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What Should You Look For in an Office Printer? Here's a Wish List

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Does that office printer you're considering put dark text on a light page? Good enough.

Except, it's not that simple. I mean, it is that simple if you don't mind major inconvenience (the inability to make copies or send faxes, the high cost of ink refills, etc.), but for the rest of us, buying a printer for our offices is actually a decision that requires some thought.

Here's a list of things you'll want to look at:


For me, this is a must. A printer that has auto-duplexing can print on both sides of the page, a feature that will save paper when printing draft copies and office memos.

Automatic Document Feeder

You know that fancy slot on top of the copy machine that sucks in your documents, one at a time, and feeds them into the copier? That's your ADF, and it is a must-have feature for an office printer if you plan on making copies of large stacks of paper.

Cost of Consumables

Look up how much replacement toner and drums cost for each printer that you're considering. Divide the cost by the number of pages that the toner is expected to last. That's your estimated cost per page, just for ink. The cost can vary greatly, as some companies lock down replacement toner by embedding a microchip, while others allow generic companies to produce cheaper replacements.

Multifunction or Print-Only?

You'll want to decide whether you want one machine that does everything, or if you want separate dedicated machines for each task. The former is more convenient, but multifunction machines can become a real pain when one part (such as the ADF) breaks.

Read the fine print closely too -- a hand-me-down printer I have on my desk at home also has a flatbed scanner and an ADF feeder, but these only work for copying (not faxing or scanning). Many multifunction machines today omit faxing as well, since fewer and fewer people fax documents.

Inkjet, Laser, or Color Laser?

You may want to think twice about inkjet printers -- the cartridges are ridiculously expensive to replace. Ditto for color laser printers, unless you have a frequent, recurring need for color (such as in marketing materials).

Black-and-white laser is the best bet in terms of cost and quality.

Duty Cycle

Many printers will list a duty cycle, noting the approximate number of pages deemed to be a reasonable workload for that printer per month. If you're a solo practitioner, you probably won't run into any issues with any printer's workload. But if you have a larger firm, you may want to consider a more industrial machine with a larger duty cycle, or even a leased multifunction copier.

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