Printers. With frikkin' lasers.
May 30, 2012 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Should I move to a laser printer?

I've been using an HP Deskjet for years, with its hideously expensive cartridges. Now I see I can get a color laser printer such as the Samsung CLP 325W for a hundred bucks, which is two inkjet cartridges. Or a Canon MF4450 for $130.

Our household prints very little, but we probably do go through one black and white print cartridge every couple of months, and a color cartridge maybe the same.

As I understand it, laser printers have much lower per-page costs. Is that still true? Should I switch?
posted by musofire to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
yes. toner lasts longer than ink in terms of storage too. Won't dry up. I made the switch to black and white laser 4 years ago and have been happy ever since.
posted by cosmicbandito at 12:24 PM on May 30, 2012

I don't see any reason to use an inkjet. People are always down on all-in-ones, but I have a Brother laser all-in-one that I bought in 2007 for $250 (I'm sure the current model is less expensive).

I think I've changed toner twice. I don't remember what the brother brand toner was, but the third-party recertified toner (it was a Brother cartridge the vendor seemed to have opened up and refilled), was $18 off of Amazon. No problems with it, a year or two later.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:26 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, absolutely. If you don't really need color, you'll find that you'll spend even less on toner with a black and white
posted by ssg at 12:27 PM on May 30, 2012

The black-and-white output from laser printers looks much nicer than inkjets.
posted by scose at 12:31 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have had much, MUCH better luck with laser printers than with ink jets, both at home and at the offices I've worked at. Particularly if you're only printing for usual household stuff and not, you know, gorgeous photo-quality glossies.

We have a Brother HL 1240 that my husband inherited from an old job five or six years ago, and from the look of it it's significantly older than that. We've bought one ink cartridge for it and have done no maintenance at all, and it works perfectly.

If you can afford the higher up-front costs, I say absolutely go for it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:34 PM on May 30, 2012

You can have two printers connected (if you have space): a laserjet for excellent low-cost black-and-white, plus your inkjet for costly color. I'm using a 15+ year old HP Laserjet, set as the default printer, with a Canon inkjet for the times my family want pretty. (My experience with recent HP printers is not good but the older ones were built to last.)
posted by anadem at 12:37 PM on May 30, 2012


I'll also add that (which is an excellent source of cheap cables and adapters) also sells aftermarket toner cartridges for about 1/3 of what the ones from the manufacturer would cost. I'm in no way affiliated with them, other than having been very satisfied with the ones I've bought from there.
posted by tomwheeler at 12:37 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I bought a $60 laser printer in 2003. 3 $30 toner cartridges later and 3-4000 sheets later, it is still going strong.
posted by sandmanwv at 12:39 PM on May 30, 2012

Goodness, yes. Nthing monochrome lasers. I've been happily operating a Brother HL-1440 for ten years now. I would tell you how many toner cartridges I've been through but you wouldn't believe me.
posted by Edogy at 12:39 PM on May 30, 2012

One catch with a laser printer is that they draw lots of current (for a very short amount of time). 8-10 amps. So they might make the lights flicker, or (I'd guess) trip a breaker if you had them on the same circuit with a couple of PCs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:50 PM on May 30, 2012

I've had a very similar printer (the CLP 315W) for a couple of years, and I've been really happy with it. Nice and fast, wireless so I can print to it from anywhere in the house, and I've only had to buy one cartridge for it so far.
posted by orthicon halo at 12:58 PM on May 30, 2012

If you can find one (and it shouldn't be too hard), the LaserJet 4 series (and I'd look for a 4M or 4MP which have PostScript) were real work horses. The toner cartridges are still readily available, the resolution is very good, you can network it and it is EnerygyStar compliant.

Oh, and they run about $150 on eBay.
posted by plinth at 1:03 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did some analysis a couple of years ago and figured out that sending photos out to places like Shutterfly to be printed is cheaper than printing at home under the most ideal circumstances (which would require you to be printing an entire ink cartridge's worth of photos at once).

So, it's cheaper to print photos elsewhere (and you get longer lasting, better prints besides) and the more pedestrian color printing (graphs and such) you probably don't actually need very often and can farm out to Kinko's or just print at work if you REALLY need color.

Not only that but you're losing a lot of ink to the printer's ink head cleaning process (it squirts out some kink to make sure the nozzles are clear) and evaporation. Since toner is already a powder and the mechanism that it uses to print doesn't really need to be cleaned you're only ever using the toner to actually print.

In short, you should absolutely dump the inkjet and get a laser.
posted by VTX at 1:06 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have had an HP colour laser jet printer for about 8 years, going back to when they were exorbitantly expensive. When I made the switch, I was spending about $80 a month on inkjet cartridges. I made my money back in the first six months. It was several years until I had to replace the cartridges (and I was using the printer for a home-based graphic design business) but it did cost a fortune at the point to do it ($300+ for the 4 cartridges). Still, that was a couple years ago, so it's still much cheaper than inkjet cartridges, even though it hurts much more in the moment.

One thing to know is that colour laserjets don't print photos very well at all, so if that's a consideration, you may want to go for the option suggested above of keeping the inkjet for colour and the laserjet for bw.
posted by looli at 1:08 PM on May 30, 2012

I love the LaserJet 4, but really, you don't need to try and find one of those. Get a Brother HL series and it's just as capable and much faster.
posted by odinsdream at 1:12 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I bought a refurbed monochrome Brother for $49 a year or so ago and my only regret is that I stuck with crappy inkjets for so long. I don't print much either and it is so nice to go to print something important/urgent without finding the ink clogged or dried up from lack of use.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 1:13 PM on May 30, 2012

seconding odinsdream; replaced a huge heavy LJ4 that dimmed the lights (and sometimes tripped the breakers) and was beginning to need expensive new parts with a Brother. Faster, cheaper, quicker, better.
posted by scruss at 1:38 PM on May 30, 2012

The only downside is that color laser printers aren't great at photos. And they for sure won't print on photo paper. You can massage some decent results if you can set the registration perfectly, use some heavy paper and use an application that sends the photo to the printer in a format that it understands. But if most of your printing is stuff off the web and other "office" style printing, you should be fine with it.

The only other downside is that they can seem expensive. If you average the costs out per page, they should run cheaper than inkjets. But the instantaneous costs can seem high when your cyan and magenta cartridge go low at the same time and you are spending well north of $100 at Staples to get the thing back running.

Look very closely at the model you choose and the cost of consumables. Consumables have general ratings as to how many pages they will print before running out. The cheaper printers' cartridges will invariably cost more per page than even a slightly more expensive model. (For color printers, what you do is check and see how many pages each cartridge is expected to print, and then divide that by the price of a whole set. Supposing the cartridges cost $50 a piece and claim 2000 pages of lifetime. A set of cartridges costs $200 and goes for 2000 pages, so that's a nominal 10 cents a page.)

Finally, I implore you to not use generic cartridges with whatever printer you choose. I fix printers, and they can be OK in monochrome printers. But my experience in color laser printers is that they are just not worth it. The worst example I've seen is in some Xerox Phaser machines- the generic toner is actually abrasive and ruins everything it touches. You've saved $100 on cartridges, but end up replacing other consumables (photoconductors, fusers, transfer belts, etc) 2 to 4 times as often, and those parts cost hundreds.
posted by gjc at 1:59 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

One catch with a laser printer is that they draw lots of current (for a very short amount of time). 8-10 amps.

No kidding. DO NOT plug a laserprinter into UPS, or at least the battery-powered plugs of one. The UPSs I've had go into freak-out overload mode on restart, which is not comfort to a bunch of skittish cats during a thunderstorm, I can tell you from experience.

That said, we've been very happy with our duplex Samsung, of which the ML-2955ND seems to be the modern version (double-sided printing is really nice). Ours can go months between printing stuff, but it does so reliably every time. IME even cheaper lasers don't wear out with light to moderate use. One of my brothers has one that's more than a dozen years old.
posted by bonehead at 2:10 PM on May 30, 2012

When you shop for a laser printer, pay close attention to whether it comes with full toner cartridges or 'starter' toner cartridges. You sometimes have to dig through the fine print to find this info, but it makes big difference. If you only get partially filled starter toner when the printer is new, you'll be buying toner pretty soon, and it could easily cost more than the printer itself.
posted by spilon at 2:19 PM on May 30, 2012

If you don't need photo quality prints, I would definitely go laser. I bought my parents a b/w Brother laser for around $150 in 2003-4, they only got rid of it a 2 years ago because I bought them a new Mac and Brother didn't make an Intel driver. It now lives at my sisters house attached to her PC and is still working fine. It used the first toner cartridge in about 4 years and is still on number 2 (they are not printing a whole lot, admittedly).
For the price, I would skip color. It's nice, but generally not required and it raises price per page considerably. As for the all in ones, YMMV, but it seems to me like a bad idea, mostly on the "don't by cheap gear with too many moving parts" logic, that the more moving parts something has the more likely it is to break.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:39 PM on May 30, 2012

Last time I checked (which was a few years ago), Laser printers gave off ozone. You might want to check if that's still the case if your printer is in the same room as you're in a lot of the time.
posted by devnull at 4:47 AM on May 31, 2012

Almost all modern laser printers shouldn't give off ozone. HP and Lexmark haven't used that technology for 15-20 years. But I have seen some of the very cheap ones (Samsung print engines) using the old technology that generates ozone. It's hard to spot unless you know what to look for, but you want to avoid the ones with corona wires rather than transfer/charge rollers.

You can kind of tell by printing a few pages and seeing if you can smell it.
posted by gjc at 6:05 AM on May 31, 2012

« Older Classical sources of omens,   |   This boy likes to bounce! Help me find him a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.