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What to Look for in a Laser Printer

Laser printers are durable, reliable, and produce quality prints at fast speeds. Not surprisingly, most businesses find them indispensable.

Whether you're looking for a personal desktop printer, or a shared workgroup printer, a laser is likely to fit your needs. The following sections will give you a basic grasp of the features you'll need to consider when making a buying decision.

Resolution

The quality of laser prints is measured in dots per inch (dpi). Most laser printers come with either 600, 1200, or, in case of the high–end models, up to 2400 dpi. Printing at 600 dpi for black–and–white prints will produce professional, laser–quality prints and suit most business needs. Printing at 1200 dpi will create smoother edges and a cripser text. Printing at 2400 dpi will do all of this and produce better graphics. For this reason, realtors may want to consider a 2400 dpi laser.

Print speed

Print speed is an important feature if you're planning to share a laser printer over a network. Print speeds for laser printers range from 12 to up to 45 pages per minute (ppm) and are heavily influenced by the size of the printer's processor (rated in megahertz, MHz). The higher the megahertz rating, the faster the printing. Laser printer processors start at 100 MHz and go as high as 400 MHz. Print speed is also affected by memory size (see next section).

Memory

Since laser printers come equipped with their own memory, they can be shared over a network. The size of a laser's memory is measured in megabytes (MB), and ranges from 2MB to 128 MB. The more megabytes, the faster the laser can process multiple print jobs — and the faster it can print each page. The amount of memory you need will depend on how the laser will be used. A small to mid–sized office (up to 15 people) will do fine with 12–16 MB of memory, provided people only print emails, memos, and other short documents. If you're in an office where large spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations will be printed, then you may want a printer with 64 MB or more (or, you can buy a model with expandable memory). Even if you're sharing a printer with only a few people, however, a larger memory size will result in faster printing — and less waiting.

First page out

Depending on the model, it takes a laser printer between five and thirty seconds to start each new print job. This minor pause is called the first–page–out time (FPOT). FPOT does not include the time it takes for the printer to actually print each document (this is the page per minute speed, or ppm).

Duplexing

Laser printers with a duplexing feature can print two–sided documents. Duplexing is a great way to cut down on office paper costs and help the environment. If you do print on both sides, remember to choose paper with a higher opacity so that you won't see text through the paper.

Input/output capacity

A laser printer's input capacity measures the number of sheets of paper the printer can hold for printing, while the output capacity describes the number of printed pages it can accommodate before needing to be cleared. Depending on the laser printer model, input capacity ranges from 150 to 1100 pages, and output capacity from 100 to 600 pages. The greater the input and output capacities, the less refilling and tray–clearing hassles a medium– to large–sized office will have to endure.

Inkjet or laser?

If you want to print in color, it's a good rule of thumb to choose an inkjet printer — unless you plan to print in color frequently. In this case, you might want to choose a color laser printer instead. (For more information, read more about color laser printers.)

Ultimately, however, whether you buy a laser or an inkjet printer depends on several factors. If you're not sure which to choose, read "How to Pick the Right Printer".


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