Very CHEAP Mac printer with CHEAP ink?
December 19, 2010 9:56 AM   Subscribe

What is the cheapest color printer that will work with a Mac and, most important, has cheap ink?

I don't do much printing at home, so by the time I run out of ink it actually seems more reasonable to just buy a new printer instead of paying $40 for new cartridges!
Is there a cheaper solution here? It doesn't have to be fancy; I mostly just use it for printing out directions or coupons.
posted by exceptinsects to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd consider buying a color laser printer for $200 or so. It costs more up front than an inkjet, but in the long run you'll save money.
posted by lukemeister at 10:09 AM on December 19, 2010

There's no such thing as cheap inkjet ink, unfortunately. As you stated, if you are shrewd, you can buy a new printer for less than a new cartridge. The way to go is to get a sub-$100 laser printer. The toner will last a long time (no color, though) and you can refill it yourself for cheap. Smaller up-front expense but much better in the long run.
posted by proj at 10:10 AM on December 19, 2010

* Larger up-front expense
posted by proj at 10:10 AM on December 19, 2010

My HP laser printer might have been cheaper per page, but I ended up selling it rather than replace the cartridges even once - it would have been cheaper to buy a new printer. Very bad model. I loved it while I had it, though!
posted by theredpen at 10:20 AM on December 19, 2010

Here's a cheap HP printer.

I've had decent luck with HP printers: since I don't use one often there is a greater chance of the residual ink in the nozzles drying and clogging, although this hasn't actually happened with my HP's more than two or three times over the years. The HP's I've use had the nozzles built into the cartridge, so it's a simple and inexpensive matter to replace the offending part. I can't speak to how other companies build their printers except to say that I've had very poor luck with Epson printers clogging within a day or two. Those nozzles are attached to the printer rather than the cartridge and cleaning them can be frustrating and expensive in my experience.

Costco has cheap inkjet refills, between 8 and 10 dollars. They support Lexmark, HP, Dell, Lexmark and Canon printers:

According to an 2004 article at
"If you were to fill up the tank of your car with Hewlett-Packard or Lexmark ink, it would cost $100,000," said Gerald Chamales, chairman of Rhinotek Computer Products, a Carson (Los Angeles County) manufacturer of ink and toner cartridges that are compatible with name-brand printers. "If you filled an Olympic-size swimming pool with ink from HP or Lexmark inkjet cartridges, it would cost $5.9 billion with a B."
posted by bbranden1 at 10:45 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Brother laserjet 2130 or 2140, cheap to buy, they work on a mac without installing any extra drivers, will outlast and outperform any cheap inkjet and its pretty easy to eek out the cartridge life

If you don't print very much, a Laser is less prone to the ink drying out than an inkjet.
Printing things like color maps on a Mono Laserjet will come out in shades of grey, but its good enough for most purposes.
posted by Lanark at 11:00 AM on December 19, 2010

Best answer: I'd still look into the $/page cost of printing for the printers you're looking at, lasers or inkjet. These costs are tallied up in reviews on, and when I was buying a printer two years ago, the breakeven point (when owning a laser became cheaper than an inkjet) was about 10,000 pages, or 27 page/day for a year. That's a fair amount of printing (I do maybe 27 pages per several months). The inkjet cost can also be greatly defrayed by buying refilled cartridges (from sites like

To really save money, you could print at a public library. VERY inconvenient though if you're not within walking distance of one.
posted by mnemonic at 11:15 AM on December 19, 2010

@nding mnemonic. I email documents to my local copy shop down the street. I don't need to print much, so I got tired of having useless, clogged up Epson printers taking up space in my home office.

It's not super cheap in the long run but don't need to worry about running out of ink and I hated buying a &100 of ink cartridges just before the printer decides to conk out.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:50 AM on December 19, 2010

I don't know about Mac- friendly, but we have a Kodak printer/scanner. The printer itself is cheap (~ $100), the cartridges are super-cheap (~ $10 for black & ~ $15 for the CMYK one) and the print quality is good for both documents and pictures.
The downside is that the printer/scanner itself is pretty flimsy. We've been through about 3 of them in the past 3 years. But if you want cheap ink and don't mind replacing your printer every year, this might be the one for you.
posted by echolalia67 at 12:06 PM on December 19, 2010

I totally agree with mnemonic; you've got to look specifically at the cost per page and in general at the reliability of the printers in question. I love Epson inkjet printers -- they're fantastic when they work, but over the years, I've had nothing but problems from them -- from the cheapest of the cheap to the top of the line prosumer models -- they've all clogged at some point, no matter how much I babied them. Not worth the hassle and wasted ink trying to fix them, imho.

HPs are decent, but their reliability has been spotty since about 2000. Canon's are spectacular -- even for someone like me who doesn't print every single day -- but you must be diligent about keeping the lids closed when not in use and also keeping the room reasonably free of dust. I print on average about 20- 30 pages per month (sometimes I go weeks without printing anything at all) and Canon inkjet printers have been the best/cheapest/most reliable for me. I've had exceptionally good results with the i9xx series (my current printer is an Canon i9900 that I bought new in 2004 and it's still cranking out awesome prints after 6 years of sporadic use); the inks are readily available at Amazon, Costco and most other major retailers. Don't cheap out and buy 3rd party inks no matter which printer you get -- some are okay, but others are pure dreck and will clog the printer badly... you'd be better off throwing it away. Research which printers have the best reliability and cheapest cost per page for the price you want to pay, stick with OEM ink, keep the lids closed when not in use and you should be fine.

Laser printers are wonderful moneys-savers, but I've yet to find one that prints as well as a really good inkjet does in color.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:07 PM on December 19, 2010

Kodak touts its replacement inks as the lowest cost in the industry.

Fair cop: I do not own a Kodak printer, so it's anecdotal based off their marketing.
posted by carlh at 2:12 PM on December 19, 2010

Minor point: you're not saving money buying a new printer instead of new ink, because those printers usually come with 1/3rd full ink cartridges. The manufacturers have put a lot of thought into ripping you off.

I've used the same mono laser printer for 5 years, printed over 10k pages, and gone through 3 $30 toner cartridges. It's nice to just not worry about ink drying out or driving to the store in the middle of the night to get a refill. But I understand the initial cost is high and the lack of color is occasionally annoying.
posted by miyabo at 3:45 PM on December 19, 2010

Two options not yet discussed are cheap third-party inks [I just bought a pack of ten cartridges for this Epson NX100 on Amazon for $30; the printer cost $30 at Target last year] and "continuous ink systems" [I had one on the Epson CX4200 that preceded the NX100 for a couple years before I didn't pay attention to refilling it a clogged an air vent; total two-year ink cost: $60].
posted by chazlarson at 6:04 PM on December 19, 2010

Response by poster: Ha, mnemonic, I actually work at a public library but we don't have color printing!

I probably don't even print 27 pages a year, but it's really nice to have it for those few times I do need it.

The printer I have right now is a Canon Pixma MP470. It's actually pretty good, so maybe I should just suck it up and spend the money for new ink.
posted by exceptinsects at 10:56 PM on December 19, 2010

Something to be mindful of is that HP printers will install stupid print monitoring software on your Mac that starts at login, a behaviour you can't disable without searching through the directory and physically deleting the files. It even has a stupid icon you can't change that was made using some kind of magic-wand effect so that it has an uneven, pixellated white fringe. It seems petty, but it drove me almost insane.
posted by Acheman at 3:34 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: > It's actually pretty good, so maybe I should just suck it up and spend the money for new ink.

I think you've got it. According to one study (PDF, related studies here), ink cost per page for photo printing averages around 40ยข/page (letter size). The only alternative would be taking them to a photo/copy place, which would cost more but also be higher quality. Comparing the two cost-value wise, home vs. professional printing, the price of the ink cartridges isn't unreasonable IMO.
posted by mnemonic at 6:24 PM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: Here's a set of remanufactured cartridges for that printer: $19.

Oh, forgot refills as another option.

I can't find a link to a continuous system for that printer.
posted by chazlarson at 1:11 PM on December 21, 2010

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