Wide-Format Printers: A Buyer’s Game Plan


Do you have a game plan for finding your new wide format printer?

March Madness is upon us and while many of us look forward to watching some hoops in the next few weeks, investing in a new piece of office equipment is almost as stressful as picking your brackets. Fear not, because with the steady decrease in demand for commercial print, matched with the tremendous cost-savings of bringing your outsourced documents in-house, now has never been a better time to get in the wide-format game.The Final Four

With any technology, there are lots of things to consider. If you’re just starting out on your buyer’s journey, don’t forget the basics. Or, as we can call them during March Madness, your final four:

  • color,
  • costs,
  • performance, and
  • quality.

#1: Color or black and white? Canon ImagePROGraf

It may seem like a simple question. It's not. Do you want a device that can print in color or strictly in black and white? This is key. If you are primarily printing graphic-intensive jobs such as posters and presentations, you will likely want color. If output speed is more important, black and white generally gets the job done faster. If you are using your prints on a construction site, and durability is critical, you may want to stick with a toner-based, black and white option as waterproof capabilities are limited in color.

#2: Costs

The next thing to breakdown is your initial investment and running costs to include service, supplies, and paper. If you are replacing an existing wide-format printer, your current supplies may not always be compatible with your new device. Be careful of hidden costs too—a cheap printer with expensive refill cartridges is actually an expensive printer in disguise. Make sure you read the fine print about what is included in your monthly maintenance agreement too.

As with all new technology, there may be a slight learning curve to overcome, so be sure to account for the cost of misprints until your team fine tunes their workflow. If costs are adding up, and you’re low on cash, look into leasing.

#3: Performance and Speed

While speed is impressive, we all know that the fastest player on the court isn’t the only one in the game. That’s why there are several other factors to consider to gain a complete picture of a printer’s performance. If you have a continuous flow of files, throughput speed is critical. If the machine is used intermittently, then shoot for a device with a speedy first print out time and ask the tough questions:

  • How much internal memory does the printer have?
  • Can the printer process an incoming job while it’s printing another?
  • How low does it take for the printer to warm up after it is in sleep mode?
  • What is the approximate drying time between jobs (ink jet only)?
  • How often will the device self-calibrate and clean its print heads?

Processing time is also important as capabilities vary greatly within the market. If you typically print large file types, be sure to do a practice run with your vendor and see how the demo device performs with your native files.

#4: Image quality

Last, but certainly not least, see it for yourself, and compare the output on the demo floor. When we are talking about wide format, resolution is measured in dots per inch (DPI; that's the number of individual dots that can fit within an inch on a print job. The larger the DPI number, the higher the resolution). However, a higher resolution on a product spec sheet does not always mean superior quality. You must take into account the way the printer interprets the data, especially if your organization prints a lot of documents with fine details and dotted lines.

Media type can also affect quality. For black and white large format printers, no matter what substrate, print quality is more or less the same. Whereas with color printers, quality can vary greatly across bond, glossy, and vellum papers.

One Size Does Not Fit All

In the final stretch, don’t forget—when it comes to any equipment investment, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all solution. Your choice ultimately depends on your specific needs, the number of people using the printer, and the print/copy/scan work of you team. Still on the bubble? Leave the madness on the court and give us a call—we can help with your game plan.


About The Author

Dave Quint, president and CEO of Advanced Systems Inc. and immediate past president of BTA Mid-America. Dave has worked with copiers, MFPs, scanners, and document workflow software since joining Advanced Systems as a sales associate in 1989. His favorite part of the job -- “there is no greater joy than to see the positive impact these solutions have in our client’s businesses.’