Deciding Which Laser Printer is Best for Your Office

The two things you should be aware of while choosing a laser printer are: cost of purchase and cost of operation. However, it should be noted that, a low-price laser printer or a high-price one might not be the best choice for your office needs.

Before you buy, check the price and the expected life of the printer. For instance, I bought a black and white printer for $149. Sometimes, the single-size ink cartridges supplied along with the printer contain ink only up to 25% of the cartridge. So, to prepare for such a contingency, I had to buy a double-size cartridge for $60.

It would be worthwhile to calculate the per page cost from a printer taking into account the refilling of cartridges. Printing normal documents would use up less toner (about 5% coverage per page) than printing images, such as photographs. Prepare an estimate of the approximate number of pages you’ll get from a cartridge. For example, I estimated to get around 3000 pages from the double-size cartridge. That would cost me $60/3000 = 2c per page. Including the price of the printer and the cost of 10 packages of paper ($3 each) would total $239. For the total estimate of 4500 pages (includes both single-size and double-size cartridges), it would cost me $239/4500 = 5.3c per page.

The other operational issue is the expected drum life of the printer. For the printer I bought, the drum has a lifespan of around 10,000 pages. After this, it has to be replaced and it would cost me around $150. That’s the cost of buying a new printer!

The above example on operational cost calculation was carried out for a monochrome printer. The cost is different for a colour laser printer where you have four cartridges: Cyan [blue], Magenta [red], Yellow and blacK (CMYK). The colors are not used equally, and unless you’ve had experience with color inkjet printers, it’s hard to know which color you’ll run out of more often. Normally, black is used up than any other color.

Another important parameter is the number of pages you’re going to print in a month and the rate at which you need them. If you want to print 500 pages in an hour on a printer that takes about ten seconds to print a page, that’s not going to happen. It may be fine for someone who uses the printer six times a day to print ten pages. He wouldn’t have any trouble waiting for two minutes to get his print. But if you’re going to print like 5000 pages a month, then you might want to opt for a higher capacity printer covering potential spikes in usage as well.

Lastly, consider the number of people in your office and their usage patterns. It may be cost effective to buy a high capacity printer for a few “high volume” users and get a cheap one for the rest of the office. It may be economical to buy six cheap laser printers for individual users than to purchase a more expensive one for the whole office. By evaluating the various operational parameters described above, you may find a printer that costs three times as much has supplies that cost 1/2 as much than a printer that costs 1/3 as much to purchase. Or, if you’re lucky, you might find a cheap printer with cheap supplies.