Recommend me a cheap printer I can take with me on a 6-week trip
April 19, 2012 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Recommend me a cheap printer I can take with me on a 6-week trip.

Ideally (in order of descending importance):

— will print at least 5000 pages with one ink cartridge
— high-ish ppm rate (15+)
— compact (small enough to fit in a carry-on bag; otherwise I can have it delivered to where I'm going and leave it there when I leave)
— cheap ink replacement so it might be useful after the trip as well.

Thank you!
posted by skwt to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A couple of your points are somewhat in conflict:
•5000+ pages on a single cartridge pretty much rules out anything inkjet, which would offer the smallest, most portable form factor. (Some are even optionally battery-powered.) Most consumer inkjet printer inks have page yields ranging from 100-500 pages.
•If you want color, an inkjet printer is going to give you a much smaller footprint (and far less weight) than a color laser printer.
•The smaller the printer (laser especially, but inkjet too) generally the smaller and shorter-life the consumable yield. Samsung makes some really impressively compact color and b&w laser printers, but the smallest have toners with yields of less than 1,000 pages (compare to 15,000+ pages for an office-class color laser) and an operating cost approaching or exceeding color inkjet.

If color is not a requirement, as much as I hate to recommend Brother to anyone, it's not a bad option if you're viewing it as a somewhat disposable printer. Brother printers are very cheap to purchase, but have a stupid-high operating cost. (Most Brother printers use separate toner and drum cartridges, and the drum is often more than the printer. But if you're thinking of short-term use for the printer, you'll be done with it before you hit the typically 10,000~15,000 page life of the drum.) Another good bet for a B&W laser is the Samsung ML-2955ND.

Stay away from HP lasers these days, especially the P-series. Utter crap. (And I say this as a copier/printer guy that has been doing this for far too long.)

If color is a requirement but color output will be light to moderate at best, I'd suggest any number of compact inkjet printers. Be aware of the many drawbacks of inkjet printing, the greatest being that even with quality paper, if your output page has a lot of ink coverage, your page will come out wrinkled, curled, and looking waterlogged. Nearly all consumer-level inkjet printers use aqueous (water-based) inks, so even a brief encounter with a rain shower can have disastrous, runny consequences for your printed pages. A color inkjet is going to be the smallest, lightest, most portable, least power-demanding option.

If color output is a requirement and you'll be doing a lot of it, you probably want to go with a color laser. As far as fitting a color laser printer into a carry-on bag, the Samsung CLP-325 series is about as small as they come without being utter crap. In contrast to an inkjet printer, with a color laser printer your pages will come out crisp and flat, regardless of the amount of toner coverage. Your prints will also be moderately resistant to a surprise rain shower. The toners (4 each, K/C/M/Y) are rated at ~1,000 pages each. Less than you'd hoped for, but you can only make a printer so small and still have room for ink/toner. (And if you look inside one of these Samsungs, they really have done a wonderful job of shoehorning things in there and using every cubic cm of space.)

So, not a simple, clear-cut answer for you, but hopefully one that helps you to make a decision. :)
posted by xedrik at 8:35 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks xedrik, that's very helpful. I realize I should add: color not at all required. Just black text. Also, I have a Brother HL-2170W, purchased on unanimous recommendation from MeFi, and it is perfect for me in all ways, I just can't travel with it. Also, from the looks of it, my 2170W is about the size of the two you suggested. I was hoping for something about half the size. I guess it probably doesn't exist. Looks like the best bet will probably be to just buy another Brother and leave it there. Unless anyone else has other ideas?
posted by skwt at 8:53 PM on April 19, 2012

Take a look at the HP OfficeJet 100 Mobile series. I've picked up a few of these while putting together a mobile office solution for one of my customers. It fits in most pick-up truck glove boxes. It fits in my carry-on bag, as well, with plenty of room to boot. It even comes with a battery that charges while the printer's plugged in - you'll get up to 500 pages out of a fully-charged battery. It's got bluetooth as well as a USB connector.

Not sure how many pages you'll get out of a single cartridge, but the black printing rate is 22 ppm.

I've only seen a few prints come out of it - color photos, in this case. The quality is acceptable. Should have a new one in my hands in the next few days - will be glad to print some black and white and give you feedback when it arrives.
posted by syzygy at 5:07 AM on April 20, 2012

Bwah - I forgot to link to HP's official page on the HP OfficeJet 100 Mobile.
posted by syzygy at 5:09 AM on April 20, 2012

Another options is Canon's Pixma ip100 mobile. Haven't worked with one yet, and don't know the specs on it, but it is small...
posted by syzygy at 5:11 AM on April 20, 2012

Interesting, thanks syzygy. I'm thinking though that probably for the amount I want to print, it probably still makes sense for me to get a ~$80 Brother laser and abandon or try to resell it, rather than those very attractive $250-280 things.
posted by skwt at 9:25 PM on April 21, 2012

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