Business Printers: Which One Is For You?

The type of printer you'd pick up at an office supply store like Blackbox Solutions is going to cut it for business use, at least in most cases. Even small offices usually need far more sophisticated machines for efficiency and productivity. Most businesses opt for networked printers that can be shared by multiple users, rather than individual printers for each desk. These machines save resources and tend to last much longer than out-of-the-box varieties. They also offer faster printing speeds, better handling and advanced finishing options. Most are also capable of copying, scanning, emailing and faxing. Networked business printers are available in hundreds of models and in varying types, all with different features and capabilities, which can make the buying process daunting. They can be wired or wireless; laser, LED, inkjet or solid-ink; and monochrome or color. Some are compatible with mobile printing, while others are not. You'll also find wide variations in cost

Types of Business Printers

Laser/LED Laser and LED printers, which are very similar, are by far the most popular in offices.  Using a light source, they project an image onto a rotating drum, which then transfers toner to the paper. These are reliable and fast, and they produce high-quality text. The memory and hard-drive capabilities are ideal for networking. Ongoing costs are reasonable because toner is relatively inexpensive compared with other methods of printing. On the downside, laser and LED printers are expensive upfront. They're also not ideal for photo printing.

Inkjet printers are more common for personal use and home offices, although they can be suitable for some small business uses. These work by squirting liquid ink through a pinhead. Inkjet printers are less expensive up front and the photo quality is high, so they are great for brochures, fliers and documents that contain graphics. They can print on many types of media. Although it is possible to find an office-quality inkjet printer with networking capabilities, these are less common. This is primarily due to the high ongoing costs of replacing ink, which is not practical for high-volume printing. These printers are also much slower.

Additional Printer Types

Less common printer types include:

•  Solid-ink printers, which melt blocks of colored wax onto paper. These tend to be comparable to laser printers in black-and-white print quality, reliability and ongoing costs, but they are superior for color printing. They're also smaller and more compact. However, solid-ink printers are prone to smudging. And because they're less common, there are far fewer models from which to choose.

•  Snapshot printers thatonly print images. The photo quality is much higher than with other types of printers. These are more common for home use, but they can also have business applications.

•  Dye-sublimation printers, which come very close to photograph quality by using heat-transferred dye. Typically, these printers are reserved for businesses such as graphic design firms, which must have superior image quality. Costs per page are extremely high —often $2 or more.