In computer graphics, output devices, at the end of the output pipeline, draw, print, photograph, or otherwise display the images that have been created and manipulated by using a computer. Electronic displays such as color CRTs serve both as input and output devices. Their output is "soft" (or ephemeral) and needs to be sustained with electric power. By contrast, those devices which produce "hard" output (on paper or different types of film) are often those which are referred to as "output devices." They include: impact and nonimpact printers and plotters; pen, electrostatic, laser, and thermal-ink transfer printers and plotters; and film recorders of all types, including desktop film recorders and the larger computer output microfilm (COM) machines.
Output devices exist for every application, and they range from room-sized pen plotters and COM recorders, costing up to a quarter of a million dollars, to hand-held camera cones costing around $100 with 35 mm. cameras attached. (A camera cone is not directly connected to a system, so, strictly speaking, it is the CRT that acts as the output device in this case.)
For good-quality copies the most cost-effective output devices are pen plotters for vector images and desktop film recorders for raster. For high volume, laser and electrostatic machines tend to have the edge in price and performance. Since most output devices can exceed the resolution of an electronic display, they remain among the most important major components of nearly every graphics system.