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Choosing the Right Printer

Here are some things that you should consider when selecting your Line /Matrix Impact printer.

  • Speed Unlike page printers (lasers) these devices tend to use lines per minute to measure this speed. You should be aware that these printers also have different ’modes’ where by quality is offset against speed. I.e. ’draft’ mode will be fastest - but you will suffer degradation in quality as a result.
  • Width These printers will run up to 80 or 132 colum paper. This equates to A4 width and 14 inches (known as listing paper). Most printers will run easily at any width up to the physical print width of the printer - as long as the data is correctly formatted.
  • Duty Cycle How many pages will it print in (usually) a month, and how many do you need it to print in the same period? This figure may often be accompanied with a mean time between failure (MTBF) figure which is the manufacturer’s estimation on how often the printer ’may’ break down. This figure is usually impressive as it’s measured in operational hours and by their nature these machine tend to be fairly rugged.
  • Multipart Forms You can’t set copies on these printers like a laser and in most organisations changing the datastream to do so is practically impossible. Therefore check if you require multiple parts and choose accordingly. The best printers will be capable of printing from 9-14 parts (or copies) at once; the more common amount is 2 or 3.
  • Connectivity - ’Normally’ fairly standard but what about that old Twinax or Coax printer over there? Is it hanging off the back of a cluster controller, or being driven over a serial line driver? Do make the effort to find out ’before’ you buy your printers.

  • Emulation - What language are you talking to your printer in, and will the new one be able to understand it? This is particularly tricky for older printers running from bespoke applications. In a lot of cases you will find the replacement printer will "almost" work, however changing ’almost’ to ’actually’ can be a long and very costly process.
  • Barcodes / Graphics / Compressed Print - A wide and varied subject. Probably best summed up as complex and to be wary of. If you think you have requirements like this, best talk to your supplier. It may be useful to have them come and take a sample of your data so they can work with you to ensure that any replacement printers are going to be 100% compatible.
  • Multi Paper Paths - Some printers will enable you to feed 2 or even 3 different paper stocks through the printer, automatically reversing out and then pre-feeding the right stock for your application. This is especially handy if the printer is remotely situated and driven by host applications. You will however pay extra for this and may require additional options, so be sure you need it - or can fit it later if you require.
  • Auto Paper Thickness Adjustment - The latest printers will automatically adjust the gap between the printhead and paper stock depending on the thickness of the paper. This is especially handy if you are printing on multi parts or swapping stationary regularly. Although normally found on the more expensive printers this option can also save money as mal-adjusted printers can cost a fortune in snapped or damaged ribbons, or in down time due to unnecessary paper jams.
  • Auto Load - This feature allows the paper to feed itself into the printer and correctly set Top of Form (TOF). This saves time and fiddling - especially if you are changing / replacing paper a lot.
  • Zero Tear Off - Moves the paper to the correct tear off position before reversing it to TOF for ready for the next print.


Managed print services – MPS Datatrade have a complete range of managed printer services and solutions for all impact and thermal printers. With fully comprehensive packages that be financed over 3/5 years, demonstrating significant cost savings over a traditional purchase and after market support model.

Remote Print Service Using our remote printer engineer – Reg the virtual printer engineer, Datatrade can ensure maximum uptime and cost savings for your remote mobile printers.

Auto ID Services We offer a comprehensive range of service from the supply and support of new as well as legacy equipment. Even if the manufacturer has discontinued the unit or it has been rebranded. We can also supply a complete range of accessories for all makes and model of barcode scanners such as screen protectors, styluses, batteries and wrist straps.

Audit and discovery Our pre-sales engineers will undertake a full site audit to find / recommend the best printer solutions to meet your supply chain delivery requirements.

Repair We demonstrate an extremely high level of technical expertise and service for a wide range of Printer and Auto ID Products. We can repair onsite or in our workshop. We can also select and help install printers and Auto ID equipment for our customers. We can offer a fully managed Return to Base (RTB) service solution for smaller devices such as Barcode scanners, Hand Held Terminals and mobile printers.

Maintenance Datatrade offer a flexible approach to maintenance and can tailor a contract to suit your needs.

Hardware We can supply printers, printheads, print servers as well as all major brands of barcode scanner and hand held equipment… For further information on finding the right print solution for your business please use our Hardware Selector or for Auto ID enquiries contact us using the details below.

Media and Consumables We fully understand the importance of ensuring that the correct media and consumable’s are used in mission critical printers to ensure perfect print quality and enhance the life of your printer asset so we provide a large range of media and consumables for all manufacturers.

In addition to supplying these items, we will also work with you to ensure you are using the correct product for quality and cost effectiveness.

For further information please Ring +44(0)1604 66-66-01 or email us.
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Datatrade > Knowledge > Line/Matrix Printer FAQ > Choosing the Right Printer