When shopping for a printer most of the time people know whether they want color or monochrome, inkjet or laser. Specific features to look for in an inkjet printer and laser printer have been covered before. This time I thought I’d take a look at features available for most printers on the market such as wireless, all-in-ones, or duty cycles.


When shopping for an all-in-one a feature commonly overlooked is the display size. Reading about the specs, considering compatibility, supplies, and so on, the size of the display sometimes gets a lower priority. However, once it gets used one a day to day basis that smaller display can become an inconvenience.

The ones with no display, only a few cryptic flashing lights, we called those “headless” printers. Even a display with 1 line of text is preferable to a headless printer. I wish I could say after working on them for over 20 years I was fluent in blinking light-ease but no, I still had to refer to a manual to commune with some printers.


Wireless is almost a standard feature nowadays. With the push of a button setup can be a snap. Even if you have to use the setup wizard from a CD setup isn’t very difficult. Wireless eliminates the need to route a network cable or the inconvenience being tied to one location via USB cable. Being able to directly print from other computers or mobile devices is a handy feature.

  • Easy setup
  • Freedom of location

With wireless there are a few drawbacks. Wireless can be slower when printing larger files. It probably isn’t even noticeable with 20-30 page documents. Larger excel spreadsheets or high quality color images will balloon in size during the spooling process. It won’t effect the quality, it may just take a few extra minutes to print.

The other drawback is most wireless printers only support a single channel 2.4 GHz frequency. In an environment with a lot of wireless devices a single channel can easily succumb to interference. This means the printer may show offline until it is turned off and on. Or the router rebooted. Or both in some cases. If your router can be setup with a MAC address reservation I would recommend doing that for your wireless printer. I would also recommend turning off sleep mode if your printer has that feature.

  • Not as fast as wired, especially with larger files
  • Possible connection can drop offline


In most cases manufacturers take an existing printer design, then add a fax board and scanner. What features to look for with a Fax feature are error correction mode (ECM) and Fax forwarding (aka PC receive). Error correction mode (ECM) is also known as overseas mode. With this mode the fax modem will send a check sum every so many bits of information sent. If there is a problem, say noise on the line, it will resend the data. Another reason to look for this feature is it needs turned off with voice over IP (VOIP) connections.

Fax forwarding or PC receive will send incoming faxes to a PC instead of printing them out. It still receives a document over the phone line. Instead of printing the received fax out it will send it to a folder or as an email attachment to a PC. This is useful because you can archive received documents with fewer steps. It also saves paper because nothing is printed out at the fax.

Any Printer

Duty Cycle

This is typically the manufacturers guidelines for the monthly recommended volume. Sometimes they will mention a monthly maximum as well. It has been my experience these figures are not necessarily well tested rule but rather a rough estimate. A lot of times I think it reflects how durable the manufacturer believes their printer is or the target audience they had in mind when they made the device. Rarely it can be used to let a printer compete above it’s grade. It’s always a good idea to check this figure, especially when comparing several printers. The duty cycle could just be the deciding factor when all the other specs are similar.



As mentioned earlier, what to look for when buying an inkjet and what to look for when buying a laser printer have been covered. This article should fill any gaps between those articles.

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