Time for a laser all-in-one at home

Anyone who has ever used an inkjet printer can tell you this: The ink dries out, especially if you print infrequently.

It affects all brands and all inkjet models. Simply because ink is a liquid and evaporates when exposed to air. The ink residue at the nozzles of the ink cartridge dries out first, clogging the nozzles. Because of this, inkjet printers often incorporate a self-cleaning feature to prevent this.

"Factors such as climate and humidity affect the lifespan of the cartridge. For instance, a dry environment with either very warm or very cold temperatures may shorten it," explained Canon Singapore's assistant director, Mr Edwin Teoh.

The only real solution is to use a laser printer, whose ink comes in a dry powder form.

Laser printers used to be so expensive that they made sense to be used only in offices, where the printing volume was high enough to make the initial cost worthwhile.

In recent years, the hardware has become more affordable. A monochrome laser multi-function printer (MFP) can be bought for less than $200 now. Prices have declined the most for colour laser printers. Their average selling price here has slid from $745 to $554 in the past three years, said market tracker, GfK Asia.

And buyers have snapped up these cheaper printers. Canon told Digital Life that the adoption rate of laser colour MFPs has leapt by more than fivefold in the past three years. GfK Asia's figures indicate that unit sales have doubled.

In contrast, sales of single-function laser printers have fallen slightly in the same period.

The move towards multi-function printers is mirrored in other markets. They made up more than 45 per cent of all laser colour printers sold in Asia Pacific in 2011. This number went up to 49 per cent last year, said Gartner analyst, Ms Zalak Shah. She expects such sales to keep growing as the price gap between single- and multi-function models narrows.

Besides being more affordable, the latest colour laser MFPs are likely to come with features which let you print wirelessly from mobile devices.

The five printers - ranging from under $500 to about $700 - in this round-up all have mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.

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