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How to choose the best ink and toner for your printer and your business

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Printing daily at the office means you're burning through stacks of paper and cases of ink and toner. According to statistics, annual printer cartridge revenue is over $23 billion dollars, with companies behind most of those purchases. Take time to learn about print loads, printers, and flow rates of inks and toners to get the most bang for your buck

Print load considerations

Use your company's daily output volume to help you decide what sort of supplies your business should be using. While certain businesses already have a printer, many companies could benefit from switching to another model, depending on print load. High volume printing is most efficient when performed on a printer that uses ink or toner sparingly. For that task, laser printers are ideal because they rely on high-volume toner cartridges that last through thousands of pages.

If you're only printing a small number of pages, an inkjet printer is probably suitable. Inkjets don't just excel for small prints, they also offer colorful, vibrant prints – something that most laser printers lack.

When choosing a printer, ink and toner ask yourself:

  • How many pages do I print a day on average?
  • How clean do the pages need to be?
  • Do I print in color? Black and white?
  • Do I need a higher quality paper or is standard 20 lb paper sufficient?

Businesses that print hundreds to thousands of pages weekly would spend a fortune on inkjet ink. The cartridges run out fast and quickly become expensive. Inkjet printers also tend to be smaller machines that don't handle large loads easily. Businesses with smaller print loads of 100 or less pages per week, or that need to print in color should consider an inkjet printer. The ink is smoother, provides vibrant color and ensures a smooth, perfected finish.

Types of printers

Different types of printers require different ink or toner cartridges. The style of printer needed is going to be determined by print load. Resolution, number of prints, quality of paper and color printing vary with each printer.

Inkjet

Inkjet printers are ideal for a few printing jobs or those that print a high volume of photos or images. They produce clear, well-colored photos. If you print a high volume of black text, an inkjet printer might not be ideal.

Laser

Laser printers are best in offices that print documents and text covered papers. Those that print high volumes benefit from laser printers. However, if printing colors or any photo-like images, a laser printer may not produce the quality necessary.

Choosing the best inks and toners

Carefully purchase the proper ink for your chosen printer for best results. Some printers rely on toner, while others rely on ink, and different ink printers rely on different sized cartridges. Research the type of ink or toner that your specific printer needs.

Take note of the sizes and model numbers involved, and double check those cartridges before making a final purchase.

Inkjet printer ink

Inkjet ink comes in both black and colored cartridges and you'll need both to keep the printer running properly. In some instances you'll use two cartridges, one for black and another for color. In other instances, you'll need the black ink and then multiple cartridges for the different colors. Often, when printing graphics or photos, the colored ink will run out faster.

When purchasing inkjet printer ink, check the printer box and paperwork to see what type is required.

OEM brands are the inks made by the same company that manufactures the printer itself, but many third-party companies make compatible inks that will work just as well.

Inkjet printer ink can run anywhere from $13 an ounce, up to $75 an ounce depending on the brand. Ink usage per page depends on the size of the cartridge. For example, a standard 11 ml cartridge can print up to 220 standard pages, while a high capacity 16 ml cartridge holds 1.45 times as much ink and will deliver as many as 320 pages before needing to be replaced. Pay attention to pricing and volume yield when buying inkjet cartridges to get the best value.

Laser printer toner

Laser printers use toner cartridges to print. Toner is a solid powdery substance, very different from the liquid ink used in inkjet models. In order for the machine to print, the toner cartridge is required, so make sure you always have toner stocked. It's ideal to invest in OEM cartridges, but it's not necessary. There are plenty of third-party options available.

Look on the manual to find the specific type of cartridge required for your printer. Also, research the best place to buy your toner for a high quality and affordable product.

The cost of laser print toner is around $60-$80 per cartridge. Some cartridges run as much as $400 a piece depending on the size of the laser printer. Toner cartridges offer yields as great as 2,000 pages or more per cartridge, which is why they're ideal for bulk document printing.

Flow rates

The best way to judge ink cartridge quality is through printer output. If there is too much ink output, the print will look sloppy and run. If there is too little, the cartridge can run dry and the print will not be bold and smooth.

To check output, run a simple print test. This is done on the computer once hooked up to the printer. Print a test page and check the statistics box afterwards. It will provide page yield, ink output and usage levels. The higher quality the ink, the smoother the print will be with each page. The lesser quality inks will come out too fast or too slow, provide a choppy print and smudge easily. Always evaluate the quality of a print when first trying out new ink cartridges to decide which products are the best quality and which you should avoid in the future.

Specialized cartridges

There are specialized ink and toner cartridges designed for use with specialized printers. Check with the make and model of your specialized printer before purchasing ink. Specialized ink and toner cartridges are often used in other types of printers, not in business page printing machines.

Less common printers, such as receipt printers, cash machines and textile printers, provide the ideal print for different mediums than office paper standard printers are designed for. Some specialized ink and toner brands include, but are not limited to:

Each brand of ink or toner is different and works in a different machine, so take care when choosing your ink. Most specialized ink options are higher quality and often more expensive.

Summary and further reading

Printing is vital to most businesses. Without access to a printer many companies wouldn't be able to conduct day-to-day tasks. Print with ease using a high quality ink or toner that keeps up with your print demands. Still having trouble deciding? Learn the differences between ink and toner.

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