PCR inspects the latest trends in printers


There is no escaping the fact that we live in the digital age. We store everything on our computers and smartphones – from our diaries to our photos. But there will always be times when we need to use a printer. Whether it’s for treasured family holiday snaps or a work document, sometimes there’s no substitute for holding a physical copy in your hand.

A growing trend in the inkjet sector – inkjet being the favoured printer type among home users – is the multifunction printer. Many new consumer devices are not just for printing Word documents – they are practically mini photocopiers. Multi-function printers integrate a scanner, often with a ‘copy’ function, which means the user does not even have to connect it to a PC to duplicate a document.

According to research by IDC, the colour inkjet multi-function peripherals segment in the EMEA region will increase to 29.2 million unit shipments in five years’ time – representing year-on-year growth of 4.45 per cent.

“The majority of home users are now using multi-function printers. They have dropped rapidly in price over the last few years, making them affordable as well as practical,” says Leanne Smith, Target Components’ primary buyer for storage and consumables.

But, according to Micro-P’s printer product specialist Phil Miller, the UK has been behind the continent in moving on from traditional printers. “The UK has been slow to adopt the transition from single function to multifunction printers in the home and small business, compared to our European counterparts,” he says, adding that he expects to see “a further significant increase as the price of multi-function printers continues to fall.”

Canon’s recent sales data shows that multi-function devices are now more popular with customers than standalone printers. Some vendors, such as Kodak, are so confident that the future lies in integrated printer-scanners that they no longer produce single-function machines. But not all consumers have turned their backs on traditional devices, according to Miller.

“There are obvious benefits to consumers having a single device on the desk rather than four. However, there is still a market for single function printers that can produce high quality graphics and photo printing, as this can’t yet be matched in capability versus price against the multi-function,” he says.

With the growing popularity of wi-fi has come an increased demand for wireless gadgets. A recent study by Epson found that demand for inkjets with wireless connectivity is growing by around 150 per cent year-on-year. To cater to this demand, the vendor has released a new range of wireless devices, while 50 per cent of Brother’s printers are now wireless.

“Wireless is a function that more and more home users are demanding – the ability to print from anywhere in the home, and from a range of devices is driving a huge growth in sales,” says Terry Caulfield, general manager of printing solutions at Brother UK.

A Canon spokesperson adds: “A growing number of offices and homes are looking for high quality printers that can be accessed by multiple people in the simplest way.”

But printing comes at a cost, and printers are under increasing pressure to be greener. Many of the major vendors have taken steps towards this goal – Epson’s Stylus Photo printers, for example, have been engineered over the last four years to use over 70 per cent less energy.

Accreditation schemes are the easiest way to assess a device’s eco credentials. Energy Star, the most well-known labelling system, promotes energy-efficient products that are designed to produce a smaller carbon footprint. According to Energy Star, over an average lifetime of five to six years and at an electricity rate of €0.10/kWh (about nine pence), the most efficient printer can save up to €200 (£178) in energy.

The Blue Angel scheme promotes products and services that meet green standards, such as the economical use of materials, a long life and a sustainable disposal – which can be invaluable for consumers.

Many printer vendors also demonstrate eco-awareness with their consumables. Epson, Konica Minolta, HP and Dell all offer freepost cartridge return programs in the UK. Refilling services and companies such as Greenpod, which specialise in manufacturing compatible carbon-neutral cartridges, are popular with green and thrifty consumers.

“I think more people are using refilling services, but our experiences have been very hit and miss. For the higher cost cartridges it can be a good option, but when your replacement only costs a few pounds, why bother?” says Steve Walsh, Meroncourt’s sales director.

Jonathan Francis, print and imaging sales manager at Midwich, says: “The recession means users are looking at the cost of ink. Traditionally, printers have been sold as a loss leader and profit has been made from the ink. We’re now seeing a reversal of this: hardware is getting more expensive and the cost of ink is decreasing. You can only sell the initial hardware once, but you can sell consumables for the life of the printer. It’s important to build a relationship with customers so they return for their next hardware purchase, too.”

On the other hand…

Despite consumers tending to favour inkjets, some home office users are joining their corporate counterparts in turning to laser or LED printers. Alan McLeish, a senior product marketing manager for OKI Printing Solutions, which exclusively manufactures LED and laser printers, tells PCR that the benefits fall into three categories: speed, reliability and longevity.

“Most laser and LED devices drive business productivity by being faster than comparable inkjet printers,” he says. “They are also generally more dependable, particularly in terms of paper pickup, paper feed and print head reliability. In this latter regard, inkjet printers can present problems if they are not used regularly, as their print heads will need to be cleaned before use – a process that consumes large quantities of ink in relation to the quantity of printed output achieved. Laser and LED solutions are typically more robust than inkjet printers, with higher duty cycles, delivering longer periods of uninterrupted service.”

SRP: £129.99
Distributor: Midwich

The ESP 5250 is a wireless all-in-one for consumers looking to create high quality photos at home. The 6.1cm LCD and memory card slot enable users to print without connecting a PC and the copier function can also be used without a computer

SRP: £286.35
Distributors: Midwich, Micro-P, Ingram Micro, Northamber, Spicers, VOW

The DCP-6690CW allows the user to manipulate images without a PC connection by using the 4.2-inch LCD touchscreen with a ‘built-in Photo Enhance’ feature. The A3 device, like Brother’s MFC-6490CW, is wireless and Ethernet-compatible, with a scan-to-PDF option

SRP: £518.65
Distributors: Midwich, Micro-P, Ingram Micro, Northamber, Spicers, VOW

This wireless device can copy, scan and fax, as well as print. The USB Direct Interface allows users to print from or scan directly to a USB memory drive, while the manual feed slot and straight-through paper path are ideal for printing letterheads and envelope addresses

SRP: £297.85
Distributors: Midwich, Micro-P, Ingram Micro, Northamber, Spicers, VOW

This A3 multi-function printer features 400- sheet paper capacity and a 50-sheet automatic document feeder. With high-speed super G3 faxing, the device also includes wireless and ethernet connections, along with a direct scan-to-PDF feature

SRP: £179
Distributors: Ingram Micro, Computer 2000, Micro-P

This ethernet and wi-fi-enabled all-in-one has a 7.5cm display for previewing images. Works with memory cards/sticks and digital cameras. Canon’s Auto Scan mode recognises what is being scanned and selects the appropriate settings. It can print directly onto CD and DVD

SRP: £729.00
Distributors: Ingram Micro, Computer 2000, Micro-P, Midwich

This device can print photos up to A3 size, or 14-inches wide, onto a surface up to 1.2mm thick. The eight ink tanks create a wide range of colours on the page, while the Ambient Light Correction feature corrects colour tones to represent them more accurately

SRP: £299.99
Distributor: Micro-P

The PX810FW has a large 19.8cm touch panel and wireless capability. According to the vendor, users can print photos that exceed lab quality using Epson’s own photographic ink. The device can also print directly onto CD and DVD

SRP: £59.99
Distributor: Meroncourt

This compact all-in-one includes memory card slots and a 3.8cm LCD viewer for printing photos without connecting to a PC. Individual ink cartridges allow the user to replace only the empty colour, thereby saving money

SRP: £69.99
Distributor: Micro-P

This multi-function printer has a 6.3 cm LCD viewer and memory card slots to allow PC-free printing. Users can also print from memory cards or compatible digital cameras, while the individual ink cartridges mean only the empty colour needs replacing

SRP: £205
Distributor: Midwich

The Pro205 offers printing, scanning, copying and fax options. Users can scan up to 35 pages at a time, while the wi-fi connection allows multiple users to print from various locations. Business Card Scanning software lets users scan up to eight cards at once, and synchronises the information with contact management programs.

SRP: Ranging from £36.28 to £51.82
Distributor: Ingram Micro

DURABrite Ultra Ink is a durable pigment-based ink. Compatible with printers including the Epson B-500DN, its quick-drying formula allows documents and photos to be handled immediately after printing. Prints resist fading on plain paper, while prints on photo paper resist moisture and spills

SRP: £14.49
Distributor: Direct

Greenpod’s remanufactured ink cartridges are designed with the eco-friendly consumer in mind. They use less packaging, and the company offsets its carbon emissions. This cartridge double pack is compatible with a number of Hewlett-Packard printers

SRP: £10.49
Distributor: Direct

This multi-pack is compatible with a range of Epson Stylus printers. Like all of Greenpod’s products, this is designed to be as kind to the environment as possible, with minimal packaging and waste. The pack contains black, cyan, magenta and yellow inks

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