Posey's Tips & Tricks

How To Find the Right Printer for Working from Home

Laser or inkjet? Amazon or manufacturer's Web site -- or neither? And what about power consumption? There are a lot of things to consider when you're looking to buy a new printer for your (probably equally new) home office.

The nature of my work requires me to have a good quality multifunction (e.g., scan, print, copy and fax) device in my home office. I bought a high-end multifunction device several years ago and haven't really given it much thought since then. After all, it has always worked reliably and done what I needed it to do.

At least, that was the case until last week, when my aging multifunction device died a horrible death (it's a long story).

I found myself unexpectedly shopping for a new multifunction device. Throughout this quest, I picked up on quite a few things that I wanted to pass along in case they can help those working from home and need a business-class printer or multifunction device.

If you are shopping for a new printer or multifunction device, one of the first things to consider is whether an inkjet machine can fit your needs or if a laser printer would be a better choice. Both have their pros and cons.

Inkjet printers tend to cost less than laser printers and they generally do a much better job of printing photographs (although some laser printers can do a decent job with photos). On the flip side, laser printers tend to have faster print speeds and better print quality for text documents or documents with simple graphics.

My previous multifunction device was an inkjet printer but I decided to make the switch to a laser printer because of the type of documents that I print most. One thing I did not initially consider, however, is that laser printers consume far more electricity than inkjet printers.

I'm not one of those people who is constantly printing something, so power consumption isn't normally something I would even think about. However, I have a lot of other devices in my office, including some large NAS arrays that consume a lot of power. Upon setting up the laser printer, I found that the increased power demand was enough to be problematic. When I print something, it causes the lights to flicker. This was never an issue with the inkjet printer, but now I find myself looking for an electrician to install an additional circuit for my office.

Device quality is something else to consider. Sadly, some manufacturers' devices do not have the build quality they once did. When I realized that I needed a new printer, I initially did a search on one of the major vendors' latest devices. While I did find a device that seemed to meet my needs, a quick check of the reviews on several trusted tech sites revealed that despite the device's hefty price tag, many reviewers said it was flimsy and cheaply made.

Yet another thing to consider is how the printer that you are considering might impact your privacy. I read several posts claiming that one particular vendor's device drivers are designed to constantly nag you with pop-ups asking for permission to monitor your usage. Apparently, these pop-ups won't stop until you get so tired of seeing them that you eventually give in and allow the vendor to spy on your usage habits.

Finally, when you do decide what kind of device you want, it may behoove you to check multiple sources before making a purchase. Once I finally figured out what kind of multifunction device to purchase, I tried ordering it from Amazon.com. However, it was going to be a month before Amazon had the device back in stock. I also tried the manufacturer's Web site but it, too, was sold out, even though its price was significantly higher than what Amazon was selling the device for. From what I have been told, business-grade printers are a little tough to come by right now because so many people had to purchase these devices to be able to work from home.

I live in a rural area, but there is an office store about 20 minutes from my home. Given where I live, I really didn't expect it to carry high-end multifunction devices in stock. Much to my surprise, however, it not only had the device that I was looking for, but it was priced hundreds of dollars lower than Amazon. If you are having difficulties getting a printer or if you are on a tight budget, then it may be worth your time to at least check out retailers who seem unlikely to have what you are looking for.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 19-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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