Do you need prints fast, or is quality more important? What sort of documents will you print the most? Will you print from one computer, or lots of devices? And how much do printing costs matter to you?
Clarifying your needs will help you narrow down your selection. Our chooser tool can help you decide which type of printer will suit you best.
Printers can generally be split into two main categories, based on the ink technology they use: inkjet or laser.
They’re also referred to in terms of their features – like wireless printers – or the tasks their best suited to – like home office printers. Below you can find out the characteristics of the different types of printers to decide which will suit you best.
How much should you spend on a printer?
You can buy a new inkjet printer for less than £50 and you don’t need to spend much more to get a good one. Our Best Buy printers start at around £40. For around £150, you’ll get a high-quality all-in-one, colour laser printer.
The more you spend, the more features you’ll get from your printer. But, these days, even an all-in-one printer/scanner with wi-fi and Apple AirPrint could only cost you £40. For over £100, you’ll get home-office features such as a fax function or an automatic document feeder, or automatic double-sided printing.
Which? tests printers for every budget, ranging from affordable inkjet printers to business-ready laser printers. We assess their quality, speed and running costs, and go deep into their features and ease of use. Each has its place and purpose. We help you narrow down your search so you find the right printer for you.
Inkjet printers are great all-rounders. They can handle text-heavy documents such as a student’s coursework or minutes from a meeting, but they can also print photos – and do a better job of it than a laser printer. They’re quiet and unobtrusive, and they also take up less desk space than a laser.
However, inkjets are usually more expensive to run than laser printers, costing you more in ink per printed page than you would pay for laser toner. That’s not necessarily the case with a few business-focused inkjet printers, but as a rule of thumb inkjets cost you less up front, but more in the long term.
Pros Smaller and cheaper than laser
printers, can produce good-quality colour prints
Cons More expensive running costs, slower to print black text pages than a laser
Inkjet printing costs per page are higher than colour laser printers, but colour laser printers and cartridges cost more at the outset. If you’ll print a lot, a colour laser printer should work out cheaper over time.
Laser printers shine when it comes to printing a lot of black text, and while colour models are more expensive than colour inkjets, they also produce professional-looking business graphics. They’re normally faster than inkjets when it comes to this kind of job, and can handle a heavier workload if you’re planning to print a lot of pages every month.
What’s more, while the toner cartridges are expensive, each one prints a lot more pages than an inkjet cartridge, so the actual cost per black-and-white or colour page is usually much less. However, laser printers are usually bulkier and noisier than the equivalent inkjet printer and will take up more space on your desk.
While they can knock out good graphs and charts, colour laser printers aren’t much good at printing photos. Stick to an inkjet if you’re likely to print off your holiday snaps.
Pros Fast prints and good-value
printing for black-and-white pages
Cons More expensive to buy, bulkier and often noisier than inkjets
You can buy straightforward inkjet or laser printers, but a device that scans and copies as well won’t cost you a whole lot more. Most have wi-fi connectivity built-in so that you can print from several PCs or laptops, not to mention tablets or smartphones. Some include a fax function, too.
Pros Can scan, photocopy and fax as
well as print
Cons Tend to be larger models that take up more space
The term ‘photo printer’ covers a wide range of devices. To some, it’s an A4 all-in-one that’s really good at printing photos. To others, it’s a dedicated compact photo printer that only prints small photos. Or perhaps you want an A3 specialist model with dedicated photo cartridges and high-resolution print heads for lab quality photo prints.
Photo printers usually have memory card slots and a USB connection on the front, so you can plug in your camera’s memory card or connect the camera itself and print away, with or without a PC.
Pros Optimised for photo-sized prints
Cons Can’t guarantee better print quality than a more flexible regular printer
Some A4-sized all-in-one printers can print great small photos and they’re more versatile than a compact photo printer because they can handle other jobs as well.
If you want to print large office documents, posters or photos to hang on your wall, then an A3 printer is the one for you. They cost more money and take up more desk space, but they can print on larger sheets of paper than a standard A4 printer. Some have a strong photographic or design focus.
Pros Ideal if you need to print at poster-size
Cons Take up significant space compared to regular printers
Home office printers
Most manufacturers have both laser and inkjet home office printers in their range, designed to print a lot of text and the odd business graphic rather than photos, children’s homework or art projects. Whether they’re an inkjet or a laser, these printers focus on printing text pages quickly and efficiently and on keeping running costs down.
Pros Fast prints, large paper trays
and useful functions such as faxing
Cons Large models that tend to be more expensive
Many home office inkjet printers have an Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) on top – handy for scanning and copying multi-page reports.
Black-and-white or colour printers
Black-and-white inkjets are now pretty much extinct, but you can still save a little money by opting for a ‘mono’ (black-and-white) laser printer. These are cheaper to buy than colour models, and if you’re mostly printing black text on white pages, you’ll also find them nice and cheap to run.
Colour makes your printer much more versatile, however. On the off chance you ever need to print a photo or colour document, a colour printer is worth having.
Since its commercial birth in the 1950s as a technological oddity at a science fair, gaming has blossomed into one of the most profitable entertainment industries in the world.
The mobile technology boom in recent years has revolutionized the industry and opened the doors to a new generation of gamers. Indeed, gaming has become so integrated with modern popular culture that now even grandmas know what Angry Birds is, and more than 42 percent of Americans are gamers and four out of five U.S. households have a console.
The Early Years
The first recognized example of a game machine was unveiled by Dr. Edward Uhler Condon at the New York World’s Fair in 1940. The game, based on the ancient mathematical game of Nim, was played by about 50,000 people during the six months it was on display, with the computer reportedly winning more than 90 percent of the games.
However, the first game system designed for commercial home use did not emerge until nearly three decades later, when Ralph Baer and his team released his prototype, the “Brown Box,” in 1967.
The “Brown Box” was a vacuum tube-circuit that could be connected to a television set and allowed two users to control cubes that chased each other on the screen. The “Brown Box” could be programmed to play a variety of games, including ping pong, checkers and four sports games. Using advanced technology for this time, added accessories included a lightgun for a target shooting game, and a special attachment used for a golf putting game.
According to the National Museum of American History, Baer recalled, “The minute we played ping-pong, we knew we had a product. Before that we weren’t too sure.”
The “Brown Box” was licensed to Magnavox, which released the system as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. It preceded Atari by a few months, which is often mistakenly thought of as the first games console.
Between August 1972 and 1975, when the Magnavox was discontinued, around 300,000 consoles were sold. Poor sales were blamed on mismanaged in-store marketing campaigns and the fact that home gaming was a relatively alien concept to the average American at this time.
However mismanaged it might have been, this was the birth of the digital gaming we know today.
Onward To Atari And Arcade Gaming
Sega and Taito were the first companies to pique the public’s interest in arcade gaming when they released the electro-mechanical games Periscope and Crown Special Soccer in 1966 and 1967. In 1972, Atari (founded by Nolan Bushnell, the godfather of gaming) became the first gaming company to really set the benchmark for a large-scale gaming community.
The nature of the games sparked competition among players, who could record their high scores … and were determined to mark their space at the top of the list.
Atari not only developed their games in-house, they also created a whole new industry around the “arcade,” and in 1973, retailing at $1,095, Atari began to sell the first real electronic video game Pong, and arcade machines began emerging in bars, bowling alleys and shopping malls around the world. Tech-heads realized they were onto a big thing; between 1972 and 1985, more than 15 companies began to develop video games for the ever-expanding market.
The Roots Of Multiplayer Gaming As We Know It
During the late 1970s, a number of chain restaurants around the U.S. started to install video games to capitalize on the hot new craze. The nature of the games sparked competition among players, who could record their high scores with their initials and were determined to mark their space at the top of the list. At this point, multiplayer gaming was limited to players competing on the same screen.
The first example of players competing on separate screens came in 1973 with “Empire” — a strategic turn-based game for up to eight players — which was created for the PLATO network system. PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operation), was one of the first generalized computer-based teaching systems, originally built by the University of Illinois and later taken over by Control Data (CDC), who built the machines on which the system ran.
According to usage logs from the PLATO system, users spent about 300,000 hours playing Empire between 1978 and 1985. In 1973, Jim Bowery released Spasim for PLATO — a 32-player space shooter — which is regarded as the first example of a 3D multiplayer game. While access to PLATO was limited to large organizations such as universities — and Atari — who could afford the computers and connections necessary to join the network, PLATO represents one of the first steps on the technological road to the Internet, and online multiplayer gaming as we know it today.
At this point, gaming was popular with the younger generations, and was a shared activity in that people competed for high-scores in arcades. However, most people would not have considered four out of every five American households having a games system as a probable reality.
Home Gaming Becomes A Reality
In addition to gaming consoles becoming popular in commercial centers and chain restaurants in the U.S., the early 1970s also saw the advent of personal computers and mass-produced gaming consoles become a reality. Technological advancements, such as Intel’s invention of the world’s first microprocessor, led to the creation of games such as Gunfight in 1975, the first example of a multiplayer human-to-human combat shooter.
While far from Call of Duty, Gunfight was a big deal when it first hit arcades. It came with a new style of gameplay, using one joystick to control movement and another for shooting direction — something that had never been seen before.
As home gaming and arcade gaming boomed, so too did the development of the gaming community.
In 1977, Atari released the Atari VCS (later known as the Atari 2600), but found sales slow, selling only 250,000 machines in its first year, then 550,000 in 1978 — well below the figures expected. The low sales have been blamed on the fact that Americans were still getting used to the idea of color TVs at home, the consoles were expensive and people were growing tired of Pong, Atari’s most popular game.
When it was released, the Atari VCS was only designed to play 10 simple challenge games, such as Pong, Outlaw and Tank. However, the console included an external ROM slot where game cartridges could be plugged in; the potential was quickly discovered by programmers around the world, who created games far outperforming the console’s original designed.
The integration of the microprocessor also led to the release of Space Invaders for the Atari VCS in 1980, signifying a new era of gaming — and sales: Atari 2600 sales shot up to 2 million units in 1980.
As home and arcade gaming boomed, so too did the development of the gaming community. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the release of hobbyist magazines such as Creative Computing (1974), Computer and Video Games (1981) and Computer Gaming World (1981). These magazines created a sense of community, and offered a channel by which gamers could engage.