More people have a printer in their home these days, mainly because they’re so convenient and you can easily get hold of one without breaking the bank.
Whether it’s printing letters, photos or your latest budget sheet from Excel, there are hundreds of printers to choose from to suit any need and budget. But it can be hard to figure out what sets each one apart.
We explain everything you need to know about the main types of printers currently available to buy and whether they are suitable for your needs below.
What’s an inkjet printer?
An inkjet is most common printer for home users.
Inkjets work by spraying tiny dots of ink onto paper, using a mix of cartridges, usually black, cyan, magenta and yellow although some have two black cartridges or additional colour tints.
The ink is fired through hundreds of tiny guns as a metal rail guides the printer head from left to right continuously across the paper and paper is gradually passed through an electronic roller.
Inkjet printer advantages:
Inkjet printers are ideal for everyday users because they are pretty cheap to buy, starting at about £20.
There are also relatively small, useful if you’re limited for space around the house.
As far as home printing goes, inkjets are good at printing photos too as long as you use special photo paper.
Inkjet printer disadvantages:
While the printers themselves may be cheap, the ink is not. In many cases, this is where the printer makers actually make their money, and a set of cartridges can sometimes cost as much as the printer itself. In addition, the ink for inkjets runs out fairly quickly with frequent use.
Inkjets are also among the slowest printers around, so don’t expect to print off a 30-page document very quickly.
What’s an all-in-one printer?
All-in-one or multifunction printers are essentially inkjet printers with additional functions such as scanning and photocopying.
You have a lid on top of the printer, which you can lift and place documents onto face down to scan to your PC or print at once – effectively acting as a basic photocopier.
All-in-one printer advantages:
They are relatively cheap like inkjets but will be slightly bigger in size due to their added functions. However, these actually save more space around the home because a separate scanner and photocopier no longer have to take up space.
All-in-one printer advantages:
Like inkjets again, all-in-one printers require expensive ink cartridges which run out rather quickly. They are also quite slow at printing.
What’s a laser printer?
Laser printers are much faster than inkjet printers, and are mostly suitable for printing documents.
They are much bigger than inkjets because they use a photosensitive drum which contains a powdered ink known as toner.
A laser beams onto the surface of the drum, creating a pattern of electrically charged dots that attract toner. The toner is then transferred to paper where heat makes it permanent.
Colour laser printers exist, but they are mostly available for black ink only. The printers themselves cost more, but you get far more ink for your money.
Laser printers can also photocopy documents really quickly, and modern, advanced models can scan documents to your email.
Laser printer advantages:
Ink is far more economical than other printers and you can load much more paper in than an inkjet.
It’s also very quick at printing and photocopying documents.
Laser printer disadvantages:
The printers themselves are quite expensive, and on top of this they can be physically bulky too.
Laser printers are also not ideal for printing copies of your photos.
What is a 3D printer?
3D printers are not the paper-based printing machines we’re so used to. These printers allow you to create a solid three dimensional object using melted plastic.
To produce a 3D printed object, you have to share a specially modelled design of the object with the printer using a computer. The printer then works out where to direct a nozzle which pushes through melted plastic onto a stand.
3D printer advantages:
3D printers allow you to produce a range of objects, from toys and tools to phone cases and jewellery.
They’re relatively small considering what they can do.
3D printer disadvantages:
3D printers are only just taking off, so they’re still very pricey with many models selling for more than £1,000.
They also take a huge amount of time to print objects, and in many cases 3D printers are limited in what they can produce for now. Read more about 3D printers here.
Which printer do you use at home? Let us know in the Comments section below.