Basic overview of the ranges of printer costs. It all changed in 2019 when the Pandemic hit and millions of people bought (or tried to buy) printers to set up a home office.
Pandemic of 2019
Cheap, basic, low-end printer. Used to cost as much as an ink cartridge.
Mid-range home printer. Low-end office printer.
Quality home printer. Mid-range office printer.
Printers are almost disposable items. Sometimes they only last 3 years. Expected life is 3-7 years. If you get 10, you’re very lucky.
To know how much your printer is really going to cost, you have to figure in ink costs.
For each printer you’re looking up, it will tell you which ink it uses.
Look in the store, or online, how much that ink costs.
And how many pages they say it will print.
Pages per ink cartridge can vary from 100 to 2,500 so it’s a huge difference.
If the documentation of the ink cartridge does not say how many pages, that’s a bad sign. Assume 100 pages.
You will have to guess/estimate how many pages you print per month/year.
If you divide Ink Price / Pages it will print, you get cost per page
Touch Control Panel
Here’s a big, beautiful touch-screen control panel:
I suggest a touch control panel, these days. It will cost a little more, but it comes in handy in one specific instance.
You will need to set up your WiFi on the printer so it can communicate wirelessly with your PC and your phone. During that process, you will likely have to supply your WiFi password, or wireless network key.
That could be 10 letters long, or more.
With a touch-screen control panel, you can just touch the letters and numbers you want to enter.
Otherwise you have to scroll up and down to get to the letters. Much more difficult.
Or if the printer does not even have that sophisticated a setup, you might need to connect it to your PC or phone, maybe through the manufacturer’s app, to set up WiFi.
In general, people find the touch control panel more intuitive.
Also, the bigger the better, of course it costs a little more.
Lighted Control Panel
If your control panel is “touch” it is also lighted, so you’re good.
If you’re considering a model that is not touch, that’s ok, but I would still recommend lighted. Ie LED (light emitting diode) rather than LCD (liquid crystal display).
An LCD (non-lighted) control panel screen requires light from the room to illuminate the screen. Depending on your lighting ocnditions, you might even need a flashlight to read the control panel. That’s a pain.
So I recommend a control panel that emits its own light.
Here’s an example of a non-lighted, LCD panel.
Automatic Document Feeder
For faxing and copying, there are 2 ways to feed the page to the printer/copier/fax.
Open the lid and put the paper face down on the glass is the basic way.
(Note: if your printer is not ALSO a scanner, ie multi-function, or All-In-One (AIO), then it might not have a cover and a glass surface in the first place. Only low-end printers don’t have a scanner too.)
The other method is the “automatic document feeder” (ADF) which is a contraption on top of the printer where you place a printed page, usually face up, and it sucks it in and copies it or faxes it.
Most often, if it has an ADF, you also still have the option of opening it up and putting your page on the glass if you want to.
Here’s pictures of 2 very similar Canon printers, one without, and one with, an automatic document feeder.
Automatic Two-Sided Printing
All printers can print two-sided, also called duplex printing.
The catch is do you have to remove the paper and put it back in, usually upside down, for the printer to print the back page.
I suggest looking for one that does this automatically, meaning, after printing one side of the page, it either keeps the paper inside, or sometimes sucks it back in, and prints the second side for you.
Cheap printers don’t have this, mid-range and up do have it.
You usually have to look deeper, and check the specs to find out if this feature is provided.
All-In-One printers sometimes have the fax function, sometimes not. I guess “All” doesnt mean what it used to.
Faxing, in Feb 2021 is less popular, but still out there.
If you need it, you will often have to look deeper, and check the specs to find out if it’s included.
Note, you will need to route a phone cable to this printer for faxing to work. That usually means you’ll need a phone jack near the printer. Or you’ll be running many feet of wire around your rooms.
Of course, this assumes you still have land line phone service. If not, then you can’t use “fax”. You’ll need some online service instead. Or scan and email your documents. Or take a picture of them and text or fax them. Or use a friend’s fax. Or go to a staples/fedex type store and have them fax them for you.
Especially during the 2019-2020 Pandemic, shipping can be a factor.
Free or cost? How much?
And in a few days, or a few weeks.
Vendors are finding it hard (2019-Feb 2021 at least) to keep printers in stock.
There’s a lot of features to consider when you’re in the market for a new laptop.
I recommend you read through this. Then go to Best Buy and bring this list up on your phone. Look around at laptops and prices in the store, then go thru this list with an actual device in your hands. That’s the best way. Best Buy last I looked (late-2020) had good prices. Almost as good as Amazon.
So, then, here are my 16 features for you to ponder.
The first one is a word of caution / recommendation.
I do not recommend Intel Optane memory. It adds complexity and bugs and provides little benefit. As of mid-2022 there has already been one major, publicized Optane bug.
Most devices in mid-2022 have SSD storage (solid state device, rather than the older HDD hard disk drive). I recommend SSD unless you really want to save a few bucks. It’s not much more expensive in mid-2022. When you have the speed of SSD already, Optane provides little or no benefit.
2. Screen size
Maybe the most important factor in choosing a laptop is the screen size. It varies greatly.
The most common size is 15.6″.
Next most common is 14″.
A small, “chromebook” like laptop might be 13″, 12″, or even 11″. These are small enough to put in your purse. Highly portable. Easy to carry around. Very light.
The largest common laptop is 17″. Not that common. Hard to fit in a backpack or bag. Heavy. But lots of screen area. Usually high performance too.
3. Touch Screen
Touch screens in laptops are becoming a little less common in mid-2022. There was a time a year or 2 ago where it was all the rage. Since your fingers are often on your keyboard or touchpad, moving your hand to the screen is not really the most convenient. So this is a personal preference. My suggestion is if you don’t have a touchscreen, you’ll never miss it. If you do have one, you might use it occasionally. (Apple Macbooks famously have never had a touch screen.)
4. Display Flip
Many laptops today, especially touchscreens, open all the way up and flip all the way around to flat again. In this configuration, the keyboard is facing down the laptop looks like a tablet.
These are often called “360” or something.
This feature is mostly marketing and not that useful in actual practice. People want to use their keyboards.
Often these laptops have “tent mode”. Again, only occasionally useful, maybe when watching videos.
An 11″ or 13″ chromebook or similar scaled-down laptop might be as light as 2.5 lb in 2021-2022. Feels as light as a cracker. You’ll feel like you can play Frisbee with it (but don’t 😉
A typical laptop will be more like 3-4 lbs.
A higher performance / larger laptop could be 5-6 lbs. You’ll notice carrying this around.
Of course if you want to pay more, you can get a light and yet high performance laptop.
Type some things. How does it feel.
Pay attention to the location of these important keys:
ARROW (UP DOWN LEFT RIGHT)
Make sure they’re in the locations your fingers are used to.
And the following keys vary laptop by laptop. Sometimes you need to hit the FN key.
Is the space bar long enough and comfortable to type.
Do you want a number keypad on the right? Only bigger laptops (some 15.6″ and 17″) have them.
A slightly premium feature is a “lighted keyboard”. It can be helpful when typing in dim environments.
How many hours of battery time does it claim? You’ll get close to that when new, and it will decrease every year you have it.
After about 3 years, it will be 1/2 as long.
Is the battery removable
Most in 2021-2022 are not removable. But you have more options in the future if it is. Not a big issue.
Is it smooth or sticky as you slide your fingers.The best are smooth like silk or glass.
Is it big enough to move around freely.
I do not suggest tapping to click. But if you want that, how does the tap sensitivity feel (it is adjustable a little after you buy it).
How does clicking feel. Not all touchpads click. Most do. If the touchpad doesn’t click, you’ll have to click with the mouse buttons.
If the touchpad itself clicks, what pressure is necessary. How does it feel. Does it click evenly an all areas of the touchpad? Top, bottom, left, right?
9. Touchpad Buttons / Mouse Buttons
Sometimes they’re physical and separate. Sometimes they’re integrated in the touchpad.
Sometimes they’re in the touchpad but not marked in any way.
The bottom right of the touchpad is often Right Click. Often this is selectible in the settings of the laptop after you buy it.
Usually clicking anywhere on a clickable touchpad counts as a left-click (except perhaps the lower right.)
If you can, use the Camera app in windows 10 and see how the image looks.
Too bright / dark?
Good resolution or grainy?
How many antenna and modes does it have?
1 is low end.
2 is mid-range.
4 antenna is high-end.
MIMO is a good sign. Often you’ll see 1×1, 2×2, 4×4. More is better. 1×1 is still functional.
12. USB ports / Card Reader
USB-C (smaller and oval. Highest bandwidth. Emerging as the new standard in 2022. )
USB 3.0 (large, standard size. High bandwidth. Still good for external drives and flash drives.)
USB 2.0 (large, standard size. Good for mouse and keyboard.)
How many ports?
Many have just 2. And that is enough for everyday use.
But if you’re plugging in a external drive, and flash drive, or an external mouse or keyboard, then you might run out of ports with just 2. (You can buy a port hub after, but it’s not that convenient.)
4 ports is a nice, generous amount.
Most laptops come with a built-in card reader. Most are full-size SDcard size which will read the memory card from a camera. With a micro-SDcard size-adapter, it will read the memory card from a phone. These are very useful for transferring pictures.
If it doesnt have one, you can get a separate card reader device that plugs into a USB port–but it will use up one of your USB ports so keep that in mind.
13. CD/DVD/Optical Drive
These days (2021-2022) an optical drive is uncommon. And there’s not that much reason for one.
If you think you need one, you’ll have to search for it. Larger laptops (15.6″, 17″) are more are more likely to have one.
You can get an external one later if you need it.
The remaining feature tradeoffs are close to pure price/performance not nearly as much personal preference
14. CPU (price performance)
The CPU or processor is the brains of the unit. One of the most expensive pieces (with the display, or hi-perf, gaming graphics, battery), and usually consumes the most power (except for hi-perf, gaming graphics).
AMD processors save you money. They are 98% compatible with everything that’s out there. Most AMD processors are very low performance. If you need service on one 3-8 years down the road, there are fewer options.
I usually buy Intel processors.
I recommend Intel Core i3 or i5 or i7.
Anything else is lower performance. I would characterize their performance this way:
i3 – basic performance. not snappy, but functional.
i5 – pretty fast most of the time.
i7 – snappy, fast and responsive.
However, there are different versions of i3, i5, and i7.
The best bet is find out exactly which variant of the processor is included, and go to cpubenchmark.net and look it up. Hi-end or Hi-mid-range are very good. You can save money by going lower. Lower than mid-range will result in noticeably slower performance.
15. Memory (price performance)
For Windows 10 I recommend a minimum of 8GB.
16GB is becoming more common in 2022 and is more than enough for most people.
Unless you’re doing intensive computation, video, graphics, you don’t need 32GB.
16. Storage size / HDD / SSD (price performance)
In 2021-2022 I recommend almost always an SSD. They cost only marginally more but are 2x to 4x faster and are becoming standard.
128GB SSD is small. If you have a lot of pictures it’s not enough.
256GB SSD probably big enough for most people. If you have A TON of pictures (thousands), and a bunch of videos (hundreds), maybe not.
512GB SSD a little more expensive, but big enough even for a lot of pictures and some videos.
In 2022 even 1TB SSD size is becoming common and reasonably priced.
If you have A TON of pictures (thousands to tens of thousands), and many videos (hundreds to thousands), you will need 1TB, maybe even 2TB. 1TB = 1,000GB. A one hour video can be 1GB in size. 1GB can hold several hundred pictures. In this case (especially 2TB), you might notice the difference in price between SSD and HDD.
That’s it! Have fun shopping! Call me, John, at 609.613.8815 if you want more help.
When you are on your home network (not at a coffee shop, or airport, or library) it is safe to set your network to PRIVATE on your Windows 10 PC. You can do this for your WiFi network. There are just you and the people in your building on your network, so it is safe.
To get started doing this, click on the Network icon in the system tray in the lower right of the screen.
First double check that you are, in fact, on your HOME network that you are changing. Otherwise it is dangerous to set your network to private. Check that as shown in this picture:
Click on some blank area the background to get out of this.
Now RIGHT click on this same network icon,
It should bring up a little context menu. Left click on Open Network & Internet Settings
That should open a settings window. Double check here, again, that this is your HOME NETWORK.
If so, click on Change Connection Properties
In the resulting settings page, if it is Public, which is often the default, click Private
Run the downloaded file (if it does not run automatically) to install Malwarebyates Anti-Malware. It should start running and give you a window automatically after installation.
If not, find it in the start menu and run it.
Malwarebyates Anti-Malware also appears in the “system tray” which is the extreme lower right of your screen, on the right side of the taskbar/icon bar. (This taskbar is the one which has the start menu button on its extreme left.) You can show it through there.
Click OK to get thru the trial notification (we’re going to turn that off soon).
Now there are two (2) settings to change from the defaults.
1. Turn on rootkits
Once Malwarebyates Anti-Malware is running, go into its Settings tab on the left, then the Protection and turn on Scan for rootkits.
2. Deactivate Premium Trial
Back to the Settings tab on the left, this time the Account tab on the top, and then click the Deactivate Premium Trial at the bottom.
Now you have to jump through all their hoops:
1. Confirm Yes
2. Trial Expired Popup–lower right
Now, finally, actually run the scan
You should get a nice window showing it has started. The best anti-malware scanner on the market, and it’s free! 😀
Quarantine any threats
If threats are found, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware will show you a screen with them. I trust it. Just Quarantine Selected
Clean up after
After Malwarebytes Anti-Malware finishes, you can go into its system tray icon and right-click and turn offStart with Windows, and also click Quit Malwarebytes. It will probably give a security prompt–just click OK. It doesnt hurt to keep it running, but it’s not really doing anything. Just re-start it when you want to scan again (eg, weekly).