Printers are the WORST
January 6, 2016 8:31 PM   Subscribe

My parents need a new printer. Printers are proof that the Devil is real. Plus, I'm the tech support and I'm 1600 miles away. Please help this not suck, for them or me.

For reasons I don't understand, my parents print a ton of stuff. Their current (shitty, 5-year-old, sub-$100) printer is dying and they need a new one.

Absolute must-haves: Small size (ish, as long as it can fit on top of a filing cabinet), black-and-white + color, as little maintenance as humanly possible, longevity.

Would be great to have: Wireless printing from multiple machines (Windows printer sharing is a disaster and I refuse to interface with it anymore), long-lasting cartridges, built-in scanner.

Don't care much about: Brand, price, laser/inkjet/etc, online or in-person purchase.

This is in the US. I'll be setting it up initially but won't be around to do maintenance. It will be interfacing with Windows machines only, running Win8 and possibly Win10. So, given this, what's the Honda Civic of consumer printers?

All input is appreciated, thank you!
posted by Dilligas to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Epson Workforce WF-3620. I and my parents both own one. Wirecutter says it's still a good choice (though they now recommend other models I haven't tried). Under $100, wireless, scanning, super fast. Available at both box stores and online.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:40 PM on January 6, 2016

(Although, re-reading Wirecutter, it looks like something's going on with Epson's manufacturing because they are having a weirdly high rate of lemons. The grinding+error code on startup thing actually happened to me, but in my case it turned out just to be an undocumented piece of packing material next to the cartridge head that needed to be removed; worked perfectly afterwards. Still, it looks like for others, the printer had to be exchanged. If your parents would be frazzled by having to return a lemon, maybe it's not the greatest choice after all.)
posted by en forme de poire at 8:48 PM on January 6, 2016

Best answer: An anti-suggestion: I have the Canon PIXMA MX922. Do not buy one. It's a worthless piece of shit.

As far as wireless printing form multiple machines goes, if the printer you pick supports Google Cloud Print (which I believe most modern printers do), I've found that to be the least obnoxious way to print wirelessly from multiple machines.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:49 PM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been pretty happy with Brother printers, separate cartridges for each ink color. 3rd party ink is really cheap ($1-$2/color) and it's been fine with long periods (months) between prints.
posted by Sophont at 9:02 PM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I haven't had it long, but recently got one of the HP Envy printers and really like the HP Instant Ink program.
posted by jimw at 9:07 PM on January 6, 2016

If it's available I suggest buying the unit at Costco. They're usually quality items no matter what the brand and the cartridges are readily available. Laser is a lot more durable for long term because the wear parts are in the cartridge which gets replaced. Meeting your requirements are the Brother's MFC series which they offer are b&w and color
posted by ptm at 9:17 PM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Laser is more expensive, both to buy and to get cartridges for. But this is where you wanna go. The cartridges are expensive but they last a long damn time. For laser printers I'd look at HP. They're probably the best at this type of thing. HP has been doing laser printers forever and their machines can be found in offices everywhere. It's not unusual for people to be using one that's well over ten years old.
posted by azpenguin at 9:23 PM on January 6, 2016

Also recommending Brother printers for all reasons mentioned.

I also find printers are The Devil. Brother is my default brand to avoid 99% of the hassle. Nthing cheap 3rd party printer ink.

It's not perfect. They do last a long time, though.
posted by jbenben at 12:10 AM on January 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would definitely recommend laser over inkjet if they print a lot based on switching to laser when my wife started her Phd. It is so much more reliable to run. We have a Samsung but I can't say if that's the best option, only that it works well and I don't think about it other than changing the cartridge.
posted by crocomancer at 1:11 AM on January 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll nth Brother. Really happy with my MFC (black and white only, but reliable). It's also wireless and a laser printer (which I'll also nth)
posted by backwards guitar at 1:18 AM on January 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Laser is the way to go for lots of printing, its so much cheaper, but typically b&w only. A toner cartridge lasts thousands of pages and doesn't waste ink cleaning the head each print.

What do they use color for? Business graphics?then a color laser could handle it, but costs more.

If they do photo printing, color laser won't be up to the job, but its much cheaper(and possibly higher quality) to have costco or an online shop print the photos.

My hp multi function b&w laser has been awesome for years. So much cheaper to operate than an inkjet.
posted by TheAdamist at 2:25 AM on January 7, 2016

Best answer: I also strongly dissuade from Canon Pixma - I bought this expensive piece of junk and have already spent several agonizing hours over fixing problems. I am ready to replace it, so I am very interested in everyone's answers as well.
posted by Fallbala at 2:43 AM on January 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Fuji Xerox Laser Printer. I have had mine for 4 years and going strong, even after printing hundreds of wedding invitations and birthday invitations on them, all my work notes and workbooks, without a problem. It's stable, a workhorse, cartridges are cheap for the per print cost, and has great print quality.
posted by shazzam! at 3:52 AM on January 7, 2016

our brother recently started acting up and their support outside usa seemed to suck, so i went with a samsung laser. it's been just fine so far.
posted by andrewcooke at 6:58 AM on January 7, 2016

Brother or HP Laser Printer with color.

I have an HP LaserJet Pro (color laser) here in my office, it's at least four years old and is just finally telling me I need more black ink.

I have a Brother black and white at the house, two years old, finally replaced the sample ink it came with last month.

Printers are awful, but these two have both been pretty reliable, third-party ink is inexpensive, and laser printers can handle a lot of printing without nearly as many issues. The cost upfront is more, but I wouldn't ever to back to cartridge printers at this point.
posted by PearlRose at 7:49 AM on January 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have this Brother Color Laser (with wireless and duplex printing)

I've been very happy so far. I would also say no to the Canon Pixma as this Brother is what I purchased to replace the Pixma. A Pixma that still worked mind you but that caused so much trouble I basically printed everything at work in order to avoid using it.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:41 AM on January 7, 2016

I have a Brother laser with color and duplex and have been very pleased with it; they can be pricey but you can get toner cartridges that last (supposedly) for 5000 pages. Since you say they print a lot the duplex feature is a nice way to save paper (as long as the option for two page printing is not buried too deep in the print dialog boxes for whatever software they are using). We use HP printers at work where they get a lot of use and they seem pretty bulletproof, although most of them are black and white.
posted by TedW at 9:02 AM on January 7, 2016

Best answer: Also another vote for Brother... I got this laser color model when it was on sale on Amazon a little while back (sometimes it drops to $140, but hovers around $150 it seems. It sits on top of a file cabinet, but hangs a bit over an inch off the side. Still, I love the wireless printing, color printing and full duplex to save a couple of trees.
posted by homesickness at 9:59 AM on January 7, 2016

Note that the cheaper Brother color laser printer models don't have a scanner, which you say you would like.

It will be interfacing with Windows machines only

Are you sure? No iOS/Android smart phones or tablets in the house?
That said, AirPrint for iOS devices is very commonly supported these days.
posted by w0mbat at 12:16 PM on January 7, 2016

If you haven't done already, I also suggest to install some some software to get remote access to your parent's PCs if needed for additional troubleshooting. Something like TeamViewer for example.
posted by KMB at 1:34 PM on January 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Brother laser. Show them how to replace ink. Take photos of each step to replace the ink, if needed, and share in a Google Doc or print it out, and leave in a small envelope near the printer.

Write down the model number of the printer for your own records + future trouble shooting. Install some kind of remote-access software if you need to update the drivers or re-connect the printer.

Even better - this year I found my mom a local tech-support guy. I can call him and explain what needs to be done, and then he calls me and tells me the bill. Zero % of my time is spent telling my mom how to remove the little clear tape from the printer cartridge, how to reset her router, when to update her iOS system, etc. It's the biggest gift to myself and our relationship. No drama, no tears, no anxiety, no "mom no, not that button" conversations. I heart my remote tech guy so much.
posted by barnone at 9:47 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older sweat 'er   |   Graded course in accounting, statistics, calculus... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.