A printer is now standard in almost every household. Inkjet printers are used most frequently. These devices carry out occasional print jobs in excellent quality. Multifunction inkjet printers can also perform scanning and copying. In combination with a PC or notebook, inkjet printers are easy to use and convincing in price and performance.

What is an inkjet printer?

Inkjet printers are matrix printers and use the most commonly used printing technology. The print image is created by deflecting or shooting small drops of ink.

The two groups of devices are defined as follows:

  • Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) = the ink jet is continuous
  • Drop On Demand (DOD) = the device shoots small ink droplets

The first inkjet printers were manufactured by IBM in the early 1970s. These were CIJ printers, which were only used for industrial applications, not least because of their size.

Canon and HP can be seen as pioneers of modern printer technology. Both companies filed a patent at the same time in 1979. In 1984 the HP ThinkJet was one of the first devices offered to private customers. Four years later, Epson, Brother or HP produced compact and affordable printers for the masses. At that time, the HP Deskjet was able to print a maximum of two pages per minute and worked with a graphic resolution of 300 inches.

How do inkjet printers work?

Inkjet printers produce a corresponding print image on the provided paper based on digital information. The printer is connected to the power supply system and set up by the user so that the digital information source can be accessed.

A USB cable is usually used to connect the printer to the computer. Modern inkjet printers have a WLAN interface, which enables wireless data transfer. Many models also have a slot for inserting SD memory cards.

Before the print job is started, the paper must be loaded into the appropriate output tray. The required file is sent from the computer to the printer and stored on the computer's hard disk.

The DOD method has proven itself for the inkjet printers offered today. Microscopic ink droplets are pressed through a nozzle onto the paper. For this purpose, the devices generate steam by heating the ink in the printer to about 300 degrees. Various methods are used to eject the ink. Most manufacturers use the described BubbleJet process.

The integrated heating element heats the water in the ink. The steam bubbles hurl the ink particles through the nozzle onto the paper.

The advantages and disadvantages of an inkjet printer

The biggest advantage for most customers is certainly the low purchase price of the devices. For less than a hundred euros, powerful multifunctional devices can be purchased. The printers are robust and durable and are quite sufficient for occasional print jobs in the private sector. Inkjet printers are also convincing in smaller offices.

In comparison to laser printers, inkjet printers require considerably less energy. The printers are easy to install and operate, making them ideal entry-level devices for private use or smaller offices.

If inkjet printers are rarely used, this standstill is usually noticeable in the condition of the cartridges. If printing is not done regularly, the ink may have dried up and therefore no printing can be done. Those who print more often do not have this problem, but may be annoyed by the short range of the standard cartridges. You can only print comparatively few pages and have to change the not exactly cheap cartridges frequently.

The advantages at a glance:

  • inexpensive
  • high-quality printing of texts and photos
  • easy to install
  • easy to use
  • quickly ready
  • environmentally friendly as no fine dust formation

The disadvantages at a glance:

  • Ink wear with infrequent use
  • frequent cartridge change necessary
  • Print speed lower than laser printer

For which applications is an inkjet printer suitable?

In the private sector, the inkjet printer is a true all-rounder. The compact and versatile multifunction devices are suitable for printing, scanning, copying and faxing. A good example are the Pixma printers from Canon. Even in the lower price segment you can find inkjet printers with convincing quality.

Those who buy an inexpensive laser printer will probably be disappointed, as the quality is not comparable to an inkjet printer from Epson or Brother. The printing is precise and true to detail. If you print photos frequently, you can optimize the quality and use special photo ink and photo paper. However, this will then also have an effect on the price.

How much do inkjet printers cost?

If you're looking for an inexpensive printer that offers impressive performance and flexibility, an inkjet printer is a good choice. It remains to be seen whether a printer for 45 euros will convince you. It depends on your personal requirements and the frequency of use.
It can be assumed that quite solid models can already be purchased for 70 to 90 Euros. Whether the purchase is really economical also includes considerations regarding the cartridges.

What is the best inkjet printer?

This question cannot be answered in general. Due to the wide range of devices, the purchase can be adapted to the personal needs. To come to a suitable result, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to print?
  • Do I also want to scan, copy and fax?
  • How often do I want to print?
  • Do the pages have to be printed particularly quickly?
  • Do I need a high resolution to print photos?
  • Do I mind an increased background noise?
  • Should the printer be used by mobile devices?
  • Should more than one person have access to the printer?
  • Is there enough space for the printer?

Clarify these points before purchase. Only when you know what requirements the devices have to meet, what and how often you want to print, and which functions are important to you, can you decide.

What should you look out for when buying an inkjet printer?

The wide range of inkjet printers on offer does not make the decision for the right device easy. Before buying, you should think about what you expect from your new printer. The following purchasing criteria can help you make the right decision.

  • Device type
  • Power consumption
  • Storage capacity
  • WLAN
  • Volume

Device type

First, a rough decision has to be made based on the following subdivision:

  • All-round inkjet printer
  • Office Printer
  • High-performance printer
  • Multifunction devices

Allround inkjet printer

Such a device can be used in many ways. Not only texts can be printed. Also the execution of graphic or photo print convinces in resolution and optics. Mostly, all-round inkjet printers are purchased for private use. Not least the low purchase price speaks for itself.
However, this should not be your only purchase argument. The follow-up costs can quickly add up and cartridges often cost more than the device itself. Prices for all-round inkjet printers start at around 40 euros.

Office printers

These devices are designed for professional use. Office printers usually work in continuous operation and deliver the highest possible number of pages in the shortest possible time. With an appropriate installation, the device can be accessed from different workstations.

High-performance printers

These inkjet printers are technically mature and thus qualify for professional use and meet special requirements. In some cases the Memjet technology is used. The print head is immovable and extends over the entire width of the page to be printed.

Multifunction devices

The already mentioned multifunctional device is used with all-round and office printers. The devices are not reduced to a classic printer, but combine several functions:

  • inkjet printer
  • Flatbed scanner
  • Photocopier
  • Fax machine

The many different connection options for various accessories also speak for the versatile use of a multifunction printer.

The power consumption of an inkjet printer

Generally speaking, inkjet printers in normal operation have little or no impact on the electricity bill. When the printer is not in use, it should be disconnected from the power supply. This is because in standby mode comparatively high costs are incurred.

Modern inkjet printers require a power of about 20 to 30 watts. If we look at the laser printer for comparison, the positive energy balance of the inkjet printer becomes clear. The power of a laser printer is specified as 500 watts and above.
In standby mode, the inkjet printer requires less than ten watts, but this value is not insignificant when projected over the entire billing year.

The storage capacity of an inkjet printer

As already mentioned, print jobs are usually transferred from the computer connected to the inkjet printer. The printer itself contains an internal memory where the digital print job is stored and then processed. The amount of data that can be transferred therefore depends on the memory capacity of the inkjet printer. If the amount of data is larger than the available memory, the transfer is carried out in batches. If a job has been printed, the next command is transferred, etc.

This can take some time with larger amounts of data. The printer must not be switched off during this period. The general printing time will be extended, since the stagnant data transmission will always result in interruptions.

It is advisable to use a printer with a correspondingly large memory when purchasing. If this has not been done, some models offer the possibility of replacing or expanding the integrated RAM memory. Due to the low printer prices, however, this measure does not seem very economical.

Inkjet printer with WLAN

If a network connection is to be established via a LAN port, the printer and router must be connected with a cable. This not only causes additional costs and effort, but also restricts you in the choice of the installation location for the inkjet printer.

A WLAN function is advantageous in order to avoid cable tangle and to be able to set up the device flexibly. A WiFi Direct function is similar to a WLAN connection in terms of functionality. The difference is that no common router is used. A WiFi inkjet printer is virtually its own base. Computers with WLAN function can access the printer directly.

The volume of an inkjet printer

During the printing process, a background noise builds up. The paper feed, the transport of the printer paper and the movement of the print head cannot be overheard. This may be less of a nuisance when used occasionally. When printing frequently in the home office, the volume can become a decisive factor.

The volume of inkjet printers varies. Devices with 40 decibels are among the quietest representatives of this product group. Find out more about the corresponding specification so that you do not experience any unpleasant surprises after your purchase. There are also inkjet printers on the market which, at 70 decibels, are equivalent to operating a hairdryer.

Which cartridges are used for the inkjet printer?

Two different systems are used:

  • Single-chamber system
  • Multi-chamber system

With the single-chamber system, the required basic colors yellow, cyan and magenta are in one tank. The black ink is filled in a separate tank. The cartridges usually have an integrated print head.
In the multi-chamber system, each colour has its own container and can therefore be replaced independently, if the cartridge is used up. This means that no ink is lost, which remains in the central container, because all three basic colours are rarely used up at the same time. With the multi-chamber system, the print head is built into the device and not part of the cartridge.

In general, the cartridges are an important purchase criterion. The manufacturers of the devices measure their turnover not only by the sale of the end devices, but also to a not inconsiderable extent by the distribution of the required ink cartridges.
The manufacturers offer original cartridges for all inkjet printers offered. These guarantee a perfect print image and are 100 percent compatible with the devices. However, the price must also be considered and quickly exceeds the purchase value of the actual device.

Whoever wants to save money can fall back on compatible printer cartridges. Although these are not produced by Brother, HP or Epson, they fit into the mentioned models. Normally, no loss of quality is to be expected. The decision for alternative cartridges in the wallet is noticeable. Up to 70 percent of the costs can be saved here.

There are also special sets on the market which make it possible to refill the ink yourself. The original cartridge must have a small opening for this, through which the ink can be filled.
The manufacturers work against this and equip their cartridges with chips. If the chip is not present, the printer will not recognize the cartridge.

The advantages and disadvantages of the different cartridges for inkjet printers at a glance

Advantages original cartridges:

  • protect the printer
  • guarantee the print quality
  • are recognized by the printer

Disadvantages original cartridges:

  • expensive
  • dry out if not used for a longer period of time

Advantages compatible cartridges:

  • costs can be saved
  • no or hardly any reduction in the print quality
  • often practical XL and XXL sizes available

Disadvantages compatible cartridges:

  • Printers do not recognize the cartridges
  • Ink dries out faster
  • Expression does not convince

Why is print head cleaning important?

The biggest shortcoming of an inkjet printer has already been mentioned several times - the ink threatens to dry up if not used for a longer period of time. The fine nozzles clog and the print image loses accuracy and colour brilliance. To prevent the ink from drying up, most printers clean the print head automatically at certain intervals.

During this process, ink is sprayed into a sponge. Some printers clean the print head whenever you unplug the printer from the power supply. The problem is that ink is lost during each cleaning process. If the printer is underused, the cleaning process will minimize the ink. For those who print little, we recommend using models that store their print head airtight. If the printer is not used, the print head is moved to a special storage area until the next printing process.