A New Generation of Printers

We’ve had personal printers nearly as long as we have had computers, but they have changed a lot over the years.

Initially, personal printers were mainly dot-matrix. Some shops still use this technology because it works with multipart forms.

Then in the 1980s we started seeing inkjet and laserjet printers. Inkjet offered cheaper printers—often with photo-quality prints—mainly for low-volume printing, while laserjet offered a cheaper “per-page” cost—with ink (toner) that didn’t dry out—for higher-volume printing.

In the late 1990s, we started seeing the next generation of printers which where chiefly multifunction: you could get “print/scan/copy” or “print/scan/copy/fax” with inkjet or laserjet, monochrome or colour.

Zoom ahead to 2020 and now we’re starting to see fewer laserjet and more inkjet printers. Why? Because inkjet printers are getting faster, with consistent print clarity that matches laser, printheads that clog less and wear out slower, and they use far less electricity than laser. The latest batch have air-tight systems so the ink doesn’t dry out, which allows them to offer larger ink tanks, bringing the per-page cost way down. Some even have “pour-in” ink tanks so you aren’t throwing out (or recycling) anything but plastic bottles.

These new printers come from several different brands and have names like Instant Ink, INKvestment, MegaTank, EcoTank, and SuperTank. Because manufacturers are making less on inks for these printers, they charge a bit more for the printers themselves.

If you are shopping for printers, you should also consider communication options. Most have USB and wifi communication, many have Ethernet, and some have NFC (near-field communication). For compatibility with Mac, you’ll want AirPrint capability; for Chrome devices, you may want Google CloudPrint.

Beyond that, other specs you might consider are time-to-first-page, pages-per-minute, and capacity of the input/output trays for both printing and scanning.