Advantages of monochrome laser printers
Monochrome laser printers are used for printing fine-quality text and printing
text pages in volume. Laser printers are faster, with a higher duty cycle
-- the number of pages they can print per month -- than inkjet printers.
It's commonly accepted that laser printers print text better than inkjets
do, but photo output isn't as good as what you can get from an inkjet printer.
Resolution is important in laser printers. Higher resolutions produce smoother
gradients, cleaner graphics and sharper edges. All laser printers output
at least 600 dpi. That number might sound low, but for monochrome printing
of text and graphics pages, it works just fine. If you need to print monochrome
photos frequently, you might look for higher resolution.
Duplex printing allows printing on both sides of a sheet of paper, and some
printers offer a duplex tray as an optional accessory. Some experts question
whether duplexing is worth an additional investment and suggest that users
do it manually (by printing odd pages first, then flipping the stack over
and printing even pages). Microsoft Office programs allow printing just even
or odd pages for this purpose.
When shopping for a monochrome laser printer, consider the following:
for system requirements. First and foremost, the printer must be compatible
with your computer. If you are running Vista or Windows 7, check Microsoft's
list of compatible products. All current printers are compatible with
Windows XP. If you have an older computer, check the system requirements
for processor speed and RAM requirements. Most monochrome laser printers
are also compatible with Mac OS X and Linux.
- Take into account whether you need networking. If
you plan to connect to your printer via a network, make sure that the
printer is network-compatible. You might have to buy an Ethernet card,
though experts recommend getting a network-ready printer to make the process
as easy and affordable as possible. Although some printers are not labeled
as network compatible, savvy PC users can make them accessible to the rest
of the network by using Microsoft Windows' printer-sharing features. For
those on a Mac network, experts at Macworld recommend purchasing a Bonjour-enabled
printer for easier setup and access. Some models offer Wi-Fi networking,
helpful for a network of laptops.
- Postscript and PCL compatibility. If you
plan to use the computer for desktop publishing or graphic design,
experts at Smart Computing recommend looking for Postscript Level 3 capability.
Postscript is the format developed by Adobe for professional printing
that will enable your printer to properly print Postscript fonts. You should
also get a printer with printer control language (PCL) Level 5 or higher,
the printer standard developed by Hewlett-Packard.
- Look for a bypass feed. If
you plan to print labels, card stock, envelopes or other challenging
media, a printer's paper path and alternative feeding options (if any)
should be a major consideration. The printer's paper path needs to be no
sharper than 90 degrees to consistently handle envelopes, labels, transparencies
and card stock. Many printers have a bypass feed or a multipurpose paper
tray for this purpose.
- Consider volume (duty cycle). Businesses that need
a high volume of prints should consider a printer's monthly duty cycle.
PCMag.com recommends that "if
the number of pages you print is large enough to be a concern, a good rule
of thumb is to pick a printer with a monthly duty cycle that's about four
times the number of pages you expect to print each month." Many
personal printers are meant for light use and do not come with a fan.
Users like quiet printers, but printers lacking fans may overheat if
more than a handful of pages are printed at a time.
- Paper capacity is important. If you expect
to do a high volume of printing, you should get a printer with high-capacity
input or output trays/drawers to save yourself from constantly refilling
the drawers. Some manufacturers sell these as an option for certain
two-sided printing, consider an auto or manual duplexer. This feature can
save you both time and paper. Many models now have an automatic duplexing
feature - look for "D" in the model name.
- Watch for catches like
starter toner cartridges and short warranties. If you are considering
a model that comes with a starter cartridge, add 50 to 75 percent of
the price of a replacement cartridge to compare the printer's price with
those of other models. A starter cartridge is typically only about a
quarter full. Almost all models provide a one-year limited warranty, but
length of warranty is less of an issue than exclusions and limitations.
Exceeding the duty cycle is a typical exclusion.
- Budget extra for a cable if you
don't already have a USB 2.0 cable. Some manufacturers do not include
a printer cable in the box.
- Take print speed specs with a grain of salt. Manufacturers
rate the output speeds of their printers in pages per minute (ppm).
These numbers tend to be inflated, as real-time speeds are often dramatically
less. Due to the initial warm-up time (which varies), page-per-minute
rates are lower when printing small documents; it is only after printing
a few dozen sheets in a row that printers begin to approach their top-rated
high-yield toner cartridges when available Experts
say this will bring down the per-page print costs. Many toner cartridges ship with a drum.
Brands like Lexmark issue low-toner warnings, but some printers will not
print at all when the toner gets low. Sometimes removing the cartridge
and giving it a shake will help squeeze out a few more prints. This is
also helpful for a printer that has been idle for several weeks, as this
causes the toner to settle to the bottom of the cartridge.
- Be aware of power consumption. Some users report that their monochrome laser printers seem to use
a great deal of power even when not in use. Look for Energy Star-rated
printers, such as the HP LaserJet Pro P1102w and the Samsung ML-2851ND,
or energy saving options such as sleep mode and toner saver printing mode.
How monochrome laser printers work
Like copiers, laser printers use toner that consists of a very finely ground
plastic. Fine dots are heat-fused to the paper to form text or images. Monochrome
laser printers work by exposing an electrically charged, revolving drum to
a laser, creating positively and negatively charged areas. Positively charged
black powder (toner) is applied to the drum. The toner sticks to the negative
areas and is heated, which causes it to become sticky. Paper is passed through
the printer and the image is transferred from the drum to the paper. The
toner cools and binds to the paper.
Because toner needs to be heated, laser printers must warm up before they
are ready to print. Some printers need just a few seconds, while others take
longer. Users say they have noticed that printers with shorter warm-up times
tend to have greater power demands.
If toner spills on a counter or in a laser printer, wipe it up with a paper
towel moistened with cold water. Do not try to vacuum it, as the particles
are too fine to be caught by the filters of most household vacuum cleaners.
If you want to conserve toner, some printers offer "toner saver" (lower
resolution) settings that will stretch the toner further.
Older laser printers were notorious for producing ozone, which can irritate
the lungs of people with severe allergies or asthma. Newer printers work
in a slightly different way and produce fewer emissions. Some printers come
with an ozone filter. If you have allergies or asthma, be sure to direct
the laser printer's exhaust away from your face and look for a printer with
lower emissions and an ozone filter.