04.What to look for
Size is always a factor. Most colour lasers are squarish in shape and quite a bit larger than the average A4 inkjet printer, but vary considerably in overall bulk. Some compact-looking models need a paper output tray extended when working, so they use more space than it at first appears.
Speed is the maximum print output of the printer’s engine, in pages per minute (ppm). Look for this on the packaging. Don’t make a purchase decision solely on this figure, however, because there’s no standard for measuring print speed and actual output speed can vary greatly depending on toner coverage and colours used.
The status panel may include an LCD display with menu options or just simple status lights, depending on the model. Paper jam and low toner indicators can be helpful in quickly diagnosing problems.
Connectivity Personal colour lasers usually have a USB connector so you can plug directly into a PC. They may also include an Ethernet port for local area networking.
Paper handling Most personal colour lasers have one multisize paper tray, with a maximum size of A4. If you do a lot of printing, look for a high-capacity tray (250 sheets) and even a supplementary tray (50 sheets). Some printer trays handle only 150 sheets. If you need to print envelopes and heavier paper, look for a manual feed slot with movable guides.
Starter cartridge caution
Many laser printers ship with "starter" cartridges, sometimes preinstalled. This helps you get up and running quickly right out of the box, but they’re light on toner. Some starter cartridges don’t carry anywhere near the same charge of toner that a standard cartridge does. So, whichever printer you buy, keep aside some cash because you can expect to be forking out more cash for regular full-yield replacement cartridges fairly soon.
Top tip: Keep the box
Before you throw away the box, check the printer’s warranty requirements. Some models, such as the Brother, require the printer to be shipped according to strict packaging requirements if relocated (such as moving home or returning the printer for a warranty claim). Failure to do so might invalidate the warranty. Brother provides detailed repacking notes that you need to comply with. Other makes may require the original box to be kept for shipping.