As a print analyst at gap intelligence, my primary role is to work directly with manufacturers to help them make informed business decisions. To put it simply, I tell them what their competitors are doing. As a print analyst outside of gap intelligence, I’m often approached with the question “What printer should I buy?” Those asking me this question are often work-from-home employees, and that’s where you come in.
So you’re one of the growing number of people who work from home and need a device to print documents. Whether you’re a remote executive or a one-person Kickstarter success story, you have documents to print, and you may not know where to start. This guide will help you find a printer that fits your needs and won’t break the bank.
This will be the most controversial part of my blog, so let’s get it out of the way. Inkjet or laser? It doesn’t matter.*
*From a technology perspective, both are great. It comes down to what you’re printing and how you plan to use your printer.
A couple factors to consider:
- Print Speed – Historically, inkjets have been notorious for their slower-than-a-slug speeds. This is changing and many SOHO inkjets on the market today have speeds that are close to, or identical to, similarly priced lasers.
- Print Quality – If you need high quality images with vivid color, go with inkjet. If you need "good enough" color quality, laser works too.
I’ve said it before, again, and now once again. “I want more.” You probably want more. When it comes to printers, my point is that you’re likely going to need to do more than just print from your home office printer.
My suggestion? Get an all-in-one (AiO). This means that the device prints, scans, copies, and sometimes faxes. Yes, I know. There are many apps that you can use to mimic copy and scan functionality, but let's face it, you're a busy professional, and you don't have time to format every little detail of that app-based "scan." Also, every conversation I’ve had with a work-from-home employee looking for a printer goes something like this:
Me: “Do you need copy/scan/fax or just print?
Asker: “Just print.”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Me: “So you’ll never ever need to make a copy of a document or scan it to your computer?”
Asker: “Oh yeah, you’re right. I need to do a lot of that.”
As shown in the chart below, you’ll also encounter a more robust selection when shopping for an AiO. In Q1 2018, AiOs represented 82% of all printing devices designed for small office home office (SOHO) use. This stat won’t narrow down your search much if you want an AiO, so let’s take this another step further.
B&W or Color
B&W vs. color is another component of the printer-buying purchase to consider. Will your at-home print needs require color output or will everything you print be in B&W? This one’s really up to you, but keep in mind that purchasing a color device will come with a slight premium.
The average price for a SOHO color device was nearly 15% higher than the average price for SOHO B&W products across merchants in the gap intelligence panel during Q1 2018. The good news is that this really only translates to $33. I'd suggest purchasing a color device, even if only for those "just in case" scenarios.
Get a printer with WiFi so you can print from your laptop, tablet, or phone. Maybe even your voice activated assistant. You can thank me later.
Now that you've determined a few features that you’re looking for when buying a printer, it’s time to talk price. Do some retailers price printers at a lower cost than others? In general, no. Nearly all printer manufacturers have a UPP (Universal Pricing Policy) in place, keeping the shelf price consistent across all retailers. With that, pricing will be similar no matter where you shop. That said, some merchants will offer gift cards, extra loyalty points, or other incentives to buy.
Nope, not a typo. I'm talking about supplies and how the cost of ink or toner and its associated page yields affect the cost per page (CPP). Simply put, CPP is calculated by dividing the cost of the ink or toner cartridge by the stated page yield. For example, if you buy a black toner cartridge that’s $99.99 with a 7,000-page yield, then your CPP will be $0.014 ($99.99/7,000). If you’re also buying color toner (there are typically three colors that include cyan, magenta, and yellow), then calculate the CPP for each color toner and add it to the CPP of the black toner. This will be your overall color CPP.
Often times, manufacturers will offer higher-yield cartridges that also carry a higher price. Despite the higher acquisition cost, it’ll save you money in the long run. My advice? Do the math.
Now that you’re equipped with a few feature and price considerations, it’s time to make your purchase. There are many brands and options to choose from, so you may also want to include your own brand and aesthetic preferences in your decision process. At the very least, the above criteria will serve as a starting point in your search to help you buy the printer that fits your home office business needs.