When shopping for a receipt printer, here are some things to look for:
1. Thermal or dot matrix - thermal is by far more popular because it is fast, quiet and clean. The only drawback is that the thermal paper will turn dark if you expose it to high heat. In some high temp areas like kitchens, thermal printer may not be ideal. Dot matrix is an older printing technology that is louder and slower than thermal. But the dot matrix printer uses cheaper regular paper rolls that will not turn dark under high heat.
2. Paper size - 2" wide, 3" wide or 4" wide - You should choose how much information you wish to print on your receipt to decide which size paper and printer you want to purchase.
3. Connection - USB, serial, WIFI, Ethernet or Bluetooth? The printer needs to be connected to another device like a computer, tablet or smartphone. You need to decide which communication connection you want between your device and the printer. In general, if the main system and printer are near each other, 3~4 feet, USB and serial are the best options. If they are far apart, then you can consider WIFI, Ethernet or Bluetooth. Do consider WIFI and Ethernet setup can be time consuming and complex to non-technical people while Bluetooth is considered easier.
3. Bin capacity - this refers to the amount or length of paper roll you can store inside the printer. In general a desktop receipt printer should store up to paper roll of 3-inches in diameter. This is about 210 feet of paper. For smaller mobile printers, the paper capacity tends to be much smaller.
4. Paper loading - Most thermal printers on the market today come with easy loading feature, meaning you no longer need to fit the edge of the paper through a thin slot like the old days. Dot matrix printers are a different story where you still need to feed the edge of the paper through a metal slot.
5. Top loading or Front loading - This is a personal preference on how you load the paper roll. Just remember to make sure you load the paper correctly so the shiny side is exposed to the printer head.
6. Auto-cutter - Most thermal printers are designed with a paper cutter that can be programmed to do complete cut or partial cut after each receipt is printed.
7. Printer head - This is the printer mechanism that outputs the receipt. Some choosy users may prefer Japanese makes of printer heads over Korean or Chinese makes. Seiko is a well-known Japanese printer head manufacturer
8. Print speed - this is measured by mm/sec. In general, any thermal printer in the 200~250 mm/sec is good enough for normal receipt printing.
9. Warranty - Check your manufacturer for warranty in term of time length and whether the warranty cover both parts and labor or only one.