Wireless? Network? USB? How to choose your printer

Printer and printout

Looking for a printer for a home office? The low end of printers has changed, and how we use our computers has changed. How we connect to our computers should change, too.

There was a time when if you needed a printer, you bought it and hooked it up to the printer port. AKA the LPT1 port, the Centronics connector, or the DB25 cable end. All that is gone. The choices now are: USB, wireless, and network. Because all the printer companies are marketing geniuses, they manage to sell network printers for more than wireless printers. Keep in mind that a wireless printer is a network printer with a network radio added; they have more components than a network printer, and if not for economies of scale, would be expected to cost more than a network printer. They don’t, when compared to other printers of similar printing speed and options. And most wireless printers also have a wired network connection for an ethernet cable that will connect back to your router or network.

Can I share my printer?

Back a decade or so, if you wanted to share a printer among multiple computers, I would set up printer sharing from inside Windows. That lets you use a printer connected to some other computer. I don’t do that now, because 1) that host computer must be turned on, and 2) cross-platform printer sharing in Windows doesn’t work. Sharing between Windows 7 and XP is more broken than not, and sharing isn’t a good option when printing from non-Windows gadgets.