Archive for July, 2009

Inkjet Printer Buying Guide

There are currently two technologies that dominate the personal printer market: inkjet and laser printers. Of these two, inkjet printers are the most popular and least expensive.  But how do they work? And how do you know which one is best for you?  Hopefully, the following guide will help you answer some of those questions.

How Inkjet Printers Operate

When a document is sent to the printer, the printer driver translates the text and images into the inkjet printer’s language. After the printer receives information, the controller activates the printer.

The rollers feed the paper into the printer and are positioned at the start of the page. The print head will then begin to move across the page spraying droplets of ink onto the page. As the print head is printing, the motor stops momentarily to spray multiple dots at a defined area to create all colors.  When the print head reaches the end of the page, the rollers move the paper forward until the full page is printed.

Parts of an Inkjet Printer & How they Work

The Print Head Assembly

The print head assembly generally consists of two parts – the print head and the ink cartridge. The print head operates the printing action of the printer. The print head contains a series of nozzles that are used to spray droplets of ink. It may be included in the printer or part of the inkjet cartridge.  Inkjet cartridges come in different combinations, depending on the manufacturer or model. Cartridges can have a separate tank for each color or one cartridge for each color. Inkjet printers generally use four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to create other color combinations. If the inkjet printer doubles as a photo printer, it will use six colors, by adding the light magenta and light cyan to extend the printer’s color gamut.

Stepper Motor, Belt and Stabilizer Bar

The stepper motor is what moves the print head and cartridge back and forth across a page. Some printers will have a second stepper motor to park the print head assembly when the printer is not in use.  The belt is used to attach the print head assembly to the stepper motor.  The print head assembly moves across a stabilizer bar to ensure that each row of dots are even and precise.

Paper Feed Assembly

The paper feed assembly also consists of two cooperating parts – the paper tray or feeder, and the rollers.   Inkjet printers will have either a paper tray that can be loaded with paper or a feeder that is located in the back of the printer. Both include a sensor that stops the printer when it is out of paper.  A set of rollers pulls the paper from the paper tray/feeder and controls the rate at which the paper is moved past the print head assembly.

Printer Driver and Controller

A printer driver is software that acts as a translator so that the printer understands data and instructions from your computer. The driver describes the text, image, etc. to be printed and translates it into the printer language.  The controller is essentially the “command station” of the printer. The control circuitry is responsible for decoding the information sent from the computer, via the printer driver, to the printer, as well as controlling the various motors of the printer.

Buying Guide

If you are searching for a printer that can print school reports and the occasional picture, an inexpensive inkjet printers can meet all your printing needs. If your printing needs are a little more advanced, you can find inkjet printers with added features that will still be less expensive than purchasing a laser printer.  The more features you need and the type of quality you are looking for will add to the cost of the printer; however, you can find a printer with good print quality for under $100.


- Inexpensive
- The ability to print in color


- Slow
- High maintenance costs

Price Range

- $30-200

Features to Look For

Print Quality

When deciding on what inkjet printer is best for your printing needs, don’t let price be the deciding factor. Higher prices don’t always indicate the best print quality or speed of a printer.  Before purchasing a printer, shop around and when you have a specific model in mind, if available, ask to print a test page to see for yourself the printer’s print quality.

Print Speed

Inkjet printer speed is measured by the number of pages the printer can print out in a minute. The faster the printer is, the higher the price. The print speed might not be important for many home users but if you are planning to be printing a great deal, a faster printer might be a better option for you.

When it comes to print speed, most manufacturers determine their print speeds using the simplest text in draft mode, so in most cases print speeds are almost twice the speed you will actually have. Print speed is determined by the page complexity, the connection speed, and the printer’s memory.


Before you buy a printer, check your computer’s supported connections. The majority of printers do not come with a printer cable so you will need to include this cost when budgeting for a new printer.


Memory will play an integral part in the print speed of your printer. The more memory you have the faster your printer will be.  Documents that are in queue (waiting to be printed) are sent to the printer’s memory. If you are only printing emails, word documents and the occasional picture, memory is not an important function. Everyday printing usually doesn’t take up as much memory. Look for a printer with more built in memory if you are planning to print large text documents and color graphics.  If your printing demands change, there are printers that you can upgrade with more memory.


Print resolution is the maximum number or dots per square inch that can be printed, measured horizontally and vertically. The more dots per inch will give you finer details such as sharper text and cleaner images. Look for an inkjet printer with a resolution of 1200 x1200 dots per inch or higher.

Cartridges & Supplies

The real cost of an inkjet printer comes from the ongoing cost of replacing ink cartridges. If you know you will be using one color more than the others, consider a printer with individual cartridges. It will save you money because you will only need to replace the cartridges you need. With tri-color inkjet cartridges (three colors in one container), you will need to replace the entire cartridge when one color is empty.

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