I certainly wasn't planning on being in the market for a printer a couple weeks ago when our new(er) one suddenly stopped working. I think we had it for about a year or so when she (though I really don't know the gender) decided to up and quit.
Printers are kind of a tricky purchase. There are ink costs, paper costs, and then – do you need to buy some coverage for it in case it breaks down?
I'm really a slow buyer. It may take me quite a while before I decide to purchase something – even though I know I (we) need it. This is especially the case on a bigger purchase.
Printers have definitely come down in price over the years while increasing in technology and capabilities. I remember the dot matrix printers years ago that were really cool. As a kid, I would go to the local library just to use one! It would take 10 minutes to print one page!
Being a designer, I do have a little bit of background knowledge about printers from working with them daily. Though I probably know a bit more than the average Joe out there – I'm certainly not a printer expert. Buying one of these things is still not an easy task for me.
First things first
The first step I took with buying the printer was to do a bit of research. What I typically do is browse a couple of stores in the area (in this case, Target, OfficeMax, and Best Buy) to see what is out there. I'll chat with an associate there to see what kind of deals they have – and even ask them which printer is the one they'd buy. Typically they are pretty honest with you when posed with the question.
Next, I went home and got online to do a little more research. One site I really like is CNET. I believe they have a lot of valuable reviews and aren't too biased one way or the other. They even have a printer buyer guide section which helps you narrow down the right one for you.
What type of user are you?
This is an important step in selecting a printer. Because there are so many different variations of printers out there – you need to get the right one for you.
Here's what I needed to take into account when buying:
- I'll definitely need one with a scanner.
- My wife does a lot of faxing – and I may need this option too.
- A copier will be helpful for various things with my business.
- I really dislike having the ink run out every other week. I'd like one with a greater ink capacity.
- Wireless option is a must with my wife using it too.
Once I knew these things – I pretty much knew I'd need an “all-in-one” printer. These are great – they include fax, scanner, copier and can connect via wireless! But, I also knew I wasn't going to be running a ton of copies. Therefore, an inkjet printer would do just fine (as opposed to a laser printer – which is typically found in a business environment).
Armed with this info and my initial research, I felt I could get as good of a deal at a physical store as I could online – so I headed over to a nearby OfficeMax (many times a store will match a better deal which you might find online).
I spoke with a couple of associates – and had them direct me to the all-in-one printers. I asked if they had any recommendations on them AND what their current deals were. They offered a couple selections and from there – I narrowed it down to one: an HP Officejet Pro. It was marked down from an original price of $200 to $150. I thought this was fair and it had all the features I needed.
Most of the printers today are so good, it is kinda hard to go wrong. This is not an ad – but I have generally been very happy with HP printers – and they too came highly recommended by the associates I spoke with at the stores I visited.
Here are a couple of other things to consider before you purchase your printer:
How much are the ink refills. Printers themselves are generally quite affordable today. What can haunt you through some of these “cheaper” models is the life of the ink refills they use. Some of them can be quite pricey – so its good to consider how much the refills cost. You might find a printer that sells for $75 – has all the features you need – but the refills go for $30-40! You can see that in no time, yous refills have cost more than the printer itself!
How much paper does the feeder hold? Printers can only handle a certain number of pages in their feeds. I don't like the ones where I have to constantly monitor or feed with paper every 5-10 pages.
Printer cables or other accessories. I don't know why this is – but a cable did not come with this printer (could be due to the fact it is wireless). But, make sure one is included with the printer or you can purchase one there at the store. Also, check on other accessories you may need. Some can come with an extra tray, etc.
Ask to see a sample! Last but not least, ask to see a print sample if you are at a store. Most good retailers will have printers set up where you can see a test page.
Have you recently made a printer purchase? What were some of the things you considered in your research?
UPDATE 8/27/13: After having the OfficeJet Pro Printer for more than a year, the thing went bust on me. The screen went blank and we'd been experiencing a lot of streaking especially when copying. Fortunately, we had a store warranty on the copier through OfficeMax and were able to replace the whole printer for free. But, just be warned of this possibility. Otherwise, we love the printer.
UPDATE 6/15/16: After that initial lemon of a printer in '13, we have not had any problems whatsoever with our 8600. Love it and use it often.