Home Wiki > SDB:Printer buying guide
Sign up | Login

SDB:Printer buying guide

tagline: From openSUSE


The first choice to get information about the support level of a printer is the [OpenPrinting Printer Listings] at The Linux Foundation. You will need precise vendor and model details. A query for "Kyocera"/"FS-1010" is different from "Kyocera"/"F-1010". You may find well working PostScript laser printers second hand for a low price.
Tested on openSUSE Recommended articles Related articles
Icon-checked.png

Icon-manual.png Icon-help.png

PostScript printers

Printers with least problems are PostScript printers. Therefore PostScript printers are recommended.

Make sure that a matching PPD (PostScript Printer Description) file is provided by the printer manufacturer for the particular printer model so that you can use all its features, such as duplex printing and different resolutions, see Concepts printing.

(Real) PostScript Printers and emulation

There are two kinds of PostScript Printers: Those that carry the PostScript trademark logo and those that emulate PostScript. The problem is the price: Getting the trademark sign is expensive, increasing the printer price. The original PostScript fonts are included with genuine PostScript printers.

PostScript version

One disadvantage of old PostScript printers (usually PostScript level 2 or less) is that they are not able to print non-typical characters, such as those of Asian languages, directly with the printer's built-in fonts. Which characters a PostScript printer can print directly depends on which fonts are built-in into the PostScript printer.

When application programs produce PostScript for printing documents (see Concepts printing) usually the needed fonts for the particular document are included by the application program into its PostScript output so that this way the PostScript printer gets the needed fonts.

Nowadays application programs may need PostScript level 3 functionality for printing documents, in particular when printing non-typical characters, such as those of Asian languages. If the PostScript version that is supported by a PostScript printer is not PostScript level 3 the PostScript printer fails to print documents from applications that need PostScript level 3 functionality for printing.

Therefore PostScript level 3 support is recommended for a PostScript printer.

Non-PostScript printers

Non-PostScript printers must support at least one standard printer language.

For non-PostScript monochrome laser printers the recommended standard printer language is PCL5e.

For non-PostScript color printers there is no such thing as THE recommended standard printer language. There are some printer languages which should be usually supported by free software printer drivers but the support status for a particular printer model varies.

For more information see SDB:Purchasing a Printer and Compatibility and SDB:GDI Printers.

HP printers

Most Hewlett-Packard (HP) printers are supported by free software drivers. The reason is that most HP printers support a standard printer language.

The free software drivers HPIJS and HPCUPS are developed by Hewlett-Packard itself and provided in the HPLIP software, see HP Linux Imaging and Printing and SDB:How to set-up a HP printer.

Therefore HP printers that are supported by HPLIP are recommended.

Not all HP printers are supported by HPLIP, see the Unsupported Printers list at HPLIP.

It is crucial to have exact model names because small differences in model names can make big differences regarding support status, see SDB:Purchasing a Printer and Compatibility.

Free software printer drivers

Depending on the particular printer driver and its particular version the support status for a particular printer model varies from "unsupported" and "untested" via "experimental" and "partially" up to "good" and "perfectly".

Examples:

The accuracy of printer support status information in the above sources cannot be guaranteed, see SDB:Installing a Printer.

For openSUSE printer driver software packages see Concepts printing.

Prices

Printers that support a standard printer language (preferably PostScript level 3) cost more money. But you don't have so much trouble in getting fine printouts from those printers, as you might have with others.

If you buy a printer, you should also calculate the total cost of ownership: This should include replacement toners (inks), replacement drum kits, the filling of printer included inks (toners), the easy to get those replacements, and finally what any trouble until you get your printer to work may cost you. If you sum up this costs, a printer that supports a standard printer language (preferably PostScript level 3) gets suddenly comparable with other models.

When you see three different printers each one advertised as "1200 x 1200 dpi high quality printing" but one costs two times and one even ten times as much as the cheapest, do not assume that those who make the more expensive devices and those who even buy them are fools. Of course "the more expensive the better" is not right in any case. It depends on the particular use-case. But usually you get what you pay for.

Printers with non-free driver software

Some printer manufacturers provide Linux drivers as non-free software. Often parts of their software are free but usually the actual driver functionality is non-free software, often provided as a binary-only data blob called "module" or "plugin" or "library" or whatever.

Non-free driver software from printer manufacturers may not work with latest versions of the standard printing software environment in Linux. Because it is non-free software nobody except the manufacturer can or is allowed to modify it to get it working again.

Another problem of non-free drivers is, that there might be security issues but nobody except the manufacturer can or is allowed to fix it. You may Google for "linux printer driver setuid root".

Windows / GDI printers

Do not buy them.

It is unlikely that these printers will work under Linux.

For some outdated printers there are some drivers available but SUSE does not provide drivers for so called "GDI printers", see SDB:GDI Printers.

For those, which are nowadays in the market, there is usually no driver available at all - except the manufacturer provides a (probably non-free) driver.

In the past it happened frequently, that free software developers detected a way to support those printers. But a few month later the vendor came up with a successor model (sometimes even under the same model name) which had a different protocol implemented so that a different driver is needed and all the work done before was worthless. So, even if for a specific GDI printer a Linux driver exist, the driver will not necessarily work for the successor model.

Summary

Buy a PostScript printer that supports PostScript level 3 or a monochrome laser printer that supports at least PCL5e.

Alternatively you may buy a HP printer that is supported by HPLIP or perhaps an Epson printer that is supported by the Epson Inkjet Printer Driver (ESC/P-R) for Linux.

Further Information