Please recommend a good, cheap printer
August 23, 2013 9:08 PM   Subscribe

I need a cheap, reliable printer with cheap(ish) replacement ink that can print in black even if other colors are out. Mac, if it matters.

My pile of dead printers just got a little bigger. The latest addition was just bought at auction for $15. I should have quickly checked the reviews first, because I now see that it is possibly the most hated printer in history, an HP Officejet 8500. It's out of ink, of course. And when it's out of ink, IT DOESN'T EVEN SCAN. I don't want to spend another $70 on ink so I can own the world's most hated and frustrating printer. So it's going straight onto the heap.

And I still need a new printer. Here's the deal:

1. I don't even want scanning, copying, or color printing. Can you even buy a black-only printer?
2. Because all I need to do is print out black-only text documents and UPS shipping labels.
3. I must be able to print in black even if other colors are out.
4. I'm using a Mac, though I doubt that matters these days.
5. Ink cartridges should be cheap and available in generic versions.

That's it. Who loves their cheap printer?
posted by Camofrog to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How about a laser printer? Brothers are pretty well-regarded, and also come in multifunction units if you decide you want that.
posted by supercres at 9:11 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Get a small Brother laser printer. We have one at home and it is very solid. It was supposed to have wireless capabilities which never worked very well but it works just great plugged in. Inkjets are a PITA.
posted by radioamy at 9:15 PM on August 23, 2013

Best answer: Dump the ink, join the laser printer crowd. Using an ink printer is just asking for trouble.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:17 PM on August 23, 2013

Best answer: I too was going to sugest laser printers. Amazon seems to have a bunch. There's a Brother model for a little under $90 and a Cannon version for $80.

I have an inkjet, and I feel your pain. "Really? I need Yellow ink to print this stupid black and white paper on the grayscale setting!?" Although mine will scan without ink...

Also, sometimes if you can order through a local university bookstore, ink/toner cartridges can be cheaper - although I'd check Amazon and Walmart too. I don't think I had to show them my student ID or anything when I ordered ink through my university bookstore. Some places who sell ink and toner sometimes offer discounts for recycling too.

Might be able to use the current USB cord for your printer, if wireless isn't working great or it doesn't have wireless.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:19 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's the Wirecutter's cheap laser printer recommendation. It's a ~$100 Brother.
posted by holgate at 9:27 PM on August 23, 2013

Ha, we have that same one recommended by Wirecutter. Or maybe we have it because I saw the review? It also duplexes which saves paper.
posted by radioamy at 9:32 PM on August 23, 2013

In case you are not convinced yet, laser is the way to go for black only printing. I think it was on metafilter that I learned that ink cartridges dry out even when you are not using them. So fucking frustrating. I have an old old dell laser printer, a big brick of a thing, and it's only on its third cartridge in over a decade.
posted by Kerasia at 9:35 PM on August 23, 2013

Another vote for laser. It's so fast.
posted by tealcake at 9:36 PM on August 23, 2013

Response by poster: I'm totally sold on laser. I didn't realize they'd gotten so cheap! That $104 Brother is pretty much exactly what I'm after.
posted by Camofrog at 9:39 PM on August 23, 2013

Brother HL-2270DW Compact Laser Printer with Wireless Networking and Duplex is my printer.
I highly recommend it. I am amazed at how often I use the duplex feature.
posted by JujuB at 9:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: What's duplex?
posted by Camofrog at 9:40 PM on August 23, 2013

Best answer: Duplex = printing on both sides of the paper.
posted by samthemander at 9:41 PM on August 23, 2013

Response by poster: Never mind.
posted by Camofrog at 9:42 PM on August 23, 2013


Prints on both sides of paper automatically. Of course you can print on both side by placing the paper back in the tray for a second pass, but this feature is really nice.
posted by JujuB at 9:43 PM on August 23, 2013

The Wire Cutter is a great site.

I have had a Brother Laser printer I bought refurbished for $60 for the last four years. I used it for work about would print about 100 pages a week and have never had a problem. The thing is a work horse.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:45 PM on August 23, 2013

I also have the Brother HL-2270DW! I bought it to replace another Brother printer I bought seven years ago, because I was suddenly printing enough documents that the duplex was going to be worth it. The old printer still worked perfectly, so I gave it to a friend to use. The wireless printing is really nice too -- I have the printer hidden away in a cupboard so I don't have to look at it all the time.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:45 PM on August 23, 2013

Response by poster: MeFi wins again. And so does Brother in this case--there seems to be a clear consensus here. Thank you for the great advice!
posted by Camofrog at 9:49 PM on August 23, 2013

Response by poster: Anybody want an HP Officejet Pro 8500? Like new, just needs ink.
posted by Camofrog at 9:52 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have a Brother HL-2270DW. It is a good printer.

Inkjet is fundamentally a pretty meh technology, and the manufacturers do their damnedest to make it even more annoying.

Remember the hierarchy of reliability:
electronics > moving parts > liquids
posted by ryanrs at 10:40 PM on August 23, 2013

I have the Brother laser that everyone else is recommending and it's awesome. I used to hate printers but it's converted me. And I can print wirelessly from my Mac!
posted by MadamM at 10:52 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a Samsung ML-2950 (I think) that I bought for $75 off of Newegg. I have it plugged into one of the ethernet ports on the back of our wireless router so all our computers have networked access to fast, crisp B&W printing. We've had it a year and the status thingy says the toner cartridge is at around 70%.
posted by kavasa at 5:56 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I almost bought a Brother printer a while back... Getting an inkjet instead was a big mistake.
posted by Jahaza at 7:47 AM on August 24, 2013

Big laser plus: Though the printer cartridges often cost a bunch, they last a really long time. And because they aren't ink, they don't dry up or have the zillion other issues inkjets have.

If you don't need color, they are a no brainer.
posted by cccorlew at 7:51 AM on August 24, 2013

If you need office colour, colour laser printers have now come right down in price as well. Getting semi-decent results with photo printing is still beyond them, though, and they resemble inkjets in that the less you pay for your printer, the more each printed page will cost you.
posted by flabdablet at 9:33 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

We've have a Samsung ml-2850, for about three years or so, which we've also hung off the router so anyone can print to it. Highly recommended. The best thing about it is that I never have to think about it. It just works. My brother has a Brother that's at least ten years old. The B&W lasers from Brother and Samsung are awesome little things.
posted by bonehead at 2:51 PM on August 26, 2013

The Samsung ML-2850 is indeed a good reliable hassle-free printer as long as you don't need to print envelopes. It doesn't deal with those very well; if you leave it set for plain paper it will crumple them, and if you flip the pressure relief levers at the back as the manual hints you should, it doesn't fuse the toner onto them properly. Same issue affects the larger, faster ML-3470. I had to give up on Samsung for the school reception and bursar's printers and replace them with (shudder) HP. All 16 classrooms still run Samsungs though and they've been trouble-free in that role.

Windows 7 has both Postscript and PCL6 drivers preinstalled for various Samsung printers including the ML-2850 and ML-3470 series, so you don't need to use Samsung's driver installer disc to make them work. If you let Windows 7 auto-detect a Samsung printer, the driver it automatically installs is the PCL6 one, probably because "PCL6" sorts before "PostScript" alphabetically. It's worth using the Advanced tab of the printer's property sheet to change the driver to the Postscript one, as this will noticeably reduce network traffic and printing time for graphics-heavy print jobs.
posted by flabdablet at 10:22 AM on August 27, 2013

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