The Fine Print(3)

1/15/2008 By: Jeffrey Branzburg

from Technology & Learning

An update on the newest printers and printing trends.

students with laptops

Xerox's Phaser 6180

Years ago it was predicted that computers would obviate the need for hard copy. In reality, we print on paper more than ever before. Along with this increase, the choice of types of computer printers and their features has also risen—ink-jet or laser, color or B&W, multifunction or single function, networked or stand-alone, photo or regular.

Your choice of a printer should be based on your printing needs. For example, a classroom printer and an office printer are used for quite different purposes, and so your printer choice should reflect these differences.

In recent years many schools have gravitated toward the use of networked printers. The pros of networked printers include the need for fewer printers (which translates into lower costs, according to T&L blogger David Jakes, whose district has eliminated printers on teachers' desktops in favor of centralized laser printers) and uniformity, as well as the ability to print from various locations. Cons? Every teacher does not necessarily have a printer in his or her classroom, making just-in-time printing difficult.

An interesting innovation is on-demand printing. In such a system you send a document to print and then you go to any printer on the system, enter your personal code, and have the output printed there. Each account (teachers, students, administrators, and support staff) can have a printing limit set, so that people become more aware of the potential of wasting paper and ink. The number of people who just click Print on a Web site and get 10 pages when all they wanted was one could drop significantly.

In general, the price of printers has dropped in recent years. As far as the classroom is concerned, color laser printers are now affordable. Additionally, ink-jet technology keeps improving. On the following pages we bring you a rundown of affordable, classroom-appropriate color printers, laser and ink-jet. Note: Quoted prices are either "street" price or from the manufacturer's Web site.

Jeffrey Branzburg is a contributing editor and columnist for T&L.

What Type of Printer Should I Consider?

The choice of printer is greatly influenced by context and planning; decisions such as networking or on-demand printing are made on a school-wide or district-wide basis. Other features and considerations can depend on location, number of users, and potential uses of the printer(s):

LOCATION

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

Classroom

  • Teacher and student use
  • Speed: low to moderate importance
  • High resolution needed for graphics and pictures
  • Frequent color printing

School department

  • Department member use
  • Speed: low importance
  • High resolution needed for graphics and pictures
  • Occasional color printing

Small school/district office

  • Office staff use
  • Speed: moderately important
  • Fax, scan, copy

Large school/district office

  • Office staff use
  • Speed: very important
  • Primarily print forms, letters, official communications
  • Possibly fax, scan, copy

District office

  • Office staff use
  • Speed: very important
  • Large number of pages printed
  • High speed
  • Occasional color printing

Choosing a Printer

Here are 11 areas to consider when purchasing your printer.

Resolution
Printer resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi), the number of dots of ink that the printer will print in one inch of space. While to a certain extent dpi affects the quality of the printed page, dpi itself is affected by the print mode chosen (for example, draft mode) as well as the printer driver settings. Most printers have multiple dpi settings you can access. Higher resolution is desirable for printing tasks such as photographs.

Photographs
Some printers are optimized for printing photographs; they usually have a large number of nozzles through which ink is sent onto the paper (the more nozzles in a specific area, the finer the print); some use special photo inks as well. If you intend to print digital photos yourself, this is an important feature for you.

Ink-jet or laser
The two most popular types of printers are ink-jet and laser. An ink-jet printer shoots streams of ink onto the paper; a laser printer's output is created using a xerographic process similar to that of a photocopier. In general, laser printers are faster than ink-jet printers and create a crisper output. Ink-jet printers, however, are more commonly used for printing in color, an important feature to most schools (this, however, may be changing as the price of color laser printers has dropped). Regarding supplies, ink-jet cartridges are initially less expensive than laser toner cartridges, but usually need to be replaced more often, which results in a higher cost per printed page.

Speed
Printer speed is measured in pages per minute (ppm), the number of printed pages that are produced by the printer in one minute. In general, laser printers have a higher ppm than ink-jet printers.

Multifunction vs. single function
Do you want your printer just to print, or would you also like it to scan, copy, and fax? Multifunction printers can perform many of these tasks.

Single- or double-sided output
Some printers can print both sides of a piece of paper. In schools where printer paper is scarce, a double-sided printer can go a long way.

Network or stand-alone
A stand-alone printer is connected to a single printer, usually for printing from only that printer (although there are ways to use such a printer on a network). A network printer is connected directly to your network, for easy printing from multiple computers on the network. Some network printers can connect wirelessly to your network.

Print without a computer
Some printers come with memory-card support, so they do not even need to be connected to a computer to print. Just insert the memory card into the slot on the printer and choose the file(s) you wish to print.

Color or black & white
Do you want your printed output to be in color or black and white? If the main purpose is text, a black-and-white printer may suffice. Classroom computers are frequently color, so students' pictures, photographs, and multimedia files can be printed in the same colors in which they were created.

Cost of replacement supplies
Specifically, ink cartridges and paper. Some printers have been referred to as nothing more than ink delivery systems; you can purchase an inexpensive laser printer for less than the cost of the replacement printer toner cartridge. Some printers may require special paper in order to get optimal output. These costs should be factored into your printer decision. Another factor is standardization. Whether ink-jet or laser, consider standardizing on m odels that use the same cartridge to save money.

Paper handling
Many inexpensive printers come with a single paper tray, holding about 250 sheets. More costly printers may offer multiple trays, high-capacity trays (500 sheets), envelope caddies, or photo-paper handling.

—Jeffrey Branzburg

An update on the newest printers and printing trends.
Canon

Canon
Canon recommends models from its PIXMA series for schools—the MP470 ($99.99), iP4500 ($129.99), MP610 ($199.99), and MP970 ($299.99). All print 4 x 6 photos. The low-priced MP470 is slightly slower that the other three models (22 ppm compared to about 30 ppm), has a lower color resolution (4800 x 1200 dpi, as compared to 9600 x 2400 dpi), and does not print two-sided as do the other three. All are Windows and Mac compatible, and all but the iP4500 have a small screen for previewing images before printing. The iP4500 has two paper trays, and the MP970 is networkable. www.usa.canon.com

Dell

Dell
The Dell Color Laser Printer 3110cn ($449) can print up to 31 ppm black and 17 ppm color with black resolution of 600 x 600 dpi. It has two paper inputs (a 150-sheet multipurpose tray and a 250-sheet drawer), with optional two-sided printing offered. It is networkable and compatible with Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux, and Citrix. At a slightly lower price, the Dell Color Laser Printer 1320c ($299) can print 12 ppm in color and up to 16 ppm black. The 1320c has an optional network adaptor, a resolution of 600 x 600 black dpi, and is Windows compatible. www.dell.com/k12

Brother

Brother
Brother offers three color laser printers: HL- 2700CN ($499), HL-4040CN ($399), and HL-4070CDW ($499). All are networkable, with the HL-4070CDW also supporting wireless networking and two-sided printing. The HL-2700CN prints 31 ppm in black, but only 8 ppm in color; the others print 21 ppm in color or black. All offer up to 2400 x 600 dpi resolution. The HL-4040CN has the ability to print directly from a USB flash drive. All are Windows, Mac, and Linux compatible. http://education.brother.com/

Epson

Epson
Epson recommends its Stylus CX8400 ($99.99) and Stylus C120 ($89.99) ink-jet printers for classrooms. The CX8400 prints, scans, and copies. It has a multipurpose card slot to print photos and transfer files without a computer, and it features a screen for viewing images. Print speed is up to 32 ppm, with resolution up to 5760 x 1440 dpi, and it can print borderless photos in various sizes. The C120 print speed is fast—up to 37 ppm black (up to 20 ppm color). It also can print borderless photos in various sizes. Both are Windows and Mac compatible. www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/Educationmain.jsp

Lexmark

Lexmark
The Lexmark C534n ($699) color laser printer is networkable, has an optional 550-sheet drawer, and can print up to 24 ppm. It is compatible with Windows, Mac, Citrix, Linux, Unix, and Novell, and print resolution in black or color is 1200 x 1200 dpi. The C500n ($299) prints up to 31 ppm black and 8 ppm color at a resolution of 1200 x 600 dpi; it is networkable, compatible with Windows and Mac, and has an optional 530-sheet drawer. www.lexmark.com

Xerox

Xerox
The Xerox Phaser 6130 laser printer ($449) has a speed of up to 12 ppm in color and 16 ppm in black. Its paper capacity is 251 sheets, it is networkable, and prints at a 600 x 600 dpi resolution. The networkable Phaser 6180 ($599) prints color up to 20 ppm and black up to 26 ppm at 600 x 600 resolution. It has a 400-sheet capacity, with optional two-sided printing. Both are Windows and Mac compatible. www.xerox.com

HP

HP
HP's Officejet (ink-jet) and LaserJet (laser) printers have been around for quite a while, with regular model changes. The HP Officejet Pro K5400 series ($143 to $237, depending on choice of options) can print up to about 35 ppm in black or color. Differentiating features among the three K5400 printers are paper input capacity (250 or 600 sheets), networkable or not, and two-sided printing. The HP Color LaserJet 1600 ($307) prints up to 8 ppm black or color, offers an optional second paper tray, and prints up to 600 x 600 dpi. The K5400 printers are Windows and Mac compatible, while the LaserJet 1600 is Windows only. www.hp.com/go/education

Samsung

Samsung
The Samsung CLP-300N (about $299) features a 150-sheet cassette tray and a 100-sheet output capacity. It is network-ready, prints 2400 x 600 black and color dpi (17 ppm black and 4 ppm color). The CLP-600N (about $399) prints 21 ppm in both color and black with up to 2400 x 600 dpi. It is networkable and has a 250-sheet cassette tray and a 100-sheet multipurpose tray. Both are compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. www.samsung.com

Note: Quoted prices are either "street" price or from the manufacturer's Web site. Special education pricing may be significantly lower.

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