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Jan's Computer Basics:

Output: Printer Types

Any of the current types of printers satisfies the work and cost requirements for someone. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Choose your type of printer based on which of the features previously discussed are important to your work, then choose the specific printer that best suits both your tasks and pocketbook.

Impact Printers

Dot-matrix printer With this type of printer something strikes paper & ribbon together to form a character, like a typewriter.

Advantages: Less expensive
Fast (some types)
Can make multiple copies with multipart paper
Disadvantages:   Noisy!
Print quality lower in some types.
Poor graphics or none at all.

Types of Impact Printers

Dot Matrix  

Forms characters using row(s) of pins, 9, 18, or 24 which impact the ribbon on top of the paper. Also called pin printers.

The more pins, the smoother-looking the characters.

Most dot matrix printers have the characteristics below:

dot matrix pins gif

Y as created with dot matrix printer  Y as created by dot matrix printer - enlarged

A dot-matrix y & an enlargement

Animation: Y formed by a dot matrix printer

Animation showing how columns of pins print the letter y
(Credit: Bill Lewis)

Bi-directional - prints left to right and also right to left
Tractor feed - uses sprockets to pull continuous-feed paper
Friction feed - uses pressure to pull single sheets
  • Inexpensive
  • Can do multi-copy forms
  • Can be slow
  • Loud
  • Graphics of low quality, if possible at all

Chain and
Band Printers  

Uses characters on a band or chain that is moved into place before striking the characters onto the paper.
  • Very fast
       up to 3000 lpm (lines per minute)
  • Very expensive
  • Very loud

Non-Impact Printers

Non-impact printerThis type of printer does not involve actually striking the paper. Instead, it uses a spray of printer ink or else toner powder.

Advantages: Quiet!
Can handle graphics and often a wider variety of fonts than impact printers.
Disadvantages:   More expensive

Types of Non-Impact Printers

Ink Jet

Ink Jet Spray gifSprays ink onto paper to form characters
  • Quiet
  • High quality text and graphics. Some can do color.
  • Cannot use multiple-copy paper
  • Ink can smear


Uses heat on chemically treated paper to form characters. Fax machines that use rolls of paper are also of this type.
  • Quiet
  • Relatively slow
  • Expensive, requiring special paper
  • Cannot use multiple-copy paper

Page Printer

Works like a copy machine, using toner and a heat bar. Laser printers are in this category.
  • Quiet
  • Faster than other non-impact printers, from 4 to 16 ppm (pages per minute)
  • High quality print and graphics.
  • Some can do color.
  • More expensive than impact printers
  • Cannot use multiple-copy paper

Things to Consider When Choosing a Printer:

How much output?

What speed is needed?
Is heavy-duty equipment necessary?

Quality of output needed? 

Resolution needed

Location of printer?

How big a footprint can be handled?
How long a cable?
Is loudness important?

Multiple carbon copies?

Does your work require you to use multiple-carbon paper?

Expense of ink or toner?

How much does a cartridge cost and how many pages will it produce? How is that number measured??
Photo inks are more expensive!

Toner cartridges are more expensive that ink jet cartridges but do not dry out easily and produce more pages per cartridge.

Number of cartridges?

Just one 3-color cartridge or separate black and color cartridges or a cartridge for each color (best , if you can afford it!)