What to look for when buying a laser printer

What to look for when buying a laser printer.

HP Laser Jet P1102W
Things to consider when buying a laser printer:
  • Cost of ownership
  • Speed
  • Duty cycle rating
  • Duplexing
  • Memory capacity
  • Media support
  • Resolution

Cost of ownership

The laser printer that we recommend most often for personal or small office user is the HP LaserJet Pro M102w Mono B&W Laser Printer (74659). The cost of replacing toner cartridges and the drum are the two major costs after you purchase a printer. Toner cartridges for the HP LaserJet cost approximately $65. HP estimates that a single toner cartridge for the HP LaserJet will be good for approximately 1,600 pages. Most companies say that their cartridges provide "x amount of pages at y% coverage." Standard text on a page is around 5% coverage, so if a company gives numbers based on 10%, simply multiply the given number by two.


This matters most when you're in an office environment where many people are using the printer. For most home offices, the difference between 24 and 34 pages per minute (ppm) is irrelevant. For high-volume environments, however, there can be a big difference. Your use will determine what kind of printer you need. Remember also that the number on the box is usually the fastest it can go. When printing special fonts or graphics, it may take longer to compensate for an increase in printing complexity.

Duty Cycle Rating

The duty cycle rating is often another way of saying "how many pages can this printer print during the course of a month?" While this is useful for seeing how heavy-duty a printer can be, it can be misleading when comparing between different printer manufacturers.


Duplexing is the ability of the laser printer to print on both sides of the page automatically. You will need to check with the manufacturer specifications to see if your laser printer is duplex ready. The HP LaserJet P1102W does not offer auto-duplexing. However, its drivers are set to handle manual duplexing.

Memory and memory capacity

The amount of memory in a laser printer can vary greatly. The more memory a printer has, the faster it will go with many documents in its queue. You can always purchase more memory later to boost your printer's capacity, but it tends to be more expensive than standard computer memory.

Media support

Depending on what you want to print, your computer may handle many different types and sizes of paper. If you want a printer that will print different sizes -- for instance, envelopes, A4, or small formats -- be sure to get one with a tray that will handle different sizes of paper.


Resolution is not as much of an issue with monochrome laser printers as it is with inkjets. Standard laser resolution is anywhere between 600x600 or 1200x1200dpi. A laser printer will do a good job of printing clear text at 300x300dpi, so resolution while printing graphics is the major consideration. At DoIT, we have printouts from many of our printers that allow you to compare the way text actually looks.

HP Nomenclature Explained

HP laser printers have a standard notation which uses letters to explain some of the printer's features. These letters are normally lowercase and can be found directly after the model number of the printer (e.g. CP3525dn).

  • n - Stands for networking. This means that the printer is designed to be able to network without requiring the use of a print server.
  • d- Stands for duplexing. This feature allows you to print on both sides of a piece of paper without you having to manually do anything. This feature is especially nice for cost effectiveness as it uses less paper.
  • t- Stands for tray.
  • x- means that the printer will duplex, network, and has a tray.
  • w- means that the printer can be setup to print wirelessly.
  • i- stands for infared. This allows you to print from a PDA, cell phone, or a computer that has infared. This is a more specialized feature found in some HP laser models which most users will likely not need.

What You Get With Higher Models

As you increase the price of the laser printer, you are usually getting more pages per minute and a higher page volume. You are also getting more features such as duplexing and networking. Going up in price does not normally increase the ability of the printer to print better color images though. If you need to print a lot of high quality photos and images, an Inkjet Printer is more likely a better option for what you need.

Have any further questions? Contact the DoIT Showroom at (608)265-7469 or email techstore@doit.wisc.edu.

Keywords:personal departmental Color LaserJet Laser Printer HP Hewlett Packard "how-to" how to look   Doc ID:3104
Owner:Joseph C.Group:DoIT Tech Store
Created:2004-08-01 18:00 CSTUpdated:2018-10-26 12:06 CST
Sites:DoIT Tech Store
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