If you are in the market for a new dot matrix printer, it is essential to know what to look for. It would help if you considered many different factors, such as speed, carriage capacity, and price. Here are 25 tips to help you identify the best dot matrix printer for your needs.

1) Number of pins

The number of pins used on a dot matrix printer is usually between seven and nine. The more pins, the better is the print quality. Five or fewer numb of pin indicates weak printing capabilities. A dot matrix printer with 9-pins is most suitable for heavy-duty printing.

2) Pin configuration

Look at the pin configuration closely. A dot matrix printer with a perfect symmetrical alignment of pins in three rows is the best. Some printers have offset pins positions which can result in poor printing quality.

3) Type of paper used

The type of paper used for printing determines the quality and print speed. The most common types are thermal paper, carbonless copy paper, etc.

4) Printing speed

The printing speed should be chosen depending on the need of the user. Faster is not always better as it increases the risk of errors and jams. Dot-matrix printers with a print speed between 60 to 160 characters per second are suitable for most business purposes.

5) Knockout pins or knockout levers

Some printers have pins or knockout levers that can break if overloading paper trays exert excessive pressure. Try withdrawing the paper from trays slowly to check this feature before buying a dot matrix printer.  

6) Ribbon life

The ribbon has to be changed frequently depending on the print volume. A dot-matrix printer with a long-lasting ribbon is preferable. Some printers use one-time or permanent glue type of ribbons, making change difficult.

7) Ribbon color

Black is the most common color used in printing for multipurpose documents like school projects, office reports, etc. Depending on the requirements, other colors like red, green, and blue are also available. A black-colored ribbon has good legibility and hides fewer imperfections than different colors. Red or pink backings are preferred mainly by some printers who want to beautify their printed pages through contrast coloring effects.

8) Noise level while operating

The noise generated during operation should not exceed 60 decibels. If the noise level is more than this, it may cause inconvenience to employees and reduce productivity.

9) Printing speed while criss-cross paper printing

The printing speed while criss-cross paper printing should not be less than 60 characters per second. Printing speed during straight print operations should not be more than 150 characters or symbols per second. We must also consider the time to return from “sleep” mode.

10) Type of power supply used

An electrical power source is preferred over a battery-operated device which needs frequent recharging, causing inconvenience and inaccuracy in document storage. Manufacturers offering both options are available for consideration if required for mobile use.

11) Standalone capability

Dot-matrix printers with standalone capability are preferable for unattended printing for business purposes. However, this feature can increase production costs.

12) Onboard memory

Onboard memory helps the device store data in its memory for later retrieval. This feature can reduce printing delays and make document storage, retrieval, and transfer between computers or devices easy. Also, it is useful when large print jobs are scheduled unattended.

13) Printer type

Print heads in dot matrix printers move left-right and front-back in tiny increments called “dots” to form characters. These movements are done by stepper motors, requiring very little power than other motor types built into dot-matrix printers. A printer with only one paper drive roller system is preferred over one with two rollers. One with two paper drive rollers can cause scratching of the paper surface resulting in less legibility of the printout.

14) On-line or off-line capability

Any printer with 12 pins per inch (dpi) is considered OK for most business purposes. However, some dot matrix printers can print a lesser number of characters per inch which ensures more incredible print speed. Some specialized printers like “underlining” models have special features to facilitate underlining letters, words, or lines in reports and other printouts. These features should be kept in mind while choosing a dot matrix printer to meet specific business needs.

15) Print formats supported

Every printer has its unique file type support to read and render text data contained in these files into a printable form. The printer’s ability to read different file types directly depends on the extent of its text rendering capability. This is also useful when large print jobs are scheduled unattended.

16) Level of internal data buffering supported

This is necessary to keep the printing job flowing uninterruptedly. Printers with small buffers are preferred to increase productivity by minimizing delays in receiving print commands from host computers or devices. While fast printers with larger pads offer more smooth and consistent output, their high costs make them less attractive for general business purposes unless justified by urgent requirements.

17) Level of internal processing power (i.e., speed) supported

For example, a dot-matrix printer capable of 24 MHz (megahertz) processing power is preferred over one with 16 MHz capacity.

18) Availability of barcode printing capabilities

These printers can print barcodes or special machine-readable characters directly on paper. Barcode printers are also print easily readable UPC product codes on retail items.

19) Dot size supported

Dots per inch (dpi) capability defines the number of drops that fit in one inch of length and width. This figure should be more than 10-15 dpi for all regular fonts. Selection of printer type may need to be reviewed if any new font technology like True Type Fonts (TTF) gets introduced requiring higher dot resolution levels, say 600 dpi or more.

20) Availability of advanced connectivity options like IEEE 1284 (e.g., “Parallel”)

IEEE 1284 is an industry standard for bi-directional parallel communication between two or more devices like printers. It has standard cables and connectors which support bidirectional data transmission. These can be used to connect the printer to different types of computers. If the printer does not have this connectivity option, then it cannot be attached directly to PCs via its interfaces like USB or RS-232, except using conversion cables. This reduces the printer’s speed due to the additional time required in cable conversions before the information is sent for printing.

21) Availability of advanced input/output features

Some advanced input/output features in dot matrix printers include extra paper trays, inbuilt card readers, additional ports to attach external devices like scanners, card readers, and network adapters.

22) Availability of user-friendly features

If a printer can be used unattended, it has higher productivity benefits. In such cases, the availability of advanced printing accounting, security, and management features that facilitate personnel monitoring will provide greater control over unattended print jobs. Some printers support “print accounting,” which shows how much paper is consumed for different print jobs in terms of quantity printed and the number of pages. This feature helps identify documents or batches requiring maximum output.

23) Availability of automatic cutter

A printer has an automated document feeder (ADF), which can automatically pick up paper from ADF, move it forward using rollers, perform a cutting function on the printed page, eject it finally into a tray for collection is preferred. Such devices are more convenient to handle continuous flow printing jobs where pages keep getting discharged one after another by themselves without requiring user attention or manual intervention. This enhances productivity, especially in unattended environments where runners need to be collected at pre-determined intervals.

24) Ability of the device to support high volume printing jobs

Generally, printers with a higher duty cycle perform better in high-volume print jobs. Duty cycle is a ratio of pages printed per month by a printer. For example, a printer with a duty cycle of 10,000 pages/month can process more print jobs than one with 5,000 pages/month capability. It is essential to check how much printing volume may be required from the device over the next year or so in any environment. This will help determine whether to purchase new or refurbished equipment that could be cost-effective.

25) Availability of desktop publishing (DTP) font set

Fonts are symbols used for printing text on paper and can be broadly classified into two broad types: Outline Fonts (vector font) or Bitmapped Font (raster font). Outline Fonts are represented using mathematical curves and lines, making them scalable to any size. Bitmapped fonts are composed of many dots – smaller in size at higher resolutions and larger for lower resolutions. These may not be suitable for printing high-resolution images like scanned documents. Some printers allow downloading extra fonts that can be used with desktop publishing (DTP) applications like PageMaker, Ventura Publisher, or The Draw programs.