A printer tends to be an afterthought that confronts many consumers after they have gone through the strain and hard decision-making involved in buying a computer. The types of model and the like can be quite confusing. However, there are a few basic types of printers on the market, the most common being ink-jets and lasers. There are also dye sublimation printers and thermal wax printers, also known as solid ink printers. The office workhorse of this bunch is the laser printer. Lasers work in a fashion not unlike a photocopier. Rather than transferring black toner to a sheet of paper to make a duplicate of an original, the laser printer makes its own original by drawing images and text with a low power laser. The two main advantages of laser printers are speed and quality. Laser printers can crank out text at rates of up to 16 pages per minute and the quality meets, or beats, what can be produced on a printing press. Lasers also offer low cost per page and are generally the best choice for business use. The main disadvantage of lasers in comparison to ink-jets is lack of colour. There are some colour laser printers on the market, but the quality of the prints still does not meet most people's needs. The cost of these printers is high, the cheapest units selling for about $50,000. Ink-jets, on the other hand, can cost a fraction of what it costs to buy a black- and-white laser. Units start at around $1,800. They work by spraying small droplets of ink through nozzles on to the page. The quality in ink-jets is much more variable than with laser printers. For $1,800, the text will not be particularly sharp and colour images will be just plain terrible. But, for about $4,000, you can have an ink-jet that produces text and images that match or better most laser printers. There is a catch, though. In order to get the best quality, you will have to buy special paper which increases the cost of printed pages considerably. Another difference between laser and ink-jets is Postscript compatibility. Most laser printers have it and all but a very few ink-jet do not. This is not a problem with text which can be rendered with Adobe Type Manager. But for Postscript graphics, it leaves the ink-jet at a considerable disadvantage. If you need to produce photographs and you have a few dollars to burn, you might consider a dye sublimation printer, also known as a thermal-dye printer. Most dye subs start at about $47,000. They require special paper and printing costs are quite high, with most printers producing A4- sized prints at $9 to $20 per page. But some run as high as $45 a page. Quality varies widely between brands and models, but good ones produce photographs that most people cannot distinguish from a real photographic print. Rather than using ink or toner, dye subs are loaded with a ribbon that looks something like Gladwrap, the plastic film, used to cover stored food. As the ribbon is unwound, A4-sized patches of cyan, magenta, and yellow dye coat the film. Some printers also use a black dye for more accurate neutral tones. The printer heats this ribbon which causes the dye to be transferred from the plastic to the paper. Because of the way the transfer process works, the printer can cause the dyes to blend to create a continuous tone image, with none of the dots seen, either in ink-jet or laser prints.