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Printers are extremely cheap these days and there is no shortage in the selection available. There are many manufacturers offering plenty of different models. But how do you know which one is right for you? The first step to choosing a printer is figuring out if you need color or not. The next step is to determine if you should go with the traditional inkjet printers or make the jump to laser. Color laser printers used to cost so much they were out of financial reach for most consumers; this is no longer the case.

In general, inkjet printers are better for photographs. A basic inkjet printer will produce some nice looking pictures, but there are more expensive inkjets that are designed to produce excellent pictures. Some color laser printers, however, produce pictures that are acceptable by most people.

If it makes sense for your situation, we generally recommend a color laser printer. While the up front cost is a bit more expensive than an inkjet, the TCO (total cost of ownership) is usually cheaper. This means you will pay less over time to refill the toner. Laser printers also have the advantage of never smearing once printed. They also produce text and basic images that are extremely sharp and clean.

Don’t let the purchase price of a printer be the sole factor in determining which printer is right for you. Printers with a low price tag can have extremely expensive ink/toner that must be replaced. A good idea to help your decision is to price a refill of the ink/toner once you have narrowed down your selection list of printers.

Finally – pay attention to the specifications provided by the manufacturer. If you are looking at a few printers from Staples, for example, write down the model numbers and then find them at the manufacturers web site so you can get factual statistics about how the printer will perform.

Macworld has a great article about what all of these specifications mean and how to use them to narrow down your selection. Check it out here. And don’t forget to pick up a USB cable if you don’t have one; they aren’t usually included with a printer. If you already have a USB printer that you are replacing, it is very likely you can reuse that cable.