Recommend me a printer
October 5, 2009 10:59 AM   Subscribe

I and the boyfriend are in the market for a new printer. We're largely clueless and would rather not buy an awful one. Help?


- A4 printing, don't need anything bigger.
- Color as well as black and white.
- Text as well as pictures.
- Ability to network it so we can print from multiple computers (all running Windows, if it makes any difference).

I have no idea how printing on photo paper works, or if we'd ever do anything of the sort, if it helps any; so it's not that necessary, as long as the printouts are good quality.

Speed is a secondary benefit; ideally, I'd like to be able to print something (ie. a page of text) quickly but sacrificing a bit of quality if necessary, as well as print something with high quality but sacrificing speed.

Not getting ripped off on ink cartridges would be awesome.

posted by sailoreagle to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Not getting ripped off on ink cartridges might be a near impossibility. Regardless, about a year ago I went to staples to buy new ink cartridges for my old printer (a bottom-market Lexmark 3-in-one), and walked out with a new printer (ink cartridges included) - it was actually cheaper than replacing my old ink cartridges. New printer is a HP deskjet D2545 - nothing super fancy, but it's compact and seems to use ink much slower than my previous printer. Haven't networked it yet but I'm sure it would work fine in an all-windows environment.
posted by ripple at 11:09 AM on October 5, 2009

I love my brother MFC-465N inkjet for these reasons:
o Ethernet: it's on my network and all computers can see and use it, no need to "leave one on" to share it.
o Macs, PCs and Linux boxes... all work perfectly.
o It's a fax machine. It receives junk faxes for me all day.
o It's a network fax machine. Yay, all computers can fax.
o It's a decent USB scanner, though I never use that because...
o It's also a network scanner... at least from my Macs. I didn't try with Windows.
o It has four separate ink containers for colors, which means when black runs out, I can replace black and not waste the rest.
o The ink is really cheap, at least on eBay.
o It does decent text on letter size (that's almost A4), not as sharp as laser but I'm pretty picky that way, most people would love the text...
o And it also has a 4x6 photo-size feeder for glossy photos. Photo quality on those is great.
o It's cheap. It was like $150 I think.
It's almost two years old, so it's probably been replaced by something newer but similar. All those features up there make me love it though, so when it does die, I'll be looking for something similar.
posted by rokusan at 11:11 AM on October 5, 2009

Ripple, let me introduce you to the wonders of Chinese clone ink cartridges on eBay! A case of twenty for the price of one real cartridge at Office Depot, free shipping from Hong Kong.
posted by rokusan at 11:12 AM on October 5, 2009

I've been really impressed with my Canon Pixma printer. They're multifunctional (i.e. they also do scanning and photocopying). The print quality is very good. Like rokusan, I don't use 'genuine' cartridges, partly because clones are super-cheap, and partly because I live a couple of hundred yards from a clone cartridge factory. They do 4x6 as well as A4.

Some of the Pixmas now support wi-fi I think. Mine's an old MP510 that's been serving me well for a couple of years. No networking but I can share it as long as my main PC is on.

Photo paper printing is pretty much standard for colour inkjets, and will get you more or less the same quality as a photo lab.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:29 AM on October 5, 2009

I second rokusan on a brother - they're never the best at anything (speed, print quality, photo quality), but they're rarely outright awful, their feature set is often amazing for the price (I've got the 495 - the succesor to his 465 - it's got all that, plus wireless connectivity), and the ink cartridges do not have any lockout chips on them, so the third parties can produce even cheaper cartridges than they can for other brands. Even the official brother carts are often cheaper than HP, Epson, Canon, etc.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 12:45 PM on October 5, 2009

Oh, and my 495 was about $90
posted by Calloused_Foot at 12:45 PM on October 5, 2009

Well, I have to dissent here- my Brother was pretty awful. Paper feed jammed constantly, and unjamming was a horrific process where I cut myself rather badly more than once. Their software was rigged so it would not print at all, EVEN IN BLACK AND WHITE, when one of the color cartridges was empty. I found that staggeringly obnoxious. And eventually, it simply disappeared and ceased to exist to all my computers, whether I reinstalled drivers, connected by USB, etc etc etc.

I have a HP wireless printer now and it's pretty great so far.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:41 PM on October 5, 2009

I have a pretty old Canon i560 (I think it's going on 6 years). I bought a little kit at staples, it has a drill bit that you can use by hand and some syringes. Fill up the black ink, put a cap on them and they are good as new. Super cheap. Quality enough? I don't know. I'm not usually printing for quality with this printer, just for reading stuff.

Anyway, make sure your printer can do this and you will save a lot of money.
posted by sully75 at 1:45 PM on October 5, 2009

Best answer: I have a Canon Pixma MP620 that I am very happy with (~ 1 year old). A definite must for any printer you choose is having built-in wi-fi capability.

Setting up the Canon on the network was dead simple and it's quite nice to not have to put it next to a router or computer for wiring purposes. On our previous setup, the printer network was set up through our desktop, which had to be on if we wanted to print from the laptop (I'm assuming that was the easiest setup, since my IT department-working wife set it up). With the wi-fi printer, all data is sent straight to the printer over the air.

It's also nice because it uses separate black ink cartridges for text vs. photo printing. True, you have to buy extra cartridges, but if you do more text than photo printing, you can stick to buying multipacks of the photo ink without running out of black before the other colors all the time.

The scanner on it is also faster and quieter than my desktop Canon scanner.

I've been printing on some generic Office Max photo paper and it looks good.
posted by puritycontrol at 1:48 PM on October 5, 2009

We recently upgraded to the Epson Artisan 700 and have been absolutely delighted with it. It's wireless, so all of our computers (mac and PC) can print without being plugged in to it. Also, the scans are great and photos print just as good as a photo lab. Highly recommended.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 2:11 PM on October 5, 2009

I have the Epson Artisan 800 and its great. Dream to set up, works fine.
posted by shothotbot at 2:23 PM on October 5, 2009


We had a Kodak all in one. It was horrible awful miserable complete piece of shit. The first print head went wonky really quickly, so we spent well over half our ink just cleaning the fucking heads. Then they eventually sent us a new printhead, and sure enough that went to shit in about 2 weeks too.

We have a Canon MP620 now and like it fine. Prints over wireless, doesn't burn too much ink.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:34 PM on October 5, 2009

Best answer: My old advice is still pretty much right, I think. Spend more on the printer, and you'll spend less on ink. Canon still makes printers with separate ink tanks, and any of those should see you right.

When you're installing the driver, don't do a default install - do a custom install and install only the driver. You don't want any of the shovelware that comes with it. If you want a photo management app, install Picasa.

You don't need a network interface on your printer to share it with a Windows network, since whatever PC you plug the printer's USB cable into can act as a network print server. Once the printer's up and running on that PC, right-click on it in Start->Control Panel->Printers and Faxes, select Sharing, and follow your nose.
posted by flabdablet at 5:02 PM on October 5, 2009

Absolutely seconding NOT A KODAK, too. I have yet to see a PC-related Kodak product that hasn't caused grief.
posted by flabdablet at 5:05 PM on October 5, 2009

Chiming in with the NOT KODAK folks, I'll anecdotally add that I and several friends agree we have never seen an Epson product that didn't suck major ass in one way or another - if the hardware was OK, the software was horrible, and vice versa. I have never had an issue with any Canon imaging product, from cameras to scanners to printers to photocopiers. YMMV.

In my mind there's absolutely no reason to buy an inkjet printer now that color laser is as cheap as it has gotten in the last few years. You'll pay more up front for the printer, but will save in the end on ink. Laser toner is more expensive per cartridge than ink, but the page count is much, much higher.

Alternatively, get a good, solid BW laserjet for everyday use, and an inexpensive inkjet for the occasional color prints. 90% of what most people print doesn't require color, so don't spend the money on ink to print color when you don't need to.

I've had good luck with older HP networked laserjets, the new ones I've used have been pretty impressive in terms of speed and color quality (mind you, this is a $1000+ printer, not a low-end $100-$200 color laser, but still).

You can also network most any printer these days using an ethernet-USB adapter, so don't let lack of built-in networking kill an otherwise perfect printer should you find one you are happy with.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:44 AM on October 6, 2009

caution live frogs: In my mind there's absolutely no reason to buy an inkjet printer now that color laser is as cheap as it has gotten in the last few years.

At the sub-$200 price point for color lasers, you're very restricted by:

1) Size
2) Lack of integrated scanner

That said, Newegg has the Brother HL Series HL-2170W monochrome laser on sale for $99 shipped.
posted by mkultra at 7:52 AM on October 6, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks very much for all the advice, folks; by now I've pretty much settled on getting a Canon, most probably a Canon Pixma MP640. It's an all-in-one, has WiFi (unlike MP630, from what I could see) and - unessential though it may be - an Ethernet port.

As for laser printers, I haven't got the money to buy a good all-in-one colour laser, and a monochrome would severely undermine the purpose of getting a printer in the first place :)
posted by sailoreagle at 9:07 PM on October 6, 2009

That said, Newegg has the Brother HL Series HL-2170W monochrome laser on sale for $99 shipped.

DON'T DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm taking my HL-2170W back to Staples tomorrow for a refund.
posted by fuq at 8:12 PM on August 27, 2010

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