In the UK, wireless printers are becoming more and more popular for several reasons:
- They allow printing from several devices including mobile devices, without the need to be operated from a computer,
- Small businesses find wireless printers more practical than bulky photocopiers which need to be wired to an ethernet network in order to be shared between different users,
- Wireless connections are no longer slower than wired connections,
- Prices of wireless printers have come down significantly: prices of wireless printers are now on par with that of wireless printer-scanners-copiers, or multifunction printers, which may also be used to send or receive faxes. In the UK, the best wireless printers from manufacturers such as Brother, Canon, Epson or HP may cost little more than £300, with cheaper options starting just above £100.
Choosing a printer with wireless connectivity requires looking into several wireless data exchange protocol:
- Wifi printers are connected though any Wifi router, which is usually included in many consumer internet “boxes”,
- Wifi direct allows Wifi connections to be established without a router,
- Bluetooth printers allow files to be sent through Bluetooth connections, commonly supported by nearly all smartphones and notebook PCs, without the need for a router,
- RFID printers support file sharing through Radio Frequency ID waves, the same technology which allows contactless card payments, and which is supported by mid-to-high range smartphones,
- With cloud printing, files which need to be printed are stored online, and the printer only needs an internet connection to print these files, rather than a direct connection with the PC. This allows remote printing and printing to printers which may not support wireless connections.
All these technologies are not mutually exclusive and the best wireless printers may support all of them, allowing incredibly versatile printing options.
Additionally, printers which only support local connectivity, such as USB connections, may be wired to “print servers”. If the print server is connected to a wireless router, any PC connected to this wireless router may use the printer wirelessly.
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