo printer that might be all it will print.  If you go for a monochrome laser printer, black and white documents will be all it will handle.

Some are put off home printing photos because they know that ink is expensive and doesn’t last long enough, especially when you’re still getting to grips with printing and keep making mistakes that end up in the bin.  Good photo paper isn’t cheap, either.

Plenty of supermarkets have digital photo printing stations where you can slot in your camera’s memory card and print the photos that are on it.

The most significant innovation of recent years, though,  is wireless printing whereby you can print a photo from your iPhone or camera while sitting on the sofa watching TV.

What to pay

£150 is plenty.  New models are usually introduced for Christmas, so a good time to buy is late summer, before the new stuff arrives.  Shops will need to clear old stock to make room for the new.  Check ink prices before being tempted by a cheap machine.  £50 or less is cheap. and are good places to check prices – which can be frighteningly high.  But it’s like having a car that chugs gallons of fuel; if you don’t use it much, you won’t spend that much on petrol.  Local shops that offer to refill printer cartidges have been springing up.  But you will have no guarantee regarding the quality of the ink, so be aware.


Newer printers might not work with older computers.  And it’s not just a question of printer drivers but physical connectivity.  These days printers connect to a computer via a USB cable rather than the older multi-pin plugs.  Make sure what you plan on buying is compatible with your computer.



Canon, HP, Espon, Brother, Dell, Kodak and Lexmark all make good stuff.