Quoted in pages per minute (ppm) the print speed is the theoretical maximum throughput that the printer is capable of. In reality, most jobs sent to the printer won’t achieve that speed, since the printer often needs time to warm up and different types of documents may take longer to process before they can be printed. If, for example, you sent 50 copies of the same simple text document to the printer then it would probably achieve its top speed. But sending numerous jobs of different size and complexity (as is more often the case) will result in a noticeably slower throughput speed.
When the printer receives a document, it needs to convert the document data into a format suitable for printing, and it is the inbuilt processor that performs this work. A faster processor means that it takes less time to start printing the job, and this becomes very important for network devices that handle lots of different documents. Some low end machines use the Windows GDI (graphics driver interface) system which puts most of the workload onto the PC and hence do not require much in the way of built-in processing capability. GDI printers are therefore quite cheap, but they have limitations which make them unsuitable for anything much more taxing than personal printing.
Warm Up Time
This is the time it takes the machine to go from standby mode to printing the first page. For a laser printer to work, its print drum must be heated in order for the printing process to work properly. This is normally achieved by means of a halogen bulb which heats the drum when necessary, although HP uses a different technology of its own which is claimed to deliver far quicker warm up times. The more frequently a printer is used, the more important a fast warm up time is. Users can wait up to a minute for the printer to heat up and print even a single page document, this happening dozens of times a day on every printer in your organisation can have a quite large compound effect on productivity.
Memory plays a large part in how well the printer handles large jobs, or copes with long queues of documents waiting to be printed. More memory is obviously a good thing, but quite often printer manufacturers charge astonishingly high prices for additional memory. For example, third party vendors, such as Kingston Memory (www.kingston.com) can supply 128Mb for under £35, while some printer manufacturers sell their official branded 128Mb for over £250. In truth, there is practically no difference in quality or performance between the two parts, and there is a strong likelihood that they have both been manufactured on the same far eastern production line.
In most cases the standard Ethernet network interface is all that is required to attach a printer to the company network, and you will be hard pressed to find a workgroup printer that does not incorporate this standard connection. Wireless network capability is an increasingly popular option because it does away with the need for cabling and allows for easy relocation of the printer. USB is only useful for situations where you need to connect the printer directly to a PC rather than the network.
Built in Web Server
Why would a printer need to have its own web server? This is largely so that the printer’s control panel and diagnostic software can be easily accessed by the administrator over the company network or from anywhere on the internet if required. This allows problems to be solved, or at least diagnosed, remotely without having to waste time at the printers location.
A printer’s hard drive can serve several purposes. It can be used to store queued jobs when the machine’s memory has been fully used, or it can store copies of frequently printed documents such as expense forms or stock letters. Larger printers offer more advanced uses of the hard drive, such as individual user mailboxes. Low end personal or small workgroup laser printers generally do not need hard drives, but any machine that is going to see a reasonable degree of use in an office environment should come with a hard drive as standard. High capacity drives are relatively inexpensive and while a 10Gb drive will be good enough for most applications, most manufacturers fit their machines with ample 40Gb drives.
Printers use their own command language to describe how a document should look on the page, and the two most widely used languages are Postscript and, to a lesser extent, Printer Command Language (PCL). Generally most printers will have at least one of these languages installed as standard. The idea behind using printer languages like this is that they help to ensure that a document will look identical no matter what type of printer it was produced on, so long as they use the same language. Some printers do not use the genuine Postscript language but rather feature a cheaper emulator to copy the way it works. For the most part these will work well enough, but they may have difficulty with complex images, so if this is important to you then it is worth ensuring that your chosen printer features genuine Postscript support.