Recommend a printer/cartridge system?
December 17, 2013 8:33 PM   Subscribe

We're trying to optimize our home printing. We don't print an enormous amount, but we want to print in color and to be able to print in moderately high quality. You've already solved this problem and put some thought into minimizing cartridge expense: what printer do you use? how often do you replace the ink? do you refill the cartridges at a store or buy new ones from the OEM? (Bonus points if you've solved this problem for the HP 8600.)

We own an HP Officejet Pro 8600, which seems to suffer from planned obsolescence.*

In the past few years, what system have you used to get the most out of your printer? What model has worked well for you? How much do you realistically have to spend on the printer to avoid being eaten alive on cartridges?

Is there any way to prevent the printer from insisting that a cartridge is spent before its ink has actually been used up?

If you have the 8600, have you found a reliable and relatively low-hassle method of replacing its ink without paying OEM prices?

*(It's about a year and a half old, and has printed maybe 40 pages in its life, but is suddenly purporting to be out of ink. The printer itself cost around $100, but OEM refills are another $75, which would be more tolerable if we actually got a cartridge's worth of ink out of each cartridge. Compounding the problem is that, evidently, although you can refill the cartridge at certain stores, the printer detects when this has happened and refuses to print until a new cartridge is provided.)
posted by foursentences to Technology (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Color Laser Printers have just recently nudged below $200. The 'ink' is actually a dry powder that never goes bad. Toner cartridges are still a significant fraction of the cost of a whole new printer but you do get to use every bit of the toner before you can't print anymore.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:52 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I came to say basically what Confess, Fletch said. I was able to buy a new HPLaserJetP1102 for $100 and, although I am not a frequent printer, I have had it for almost a year and have not even come close to replacing the toner. All the research I did prior to its purchase convinced me that a laser printer was a value proposition.

When I had an inkjet, I refilled my own cartridges, but it took me a while and a lot of splattered ink before I figured out how to do it moderately well.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:33 PM on December 17, 2013

Consumer inkjet printers are for suckers. (Really, I could write a wall of text, but the deck is stacked against the consumer from the start, and that's by design to sell more ink.)

Totally go with a color laser printer that is appropriate for your usage and volume. On the very low-end color lasers, you won't see a cost-per-page benefit over inkjets, but you certainly will with even a modest step up in printer grades.

Inkjet Printers:
-Low acquisition cost; highest Total Cost of Ownership
-Lower per-item supply cost (small, low-yield cartridges)
-Higher actual operating cost (yeah, that $30 ink is less than a $120 toner; but the ink is 500 pages and the toner is 10,000 pages. So, 6 cents/page for ink vs. 1.2 cents/page for toner.)
-With higher ink coverage (photos, heavy charts) paper becomes over-saturated with ink and will curl and buckle.
-Prints are susceptible to water damage and will run/smear from even a light sprinkle of rain.
-Prone to difficulty and waste from print heads drying out

Laser Printers:
-Higher acquisition cost; lowest Total Cost of Ownership
-Higher per-item supply cost (large, high-yield cartridges)
-Lower actual operating cost (see above)
-Coverage on page does not affect paper (will not lead to curling/buckling)
-Much more resistant to water damage (it's the paper that will fail before the toner will)
-Nothing to dry out; handles long periods of inactivity fine

I'd never recommend one for an office, but Samsung's entry-level color lasers are quite fine for the home. They're no speed demons, but they produce a nice crisp print with good color fill. Brother used to be synonymous with crap, but they're really turned things around the last few years and are producing a decent lineup of printers now. The entry-level HPs are ok for home use. Avoid the small Lexmarks (stupidly high operating cost), and of course, avoid Dell, which are just re-branded Lexmark and Samsung printers, but with proprietary supplies you can only get from Dell. (Classy!) And as an Authorized OKI servicer: Don't buy an OKI. Ever. (See: Deck stacked against you from the start.)
posted by xedrik at 10:49 PM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

The only honest consumer inkjet retail was Kodak. It may still be worth buying one of their printers, which are dirty cheap remaindered, and the ink will remain cheap. Big important note is not to buy refills for them, which block the printheads. But they do their job at the lowest TCO apart from that.
posted by ambrosen at 8:02 AM on December 18, 2013

I switched from inkjet to toner because you use up ink clearing the jets every time you start the printer.

The laser printer guys (I am looking askance at you, Brother!) are starting to make it harder to use cheaper 3rd party toner carts or refill kits, though, which is a shame.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:59 AM on December 18, 2013

My temperamental HP likes to reject cartridges for kicks. It's been much better since I sacrificed a microfibre glasses cloth and cleaned the contracts inside the printer (there was a lot of ink in there). It still does it occasionally, but now if I take the cartridge out and clean the contracts and replace it, it usually accepts them. It rejects them because it claims they're fake when they're not.

It's days are still numbered though...
posted by Helga-woo at 12:01 PM on December 18, 2013

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