Laser Printers.

Published Date
01 - Dec - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2006
Laser Printers.
In a business environment, inkjet printers are seldom used, because their running costs pile up sky-high. Laser printers have always enjoyed patronage when it comes to heavy printing loads, and system admins swear by them for their ruggedness, economy, and good-quality printing.

Questions To Ask
What are the different types of laser printers?
Mono and colour are the two basic types. Depending on workload, they are further classified as personal lasers, workgroup lasers and departmental lasers. Personal lasers, as the name suggests, is your typical "by my side" printer. Workgroup lasers are for a small group of users - up to 20 people. Departmental lasers are monstrous, copier-size printers with features such as collation and stapling, and are generally deployed for a large department - 50-odd people. 

Why not an inkjet printer?
Inkjet printers, though relatively cheap, don't fit the corporate gamut of activities. Most inkjets are designed to handle small to medium printing loads. They baulk at heavy printing loads. Laser printers are designed to take quite an amount of thrashing, and deliver under heavy loads too. Further, inkjets have a higher cost per page. Lasers can deliver less than a rupee-per-page equation.
I'm buying a network printer. What should I look at?
Check the amount of available memory, also called the buffer memory. For a small group, 32 MB is more than enough; however, if the printer has to be deployed for a larger group, opt for a higher amount of memory. The memory requirement will also depend up on the type of documents being printed: regular Word and Excel documents are smaller in size, so 32 MB is more than enough. If the documents to be printed are image files, CAD drawings, etc., the memory requirements will be higher. Also check the administration software provided with the printer; remote administration saves a lot of trouble and hence the interface has to be good, not to mention the available granularity of administrative options.
What interface and operating system support is available?
Most printers work on USB 2.0. Look for additional or optional interfaces such as Ethernet when deploying for larger group. OS support is a must; if you get drivers for your OS, well and good-you need not worry about downloading them from the manufacturer's Web site. Take all OSes into account, and don't forget Windows Vista is on its way.

Future Trends
Other than the usual differences between colour and monochrome laser printers, one unique difference is in the category of colour models: one pass vs. multipass. In one-pass, the page makes a single pass over all the four toner cartridges that deliver the four primary colours (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). This helps in faster printing. But the story is the opposite with multipass: here, the sheet travels a longer path, going through four printing phases (one for each colour). This reduces the cost of the printer, because there is only a single drum for all the toner cartridges, whereas a one-pass printer needs a drum for each toner colour.
One-pass printers currently account for only 46 per cent of the market; but they are clearly the way of the future, and several brands are now bringing these printers under entry-level models. Most manufacturers will have to go the same route if they want to stay in the battle.

What To Look For
Resolution: In most Laser printers, the resolution generally tops out at 1200 dpi. This figure might look laughable when compared to inkjets; however, it's more than enough for a crisp printout.

Print speed: The claimed printing speed is generally hard to achieve in a real-world scenario. Laser printers also go through a process called warm-up where, before the printer prints the first page, it takes some eight to 10 seconds for initialisation. If you need a fast printer, pay attention to the warm-up time: every time the printer goes into sleep mode, it requires a warm-up cycle. Typically, entry-level laser printer can print 15 pages per minute; mid-range laser printers go to 25, and high-ends can deliver 40-odd. Choose according to your needs.

Number of prints: The duty cycle is another key parameter. Buy a printer according to your average printing requirements. Buying a high-duty-cycle printer, unless required, is a serious waste of money.

Expansion slots: Today even mid-range lasers have expansion slots for memory and network. If you expect your printing requirements to increase within a few months, then a laser printer with expansion slots makes for a good, forward-looking printing solution.

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