How to Buy The Right Printer – A Real Guide for Real People

When it comes to buying a printer for your computer you can often find yourself as confused as when you were buying the computer itself. Even just walking into your local computer shop and taking a look at the huge selection of printers on offer can have your head spinning.

Here at TwoSexyGeeks we understand that with so many different types of printer and brands on the market even a person with a degree in computing can struggle when trying to know which printer is best for them and their needs and what printer to buy. This is why we have developed this guide on how to choose and buy the right printer for you. We will explain the various brands and types of printers available and the technical jargon that goes alongside printers. Hopefully the information in this guide will help you know which printer to buy.

Know What You Need From A Printer.

When it comes to buying a printer and the salesman in the computer store asks you what you want from the printer you can be forgiven for telling him that you want it to print stuff on paper.

The fact is that modern printers can do a lot more than just print out text and pretty pictures. Many modern day printers can double as a photo copier as well as a computer printer.

Ask yourself the following questions about your printer needs.

Do you need a printer that prints in colour?

Most printers in today’s modern world are capable of printing in colour but some are better at printing in colour than others. If colour printing is not that important to you then you may need to just focus on the black and white printing capabilities of a printer.

Do you need a printer that can photocopy?

There is a huge variety of printers on the market that have the capability to photocopy documents as well as print. If photocopying is a feature that you feel would be useful then you need to be looking at printers that have a photocopying feature. If photocopying is not something you feel that you would need then why pay money for it. You would be better advised to buy a printer that has no photocopy feature but better quality of printing.

What connections do you need from a printer?

In the olden days of printers the only way to connect a printer to a computer was through the use of something know as a parallel port. The parallel pot was quite a big and chunky port on the rear of your computer.

Today’s printer has a lot more connectivity than the ones from years gone by. Most printers today are connected to a computer via a USB lead.

Other connection options that you will need to consider are things like network capabilities. Some printers can be connected to your home network so that more than one computer can print to it. This connection can be either Wi-Fi or through use of a special network cable known as an Ethernet cable.

Would you like to print straight from you digital camera.

Some printers have the ability to connect straight to your camera with the use of a USB lead while others allow you to insert the digital cameras memory card into a special slot and print straight from the card without the use of a computer or laptop.

Do you need a printer that is fast?

Some people are not that bothered about the rate at which a printer prints out but if speed is an issue to you then it is worth knowing that different printers can print at different speeds.

How important is print quality?

As you probably know by now there are various types of printers that are available on the market.

First there is the laser printer which is well known for good quality printing but a laser printer tends to be one of the most expensive to buy and run.

Next is the dot matrix printer. These printers are old news now and pretty hard to come by but on the off chance that you are offered one dot matrix printers work on the same principles as a typewriter where a ink ribbon is pushed to the paper by a special template to print on the paper.

Last but not least is the bubble jet or ink jet printer. These printers tend to be the most popular as they are the cheapest to buy and to run. They offer some of the best printing quality available at a decent price but always are aware that different ink jet printers require different types of ink cartridge and they all last a different amount of time and their cost can vary greatly. As a rule you tend to find that the cheaper the ink jet printer then the more expensive the ink will be for that printer.

Understanding Printer Terms and Jargon.

When it comes to buying a printer, or any other kind of product, it is important that you understand all of the technical jargon that you will hear thrown around. Here we look at what is meant by the various printer technical jargons so when you are in the shop you can at least speak fluent printer.

Consumables and Printing Costs.

When buying a printer it amazes me how few people take in to consideration the cost of running the printer. Most people are more concerned with the initial cost of the printer.

The consumables of a printer are the ink that the printer needs to print. Every printer takes a different kind of cartridge and they all have a different cost. As a rule you will tend to find that cheaper printers require the more expensive kind of ink cartridges so it is well worth considering this fact.

I have known many people time and time again complain because the refill ink cartridges cost more than the actual printer itself. It is also worth knowing that printer usually have a black ink cartridge and a colour ink cartridge so that is two cartridges you will need to purchase.

Manual Feed / Multi-Purpose Tray.

This refers to the way in which paper is loaded into the printer. A multipurpose tray is basically a tray in which you place paper and it is automatically fed into the printer as required. The tray is also capable of holding different sized pieces of paper.

A manual feed option means that you can manually feed the paper into the printer which can be useful if you have a stubborn bit of paper which may not feed from the tray due to its thickness.

Duplex Printing.

If a printer is capable of duplex printing then it is capable of printing on both sides of the paper.

Monthly Duty Cycle.

The monthly duty cycles refers to the amount of printing that a printer can carry out in a month without breaking down. Many people believe that this is a made up factor by printer manufactures in order to sell printers.

OS Compatibility.

The OS is short for operating system. When buying a printer you need to make sure that it is compatible with the operating system that your computer is running i.e. Microsoft Windows or OX or Linux.

Stand Alone Printing.

Stand-alone printing means that the printer is capable of printing without needing to be connected to a computer. This is useful if you wish to print from a USB stick or direct from your digital camera.

Multi-Function / All in One.

Multi-function quite literally means that the printer has multi-functions. The all in one printer is a printer that does everything. It prints text, pictures, photos, photocopy’s and scans documents.

Internal Memory.

Internal memory of a printer is important for the same reason a computer’s memory is important. A larger memory will make the printer operate quicker and it is also a way to store files as they print.

Connection Types – SD slot, USB, Ethernet.

Most printers will connect to your computer through the use of a USB (universal system bus) lead. Other connection types you may wish to pay attention to are things like an Ethernet port which will allow the printer to be connected to your home network for network printing.

There is also the option of various memory card slots which allow you to print directly from a memory card like the ones in your digital camera. A USB stick slot will allow you to print photos and documents from a USB stick.

Print Speed.

This obviously refers to the speed at which the printer is capable of printing. The print speed is most commonly measured in terms of PPM (pages per minute) meaning the number of sheets that can be printed per minute.

Be aware that the PPM varies on most printers depending on type of document that is been printed, black and white and colour or photos.


DPI is short for ‘Dots per Inch’. Put simply this is referring to the resolution at which the printer is capable of printing at. The resolution is measured by the number of dots that it can place per inch on its print outs. The higher number of dots per inch then the better the print quality will be. This can be particularly important when printing photographs.

Many printers have different levels of DPI between their colour and black and white print outs so bare this in mind.

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Great list, it's really extensive. Sometimes you need as much as four refill cartridges when you replace, though, so it's worth looking into that. It's also worth researching the availability of compatible or remanufactured ink cartridges if you're looking to save money on refills.