Printers buying guide

 

Whether you use a computer for domestic or business purposes - or both, you will invariably, sooner or later need to print your work. The quality and type of printer you need will vary, depending on what you're printing and what you need it for. We range a variety of inkjet, laser, photo and all-in-one printers which will meet your every need. With fantastic wireless features allowing you to print over your home network, email your print jobs from anywhere in the world and print from your iPhone, find the right printer for your needs.

 

What type of printer do you need?

There are four basic types of printers available today: inkjet (also known as 'bubble jet'), laser, photo printer and all-in-one.

  • Inkjet printers squirt thousands of tiny ink dots onto the page and tend to be a popular choice for the home PC user thanks to their high-quality printing and low costs. Inkjet printers can offer high quality printing - look for the number of dots per inch (dpi) for an indication of this - and are particularly good for printing images and documents.

    Pros: Highest photo quality when used with photo paper
    Cons: Ink can smudge when freshly printed, higher cost per page than laser, slower to print.

  • Photo printers have become increasingly popular due to the boom in digital photography. Most models can be connected directly to a digital camera for instant prints (camera and printer must be 'PictBridge' compatible). Some models also feature card readers to allow direct prints from memory cards and LCD screens to edit your shots.

  • Laser printers work using static electricity, which attracts and holds toner to the page. While they are more expensive to purchase than inkjet printers in the first instance, laser printers offer faster, smudge-free printing of a very high quality, especially when printing text. This type of printer is ideal for high-volume printing in offices where there's a lot of paper work.

    Pros: Highest text quality, fast print speeds, cheaper consumables.
    Cons: Inferior photo printing

  • All-in-one printers are a combination of an inkjet printer, a scanner and a photocopier - some incorporate fax functionality as well. They are typically more expensive to buy initially as they incorporate a number of functions, but they are invaluable if space is at a premium.

Wireless printing

Wireless printing will enable you to print documents from your computer - without the need to be connected to your printer with cables. As a result you'll be able to print from anywhere in your home, allowing the entire family to share a single printer saving money on separate printers and reducing the clutter caused by cabling.

There are various ways in which wireless printing is possible. They include:

Over your Wi-Fi network

To print over your home network you will need to have a Wi-Fi network set up in your home or office, have a computer that's connected to that Wi-Fi network, and have a wireless-enabled printer. Everyone within range that's connected to your network will then be able to send jobs to the printer from anywhere in the house or in your garden. Furthermore, Wi-Fi printing is faster than cabled printing too.

Cloud Printing

Cloud Print compatibility allows you to print from any internet connected device using Email Print, Google Cloud Print or a range of 3rd party Cloud Print apps. This means you can print from devices such as smartphones or tablets or from any computer because there is no need for a printer driver. The print job is sent from the device to the printer via the internet so you can send a document or photo to be printed from wherever you are, whether at home or on the other side of the world.

Email Print

Email Print allows you to send printing jobs to your home printer via email. Simply send your document or photo to your printers unique email address and it'll print all the attached files. This means it's easy to print direct from a smartphone or tablet.


Google Cloud Print

Google Cloud Print allows you to print directly from any Google Cloud Print enabled app, such as Gmail or Google Docs. The print job is sent via the internet to your printer. Like 'email print' this gives you the flexibility to print from any device such as a smartphone, tablet or computer, and from any location. Look for a 'Google Cloud Print Ready' printer.


From your iPad/iPhone

AirPrint enabled devices allow you to print directly from your iPhone/iPad/iPad 2 or iPod Touch to a printer connected to your Wi-Fi network. Just select the print button on your mobile device and it'll print the selected web page, photo, e-mail or tickets!

What to look for

Resolution (DPI)

This refers to the maximum number of dots per inch (dpi) that can be printed, measured both horizontally and vertically. For example, a 300x300dpi laser printer lays down a one-inch square composed of 300 dots across by 300 dots down. Typically, a printer with a higher resolution produces more-detailed print results.

Paper format

If your office/home needs to print off large plans or spreadsheets then you'll want a printer that can print A3 pages. Our collection of A3 printers will allow you to print both A4 and A3 at will.

Printing Apps

Bring fun to your printing with great online Apps. HP's latest range of printers feature downloadable and printable colouring sheets, entertaining your kids with hours of enjoyment as they colour in their favourite Disney character.

PictBridge

This allows you to print photos directly from your digital camera by plugging the camera into the printer. This will save you time and is particularly useful for those that don't like using computers!

Cost of ink

Replacing printer inks can be expensive, with the cost of ink often ending up being many times the cost of the printer. If you are intending to print a lot, especially if you want to print colour documents or photos, ensure you look at the cost of the ink cartridges and importantly how many pages they'll print (the page yield) before making your final printer choice.

Energy Efficiency

Some printers will have eco-friendly features built-in such as large standby buttons with quick start-up. Printers which print double-sided too will also reduce your paper usage, but also your costs!

Borderless printing

Is ideal for happy snappers as it lets you print 6x4-inch photos and A4 photo prints that fill the whole page.

Scanning

These printers will allow you to scan documents or pictures directly to email or into a handy PDF file. Old family photos can also be restored onto new glossy photo paper too to ensure history lives on!

Display panel

Modern printers will have an LCD display and will allow you to select settings, applications, monitor ink levels and check the progress of your printing jobs.

Connectivity

All our printers feature USB ports which will allow you to connect your computer to your laptop by cables. This is essential if you don't have a wireless connection where you'll be printing from. If you intend to connect your laptop or computer to your printer make sure you have the right cable.

Workgroup printers also support printing over a network using a standard Ethernet cable with an RJ-45 connector. As alternatives for Wi-Fi wirelessly printing some models will print using infrared or Bluetooth. A memory card slot will allow you to print your photos or documents directly by simply plugging in your card.

Print speeds

There are two international standards organization (ISO) tests for printer speed. Pages Per Minute (PPM) and the newer Images Per Minute (IPM). Both measure the numbers of A4 pages printed in one minute. The difference is that IPM uses a defined print resolution and calculates on an average of 4 printed word, excel and pdf documents whereas with PPM print resolutions can vary and only one dedicated ISO test page will be printed for the whole calculation (the lower the resolution used the faster the print) . IPM has two advantages, firstly it ensures an 'apples for apples' comparison and secondly its closer to what you'll actually get when using the printer at home.

Which ink cartridges will be suitable for my new printer?

We have a wide variety of ink cartridges for all you printing needs. So, whether you're looking for ink for your Brother, Canon, Epson or HP printer, we have it covered.

Ink Finder

Let us help you find the right ink for your new printer with our easy-to-use Ink finder.

What about paper?

No matter what you'll be printing, we have the right kind of paper to meet your printing needs.

If you plan on printing photos on your new printer you'll need to buy photo paper. For normal usage we also have plain paper for everyday use too.