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How to Choose a Printer for Your Home or Office

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Here's some good news and bad news rolled into one: There are more printer options than ever.

That's good news because it enables people and businesses to choose a printer tailor-made to needs, preferences, and budget. The downside? The sheer volume of options can make it difficult to identify what's most appropriate for you.

If you're in the market for a new printer for a corporate or home office, here's an overview of which features to look for and what to expect when it comes to pricing.

Best Printer for the Office

At the basic level, the most common printer options for corporate offices are inkjet and laser printers. Inkjet printers are adept at printing text, graphics, and photos, but tend to be slower than laser printers. Laser printers, on the other hand, excel at printing mostly black and white text documents at high speeds.

Since most companies outsource color print jobs (such as brochures or direct mailers), laser printers are the most popular choice among business owners because of speed, high output, and high-quality text printing. These benefits help offset the higher cost of laser printers, which can retail for anywhere from $129 for a basic model to more than $1,000 for more advanced corporate options. (In contrast, even fancy inkjet printers are likely to cost less than $600.)

Whether you decide on inkjet or laser, you'll have a variety of other functions to choose from. The following features may add to the price of a printer, but they offer a range of benefits that make the heftier price tag worth it in the long run.

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Printers that do nothing but print are typically referred to as single-use printers, while those that include scanning, copying, and (in some cases) faxing capabilities are referred to as all-in-one printers. Not surprisingly, single-use printers tend to be less expensive than all-in-one varieties. Still, if your office regularly copies or scans documents, purchasing an all-in-one printer is likely to be more cost-effective than buying multiple devices.

Best Printer for the Home Office

While every home office is different, a few generalizations apply to this office setting.

For starters, most home offices are limited in size, which means there probably isn't room to store a variety of devices. For this reason, inkjet all-in-one printers are a popular choice for anyone with a home office. That's because they're incredibly versatile: They allow for color printing, black-and-white text printing, copying, and scanning, all from one compact device. As an added bonus, inkjet printers tend to be less expensive than laser printers.

However, laser printers may be a better choice if you regularly print large quantities of black-and-white text and don't anticipate ever needing to print either graphics or in color. If you opt for a laser printer, it's still worth investing in all-in-one functionality that allows you to scan and copy documents.

One more consideration for home office printers: If you use a laptop, tablet, or other mobile device for work, then it's probably worth investing in a wireless printer. This allows you to print from any of your devices, anywhere, which can increase your work efficiency.

No matter which type of printer you choose, you'll enjoy plenty of options in a range of prices. Wireless inkjet all-in-one printers start around $100 and can cost as much as $750, while laser all-in-one printers range in price from $130 to $730. Even the higher-end options are reasonable when you consider all the functionality you get for the price.

Best All-in-One Printer

As discussed above, all-in-one (AIO) printers feature not only printing capabilities but also the ability to copy, scan, and (in some cases) send faxes. These are a great option for corporate and home offices alike, because they offer great versatility and maximize space efficiency, and are generally cheaper than purchasing individual, single-function devices.

The only downside of AIO printers is that they rarely offer as many features as dedicated copiers, scanners, or fax machines. In order to enjoy as much functionality as possible, look for the following features:

  • Inkjet or laser, depending on your needs. If you select an inkjet printer because you occasionally print photographs, you may also consider a printer that includes a memory card reader so you can print photos directly from a camera or smart device.
  • A flatbed scanner instead of one that requires you to send scanned documents through the paper feed. This greatly enhances the scanning functionality because it allows you to scan books, photos, and other items that can't be sent through the feed.
  • Duplex printing capabilities, to cut down on paper costs
  • Wireless connectivity, to enable mobile printing and printing from multiple devices
  • Oversize paper handling abilities, if you regularly print flyers, posters, or other large items

While each of these features cost a little more, they significantly enhance the functionality of your printer. Because of the variety of features available from AIO printers, prices range widely from under $200 to more than $5,000.

Best Wireless Printer

As you can figure out from the earlier sections, wireless printing is considered a must-have for businesses of all sizes. That's because wireless printing means you don't have to keep computers attached to the printer, which provides greater ease and convenience. Because wireless printers are widely available, they may offer several bell and whistles, including:

  • Mobile printing support, meaning many wireless printers can print directly from iOS or Android devices such as smartphones and tablets. This is incredibly useful if you regularly conduct work on these types of electronics.
  • Direct wireless printing, which allows computers and printers to connect via a peer-to-peer connection that doesn't necessitate a wireless access point. This technology isn't essential, but it may be in higher demand as the Internet of Things continues to grow.
  • Ethernet capabilities for those times when the Wi-Fi goes down or you're hoping to print as quickly as possible. This is a worthy investment so that your productivity isn't disabled by faulty Wi-Fi.

Wireless printers are now so commonplace that they're much more affordable than they used to be. For example, a multifunction, wireless, inkjet printer can start as low as $60, while a wireless laser printer can start as low as $150.

No matter your needs, odds are good there's a printer that is perfect for you. Armed with the preceding considerations, you'll be empowered to choose a printer that enables your work for years to come.

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Laura Newcomer is a writer, editor, and educator with multiple years of experience working in the environmental and personal wellness space. Formerly Senior Editor at the health site Greatist, Laura now lives and works in Pennsylvania. Her writing has been published on Washington Post, TIME Healthland, Greatist, DailyBurn, Lifehacker, and Business Insider, among others. She has taught environmental education to students of all ages in both Pennsylvania and Maine, and prioritizes living an environmentally sustainable lifestyle. She's a big proponent of creating self-sustaining communities and accessible healthy food systems that care for both people and the earth. An avid outdoorswoman, she can often be found hiking, kayaking, backpacking, and tending to her garden.

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