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The Types of Computer Printers

Computer printers are categorized by how the ink gets splattered on the paper. Other subcategories of printer are based on the printer’s features. Printers fall into several general groups. Here’s the short list:

  • Inkjet, photo, and all-in-one: The inkjet, photo, and all-in-one printers all use the same basic method for putting ink on paper: Tiny balls of ink are lobbed directly on the paper. Because the teensy-tiny ink balls stick to the paper, this type of printer needs no ribbon or toner cartridge.

  • Laser: Laser printers are found primarily in the office environment, where they can handle the high workload. The printer uses a laser beam to create the image, similar to a photocopier, which uses an image reflection. The result is crisp and fast output, but not as inexpensive as the inkjet type of printer.

    A laser printer that can print in color is known as a color laser printer. The regular (noncolor) laser printer uses only one color of ink — usually, black.

  • Impact: Impact printers are few and far between these days, although once they were the dominant type of computer printer. These printers are slower and noisier than the other types of printers. They use a ribbon and some device that physically bangs the ribbon on the paper. Because of that, impact printers are primarily used now in printing invoices or multicopy forms. They’re not practical for home use.

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