The best dot matrix printer
While laser and inkjet printers are increasingly popular, older technology still has value in daily life. Dot matrix printers are similar to manual typewriters, with a history dating back over 100 years. These beloved devices feature an ink-filled ribbon that’s struck by a print head to mark paper, and they continue to prove useful in certain home and work spaces.
Our top pick, the LQ-2090 Dot Matrix Printer by Epson, is among the best options available, but there are plenty of other models available catering to various needs and spaces. To learn more, keep reading our guide, which has all you need to know when considering a dot matrix printer.
Considerations when choosing dot matrix printers
Pins or wires in a vertical row comprise the print head of a dot matrix printer. It moves horizontally, creating characters by pushing various pins, not unlike a typewriter. Current dot matrix printers offer two choices of either nine pins or 24 pins, with the latter providing better quality at a higher price.
Dots per inch (dpi) gives you an indication as to print quality, with higher numbers offering better clarity. DPI is typically expressed as a ratio; however, this ratio shouldn’t be compared with other types of printers, as it won’t give a proper idea of which is better. 24-pin options are better quality than nine-pin models.
For business-oriented users, consider how fast the printer operates. Speed rating is denoted by characters per second (cps), with options as low as around 80 cps on a basic machine, or up to a thousand and beyond on high-end options. For home use, a printer with 300 or 400 cps should suffice.
The duty cycle is about how many pages per month a printer can produce effectively before deteriorating. These numbers vary from model to model, with lower usage options at around 5,000 pages per month. These are advantageous for home office or casual use. Higher-end models may reach 10,000 or 50,000 pages per month.
Paper can be fed through the printer in various ways. Continuous printer paper, or listing paper, is a popular choice for those printing high volume. Listing paper may be several layers and feeds continuously with perforations to separate pages. Some printers feed individual sheets as well. Keep in mind paper size, too, as some dot matrix printers don’t accommodate standard-size printer paper.
No carbon required (NCR) paper is an option for some dot matrix printers, allowing copies to be easily made without the added work and inconvenience that comes with using carbon paper.
Most ribbons print in black or red, with few other color options available. Dot matrix ribbons, however, are relatively long-lasting and durable. Some may be easier to replace than others, and replacement may be necessary if the ribbon is left out and unused over a few weeks or longer.
Most dot matrix printers cost between $300 and $600. While they’re more expensive than most laser and inkjet printers, they tend to last longer and require less maintenance and accessories.
Q. What kind of maintenance is required for dot matrix printers?
A. Paper jams may occur, which calls for a thorough clearance before using again, as pieces may adhere to the ribbon. An incorrect printer driver may also cause issues; be sure to have an accurate and updated driver on your computer.
Q. How long does a dot matrix printer last?
A. With proper maintenance and regular use, you can expect a dot matrix printer to last up to five years, and possibly even seven. This is longer than the expected lifespan of inkjet and laser printers. Most dot matrix printers include warranties for one year.
Dot matrix printers we recommend
Best of the best: Epson LQ-2090 Dot Matrix Printer
Our take: A powerful, efficient machine made by a trusted name in printing that’s built to last.
What we like: Feature-packed printer with choice of font and pitch size. Produces crisp, clear type. 24-pin print head. Easy to set up.
What we dislike: Expensive. Changing ribbon is tedious.
Best bang for your buck: Oki Microline 320 Turbo Mono Dot Matrix Printer
Our take: Light, compact, budget-friendly model offering efficiency for casual home usage.
What we like: Versatile printer that prints on single or continuous paper. Compatible with most operating systems. Durable; resists dust and dirt. Includes USB cable.
What we dislike: Setup takes time. Fairly noisy.
Choice 3: Epson LX-350 Dot Matrix Printer
Our take: Impressive nine-pin dot matrix printer offering good value and fast, effective printing.
What we like: Prints 347 characters pers second; efficient and energy-saving. Features USB port. Relatively quiet. Decent price.
What we dislike: Not ideal for graphics.
Anthony Marcusa is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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