A Guide to Selecting the Right Copier/Printer for You

Photocopiers, which these days are almost exclusively digital multifunction printers & devices, can be a major purchase for a business, with pricing ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on requirements. There are several different types of printing technology to choose from, each suited for different needs. Printers come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny travel companions to workgroup workhorses; some are geared toward photographers, while others are for multi-taskers. How do you know which one to choose? A good vendor will help you analyze your specific situation and recommend a variety of solutions that will meet your needs. The following guidelines will help you take the first step in finding the best printer for your company.

1. Define your requirements
Before you talk to a vendor, decide how you would like to use the machine and know which features you really need for your business. This will allow your vendor to narrow down the selection and provide you with the best machine that suits your needs. A good vendor should also help you prioritize the features and requirements, and provide you with the best solutions for you budget.

2. When selecting a vendor be sure that they carry more than one brand.
The copier companies want you to think that their copiers are worlds apart from the next brand’s copiers, but really, the top brands are comparable. A good vendor will carry multiple brand lines and help you choose the best one for your needs. They will help you compare copier prices from different brands so you know you are getting a good value. One brand’s black and white laser printer might cost twice as much as another’s — just because of the brand name. You can also research online before you shop at a store to read product reviews, and so you can make sure you’re getting a good deal. Some popular copier brands you can look up online are listed below.

  • Canon
  • Sharp
  • HP
  • KIP
  • Konica Minolta
  • Kyocera
  • Lexmark
  • Oce
  • Panasonic
  • Ricoh
  • Secap
  • Toshiba
  • Xerox

3. Determine the type of device you need.

a. Multifunction Printer (also known as MFP)
The standard in commercial copiers; an MFP combines copying, scanning, printing, and faxing into one machine. Multifunctions are offered by all of the top copier companies, including Sharp, Xerox, Canon, Ricoh, and many more.

b. Workgroup
If you need a workhorse that can keep up with your department or team within a larger organization, a workgroup printer is a good choice. Workgroup features such as network printing, high-capacity toner cartridges, and larger paper input and output trays are designed to juggle multiple print jobs.

c. Laser
Laser printers are more efficient and more common to the workplace than inkjet printers because lasers are faster. Inkjet printers may cost less outright, but each page can cost up to 20 cents to print, due to the high cost of inkjet ink, compared to a laser copy’s 6 cents per page.

d. Wide Format
Wide-format printers are generally accepted to be any printer with a print width between 17″ and 100″. These printers are used to print banners, posters and general signage and in some cases may be more economical than methods such as screenprinting. Wide format printers generally use a roll of print material rather than individual sheets and may incorporate hot-air dryers to prevent prints from sticking to themselves as they are produced.

4. Consider these major features.

a. Black and White vs Color
While black and white copies do offer an incredible amount of clarity in printed material, those printers lack the ability to provide clarity in images; for this purpose color copiers are often a necessity. Color copier prices have reduced over the years with improvements in printer equipment, and the choice between black and white copies and color copies has become a viable option in terms of cost. The color ink/toner costs more than the black ink/toner; however, when the technology is set up properly to meet an office’s printing/copying needs, you can get those color prints down to as low as $.06 per single page.

b. Resolution
The resolution is a critical consideration as it is the key component to producing detailed text and clean images. The resolution refers to the maximum number of dots per inch (dpi) that can be printed. The dpi is measured both horizontally and vertically. For example, a 600x600dpi laser printer lays down a one-inch square composed of 600 dots across by 600 dots down. The higher the resolution, the more detail and accuracy there will be per print.

c. Print speeds
Print speed is simply the number of pages per minute (ppm) that a printer produces. As a guideline, 30ppm = 1 page every 2 seconds. If this is the first copier that your office will be purchasing, you might not need to buy a model that copies/prints faster than 30 ppm. If you’re a busy corporate office, however, or your daily copy jobs are bulky, you might want to think about buying a copier that’s 40 ppm or above.

d. Connectivity
The USB is truly universal–all printers now have a USB 2.0 port, but if you want to go old school, you’ll still find plenty of printers that accept those big, 25-pin parallel cables. Workgroup printers also support printing over a network by using a standard Ethernet cable with an RJ-45 connector. For even better mobility, many models support printing wirelessly, using infrared, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi access points with built-in print servers.

e. Memory
If you have multiple users or you often print large files, then you’ll need a printer with a fast processor and ample onboard memory. While 8 MB of memory may be adequate for small office use, if your printer will be used heavily, you should only consider multifunction printers that have at least 16 MB of memory.

f. Paper Handling
The typical paper-handling specs on a printer include everything from the size and thickness of various types of paper to the standard and optional input- and output-tray capacity. Generally, all printers print on standard paper (letter and legal sizes), accept envelopes, and have input and output trays that hold at least 100 sheets. More advanced printers have additional paper-handling features such as tabloid-size printing, large format printing, duplexing (printing on both sides), auto document feeders for faxing and copying, stapling, and three hole punch.

5. Review the maintenance options
Preventive maintenance on a regular basis is required in order to consistently provide users with high quality prints. Regular maintenance also extends the life of the equipment, and is often required by equipment manufacturers in order to keep warranties valid. Consider programs that offer certified service technicians who are authorized by the manufacture to service your brand. It is economically wise to use authorized service personnel because they will use Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) products for your printer. Off market parts and products may be less expensive in the short term, but in the long run affect the machine’s performance and may cause other long-term problems.

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