Economical home printer?
November 18, 2014 11:29 AM   Subscribe

It is, sadly, time to retire our dinosaur LJ4 and get a new printer. Our primary concern for the new printer is cost over the total life of the printer. We print quite a bit for home users, I'd guess about 200 pages a month. Low cost per page is important. Probably this means a black and white laser printer, but not sure.

Hoping to spend about $200, could spend more if that's where the sweet spot was or there was something cool for the money (double sided printing, optional not-always-on color printing, maybe). Would be reluctant to spend more than $300.

Doesn't appear to be easy to figure out cost per page on a new printer. My wife is talking about looking at cartridges first and working backward to find acceptable printers, but maybe there's another angle?

Anybody got advices, good experiences, bad experiences?
posted by mattu to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I love my Brother hl-2270dw, which I have seen recommended here many times. However, I don't feel that the toner lasts very long, so my guess is that the price per page might not be competitive. I don't print a lot, so I haven't done the calculations. But I've had to replace the toner more than I did on my previous printer (an HP of a model I forget), and I don't think I've been printing significantly more. Bottom line: be wary of recommendations of that printer unless someone can come along with real data showing the cost per page being lower than I'm mentally estimating it to be.
posted by primethyme at 11:32 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The thing about Brother laser printers is that the toner frequently goes on sale for peanuts and knock-offs are plentiful. "Brother-compatible" high-yield toner cartridges are arounf $15-$20 apiece and while they never come close to their advertised 2,600 page yield, even half that number is a steal.
posted by Willie0248 at 11:43 AM on November 18, 2014

I also have a Brother 2270DW, which I got for under $100, new, on Amazon a few years ago. It still works like a dream. There's a trick when the printer thinks it's out of toner, to convince it to keep on trucking for another thousand or so pages, which you can look up in the Amazon reviews (basically, a combination of buttons to push). Barring that irksome eccentricity, it's truly the best printer I've ever had.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 11:49 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Newegg has a Brother refurb for less than $60 for the next couple of days. I have a Brother MFC, and I have loved it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:55 AM on November 18, 2014

I have the Brother's um, big brother with the scanner and am very content with it. The Wirecutter now likes Samsung's mono laser for under $200, but the nice thing about the cheapo Brother range is its longevity, plus third-party toner.
posted by holgate at 11:56 AM on November 18, 2014

I also have that popular Brother. It works great. I never really got the wifi part working but other than that, it's survived several moves and it's really a tank.
posted by radioamy at 12:07 PM on November 18, 2014

If you can find a low-page-count unit used, I highly recommend the LaserJet 2100 family with a JetDirect 620 ethernet card. They're ancient, but "rugged" is an understatement. Everybody in my family uses them, and they could probably stop a bullet and keep printing.
posted by Alterscape at 12:21 PM on November 18, 2014

I bought a low end Brother and it used so much power it blew breakers (a computer, monitor and that printer were more than 15 amps!). Check the power output on it first. I use an HP 1102w, which works perfectly, no driver BS and the toner cartridges are reasonably priced. It also draws almost no power when it's not printing.

Power is something to consider when doing a cost analysis:
HP 1102 is Power Consumption 370 watts active, 0.6 watts off, 2.0 watts
(Auto-Off) powersave, 2.7 watts standby.

Brother 2270 is 65 watts at standby, 495 when it prints.
posted by bensherman at 12:25 PM on November 18, 2014

lexmark lexmark lexmark lexmark.

get something like this.

the build quality and materials difference between a cheap brother and a basic lexmark is like a 90s hyundai vs a 90s honda. the brothers are fine, but a lexmark will last the rest of your life. we have several not much fancier than that ones at my office that have literally printer a million pages just swapping the fuser and toner. when we needed more printers, we just bought more of those.

note that it does double sided printing.

If anything, i'd maybe look in to the step up model that has the heavier duty paper feed system. that's the only thing we've ever had an issue with, and when i called lexmark saying it was being a bit odd they sent out a technician the next day. That's right, we didn't have to mail it back. Dude showed up in a truck with the parts and fixed it right there in 20 minutes. He checked out and tuned up one of our other lexmark printers just to be awesome, too, even though the warranty was expired.

The only other computer-related product i've gotten that kind of service from a company on was a thinkpad with the next day onsite warranty. This printer just had the regular old default warranty, too. And note, these aren't $4000 business printers. These are like, the $400 ones a couple steps up from those ones i just linked.

Customer for life.

As a side note, we have 4 of those brother printers too for small offices outside the main office. They're ok. They really do draw a ton of power to the point that even with commercial wiring you get sag on things connected to the same outlet. The inrush current is huge. I also had one show up with a completely dead paper feeding system out of the box, and they're just... very cheaply put together. It seems that lexmark pretty much figured out the floor, in that you can't make a truly decent printer for under $110(or a properly good one with the feeding system from the expensive-ish printers for $150). It feels like the printer equivalent of those $50 android phones you can buy at 7-11.

All of them are still working a couple years in, but they're all also still on their first toner cart since they're used so little. they've probably printed 400 pages total. If you're going to do 200 a week, take it from someone who manages systems at a place where one printer will do 200 a day on a slow day, and buy a real printer. I really feel like the janky paper feed system i inspected on that one that was DOA would not hold up to even like, several years of real usage.
posted by emptythought at 1:14 PM on November 18, 2014

I have that Brother printer everyone's mentioned, bought in late 2010. It's not bad, though duplex is very sloowwww. If I were buying a new printer today, I'd get one that can copy and scan (since its become affordable in laser printers by now). FYI, the trick to extending the lifespan of the toner cartridges is here, and my note to myself says that there was excellent info in early December 2010.
posted by tapir-whorf at 2:04 PM on November 18, 2014

Seconding the Wirecutter's review, where they note that the Brother is cheaper per page.
posted by cnc at 3:03 PM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Having bought a number of printers of the last ten years, I have a personal rule: buy 5 $80 printers or 1 $800 printer. Anything in between is a waste of money. In my experience, an "expensive" $300 printer will break within 18 months.

If you buy 5 $80 printers, you can just throw it away when it runs out of ink or breaks, and then plug in a new one. No configuration, no software installation -- smooth and easy. Yes, you'll hate yourself for destroying the environment. But it's better than spending $300 on a printer and having to throw it away after a year.

Now, if you can fork over $800+, you're in territory where a printer will last several years before breaking. But at only 200 pages per week, this might be overkill.
posted by joebakes at 3:21 PM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also have the Brother HL-2270DW, it's my 4th Brother laser printer. Very fast and quiet. One feature I miss from the previous printers is an indicator that tells you when the paper supply is getting low. Dunno why Brother decided this was no longer important. And, as others have mentioned, Brother's little trick of trying to make you buy more toner way before it's necessary (by shutting down the printer) gets pretty tiresome.

posted by weamish at 5:20 PM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, some good advices here.
posted by mattu at 10:23 AM on November 19, 2014

The button trick mentioned above for the Brother printer: Press the GO 7 times. I just tried it on a different Brother (L2360DW) and it worked instantly and perfectly. Pretty amazing, actually.
posted by msalt at 10:09 AM on June 20, 2015

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