Technology

Product overview

Welcome to New Zealand's trusted, independent source of practical information. We provide recommendations on products and trusted businesses, exclusive deals and consumer advice. 

Printers

14feb printers hero default

Find the right printer for your needs.

We've tested 34 inkjet and 9 laser printers to give you a range of speed, quality and price options to choose from. We also explain how Google Cloud Print works, and the features to look for when you're choosing a printer.

Compare Printers

View all

Inkjet or laser?

Two printers from our tests - The Brother MFC-J870DW (inkjet) and the Samsung ML-2165W (laser).
Two printers from our tests - The Brother MFC-J870DW (inkjet) and the Samsung ML-2165W (laser).

They both put ink on paper so what’s the difference between a laser printer and an inkjet printer?

Laser printers use lasers to ionize the paper and then fix toner to the paper. Inkjets apply ink to the paper using thermal heaters to create tiny bubbles that cause a large increase in pressure, propelling a droplet of ink on to the paper.

Inkjets are the all-rounders of the printing world. They’re often smaller and can print photos. They’re also cheaper to buy if you want scanning and copying as well.

On average lasers print faster than inkjets. This greater speed – plus the sharper black and white text they produce – mean lasers suit people who do heaps of printing. But they’re often available only for black and white printing … and can be more expensive to buy if you want copying and scanning.

Compare all the printers we've tested.

What to consider

If you're thinking about buying a new printer, here's what to consider.

  • WiFi: Printers with built-in WiFi allow you to print wirelessly from anywhere in the house as long as you have a WiFi enabled computer. This is especially useful for homes where several users can all print to a single printer over a wireless home network. (See also Cloud Print.)
  • Resolution: This is measured in dots per inch (dpi). Quality can be limited by low resolution, but high resolution doesn't guarantee good results.
  • Ease of use: Typical problems include manuals which are not comprehensive enough, software which is difficult or overly complicated to install, weak paper-out trays and cartridges which cannot be replaced unless the printer believes it has run out of ink.
  • Software: Printer software should be easy to use. The "driver" is the part which lets the printer interact with your word processor, picture viewer and so on. Many printers aren't supplied with up-to-date drivers. But improved or updated drivers will usually be available to download from the internet.
  • Supplied accessories: Many printers are not supplied with a computer connection cable. The power cable is always supplied, but you may have to buy a USB or parallel port cable separately. Bonus software may be supplied, such as Adobe Acrobat, calendar programs and image editors. But these are unlikely to be fully featured versions.
  • Direct photo printing (DPP): Many inkjet and multifunction printers can print images directly from a digital camera. There are two main methods. In the first, the digital camera is connected to the printer via a cable, usually USB. The camera is used to tell the printer what pictures to print. Alternatively, the printer may be able to print directly from a memory card. These printers usually have a small LCD screen so you can view the contents of the card and adjust the settings, prior to printing.
  • Envelopes: The regular size is handled well by inkjets and lasers. C4 size envelopes (big enough for A4 contents), however, are too wide for many printers.
  • DVD label printing: A few inkjets print directly onto a paper-backed DVD. Don't try it on the bare plastic - this results in a big inky mess! For occasional use, it's a handy function. For volume printing most people prefer to use A4 sheets of DVD label transfers. After printing, you simply peel these off and apply to the back of a DVD.
  • The right media: To get the very best from an inkjet, you need to supply it with high-quality paper. Not so with lasers, which can produce superb text on cheap photocopy paper. Running costs for laser printers are generally far lower, as toner is much cheaper than ink.
  • Other media: You may also be able to print on A3, self-adhesive paper, transparencies, and even fridge magnets.

Additionally, for multifunction printers:

  • Scanning: Multifunctions generally incorporate a flatbed scanner. With the built-in scanner you can capture photos and documents, and save them to your computer. Slide-scanning is a rare option on some printers that allows you to scan 35mm slides.

    Most models come with optical character recognition (OCR) software, which allows text to be scanned in and saved as a file that can be worked on in a word processor.

    With all flatbed scanners, depth of field can be a problem. Most models scan clearly only when the item is pressed hard up against the glass plate – tricky when copying a book.

  • Copying: It's the combination of a scanner and printer that allows a multifunction to act as a copier. You may find the speed frustrating if you're used to a standard photocopier. Also, the cost per page will be a lot higher.

  • Faxing: A few multifunction printers have a faxing function, but it isn't common.

Cloud Print

Cloud Print allows you to print on any printer you’re connected to through your Google account.

This means you can print something (documents, photos, or whatever) from your phone on a printer across town or even on the other side of the world. But although you can connect any printer to Cloud Print it's always better to have one that’s set up to do so.

Each manufacturer has its own setting-up system for the service but none are complicated and often they just require you to register the Cloud-ready printer.

If you don't have a Cloud-ready printer you can follow these steps:

  • Install and run the Google Chrome browser. Then enable the Google Cloud Print connector in Google Chrome by following the steps below.
  • Log in to your user account on the Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.
  • Open Google Chrome.
  • Click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar.
  • Select Settings.
  • Click the Show advanced settings link.
  • Scroll down to the “Google Cloud Print” section. Click on Sign in to Google Cloud Print.
  • In the window that appears, sign in with your Google account.
  • Select the printers you want to connect, and then click Add printer(s).
  • You'll see a confirmation that Cloud Print has been enabled. Click Manage your printers to learn more.

Ink technology

What you need to know about printer ink cartridges.

Number of cartridges

The basic colours used by an inkjet are cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY), plus black (K). Originally most inkjets had only 2 ink tanks: black and a tri-colour cartridge. When 1 colour ran out, the entire cartridge had to be replaced.

Now most of the top-ranking inkjets have 4 or more ink tanks.

You can certainly see the impact on quality. Photo cyan (PC) and photo magenta (PM) are among the inks appearing more often. These are lighter colours – about half the saturation of regular cyan and magenta.

Other new inks are solid colours such as red and blue. It's more efficient to print directly from one tank, rather than generate a red or blue from CMYK print-heads. Then there are "gloss" inks – these are used to overprint a clear lacquer, giving a glossy surface to the print, and possibly helping its archival properties.

The cost of ink

Ever wondered why many printers are so cheap to buy? Here's a reason: they cost big money to run. Just 3 or 4 replacement ink cartridges could cost you more than you spent on the printer itself.

Use our running cost calculator to work out how much the tested printers will consume in ink (and paper) over a year, personalised to your usage.

Using colour when printing black

There's another trap to watch out for. Some printers use a combination of CMY colours to produce a black result, rather than draining the black cartridge (which is considerably cheaper to replace). Customers only become aware of this when they find they have to replace the colour cartridges after printing nothing but mono pages for some time.

Switching the settings to "greyscale" or "draft quality" should fix the problem. It forces the printer to default to the basic black cartridge ... usually.

Our advice: if you're planning to use an inkjet for a lot of mono printing, remember to ask the retailer whether there's a way to prevent it from using the colour cartridges to generate black. If you're misled about this at the point of purchase, then under the Consumer Guarantees Act the retailer has an obligation to replace the printer you bought with one that can do what you asked for.

Ink refills and third-party brands

One option for keeping the cost down is a third-party ink cartridge or cartridge-refill kit. Printer manufacturers would rather you didn't use these, as they make considerable profit from selling their own ink, toner and paper. Some even threaten to invalidate your warranty if you use other-brand products.

The choice is yours. Consumer tests overseas have shown that some third-party products are just as good as proprietary ones. And several of our members have reported good success with refills, and excellent savings on running costs.

Running cost calculator

Become a Gold or Silver member to use our calculator to work out how much you are likely to spend on printing each year, and how long it will take for a more expensive printer with cheaper running costs to pay for itself.

×