I want a printer that's really good at not printing
July 16, 2017 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of buying a new printer, but we print so rarely that ink cartridges invariably dry out between printings, leaving our cost per page in the $5-10 range. Is there a way to have access to a printer occasionally without having to buy a new ink cartridge for every print job? Requirements inside.

- cheapish (ideally less than $100)
- B&W is fine, color would be a bonus
- Easy wifi setup and a small footprint would both be nice-to-haves
- Must be able to sit for weeks or months between printings without the ink drying out
posted by firechicago to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Get a laser printer and all your worries are gone. Toner lasts forever and are cheap to replace. No more clogged printerheads.
posted by Ferrari328 at 7:46 AM on July 16 [40 favorites]

I had the same problem as you and switched over to laser. It has been great.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 7:54 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]

Inkjet printers are cheaper to buy, laser printers are cheaper to own. Get a cheap laser printer and you should be fine.
posted by ralan at 7:57 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]

Like everyone's said, you want a laser printer. (So do I! Good reminder for me.) Sweethome is a good site to read for recommendations with explanations. They suggest the Brother HL-L2340DW if you want just a printer ($100) or the Samsung Electronics SL-M2875DW/XAC ($130, but out of stock?) if you want an all-in-one with scanner/copier.

Note those are all black-and-white printers. The drawback to laser printers is they don't do color cheaply like an inkjet. Sweethome's color recommendation of the HP Laserjet Pro M477fdw is about $400. Also it's been awhile but my memory is inkjet is way, way better for printing photos on glossy photo stock than a laser printer.
posted by Nelson at 8:06 AM on July 16 [4 favorites]

Amen on the laser. My Brother laser printer is about 10 years old and it sometimes goes months without printing. No problems whatsoever! The dry toner for older lasers is incredibly cheap these days.
posted by gilast at 8:08 AM on July 16

I've had an ancient LaserJet from eBay for over 10 years and only replaced the toner cartridge once. (About 5000 pages printed in that time.) it cost around a hundred bucks.
posted by miyabo at 8:13 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]

We have a version of that cheap Brother laser B&W. It's perfect. Fast, too.
posted by hollyholly at 8:14 AM on July 16

We got an HP color laser printer (the M252) for under $200 and it's been great. Even color need not be absurd with laser.
posted by wyzewoman at 8:23 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]

We made the switch to the Brother b&w LaserJet that Sweethome recommends two years ago and we haven't regretted it. Occasionally if we don't use it for awhile it seems like the toner will sort of get stuck at one end and it gives us a low toner message, so we take out the cartridge and shake it up real good and everything is peachy.
posted by muddgirl at 8:40 AM on July 16

I had a cheap Brother laser B&W for about a decade, and I only replaced it because I needed one that supported double-sided printing. My friends are still using it with no issues. The replacement is also a Brother and has worked perfectly for years. It lives in a cupboard, and I print to it over wifi once a month or so.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:54 AM on July 16

I've got an old Brother too, 10 years old, and print as often as you do. From my experience, the low toner message comes up long before the toner is low. Luckily, this problem is solved by taping over the little sensor window (thank you internet).
posted by Melismata at 8:55 AM on July 16

I strongly second (third? fourth?) getting a very basic Brother laser. There are often promotions where you can get one extremely cheaply after rebate at Staples. Even at the current price of $100 at Amazon for the 2340DW, it's a very good buy.
posted by redondo77 at 9:24 AM on July 16

Do consider that even though you might pay a little more for a cheap laser than a cheap inkjet (and a little more for toner than ink), your laser will last for years, and a toner cartridge prints many more pages than an ink cartridge, so the math isn't 1:1. If you can spring for the Brother laser people are mentioning here, I'd do it.

I paid $100 for a used HP LaserJet 2100 15 years ago. It's gone through two JetDirect cards (it was parallel, so nothing can print directly to it anymore) but keeps printing, the two or three times a year that I need it to print. THAT's low TCO!
posted by Alterscape at 9:29 AM on July 16

I went through about one inkjet printer every two years, fighting with the clogged print heads and constantly replacing the fricking ink. I've now had my Brother Laser printer for 2 nearly two years, and other than having to replace the toner cartridge (because I don't print often, but the two weeks a semester in which I print things, I print a *lot* of things) it has been entirely problem free. Plus, it does proper duplexing, which is lovely, and prints about 3 times as fast as most inkjets I've had.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:37 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]

nthing, I have the Brother HL-L2340DW b/w laser printer and I have gone six months at a time without printing anything. Note that it is not Postscript so anything you print with graphics, even a pdf, will have a "simulation" postscript which is a dot pattern. Even solid type will print as a tint of black. I assume ordinary Word documents would print solid black but I never have any of those.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:07 AM on July 16

I got a Samsung laser printer and pat myself on the back for that decision every time I use it. I don't even think twice about printing a 100+ page technical manual. The toner refills last for something like 3000 pages, and cost $60 maybe... barely more than an inkjet refill, for 10x the capacity.
posted by slagheap at 11:18 AM on July 16

I dumped my crappy inkjet printer for a $100 Brother laser printer like 7 years ago and it is seriously the best decision I ever made in my life ever. We go months without printing and never have a problem. I've had to buy, like, one toner cartridge in all that time.

Oh my God do this.
posted by kbanas at 2:48 PM on July 16

I also have the Brother HL-L2340DW and love it. It prints wirelessly with no problems and slips into a low power mode when I'm not using it. I just replaced the starter toner after a trouble-free year.

If we want to print photos, we just send those out to be printed and returned via mail.
posted by cnc at 6:39 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

+++ the inexpensive Brother laser

Beware: HP sells a cheap laser jet but with a shamefully low pages per toner cart. Like 900-1200 pages per toner while most toner carts get 3000-6000. HP seems to be trying to put the ripoff ink cartridge model into the low end laser world. I suggest going for low end laser printer but check the price and pages per cartridge for the toner before buying.
posted by sol at 6:33 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

Same here, Canon laser for me, Brother laser for my mother-in-law.
I bought mine on sale over 2 years ago and am still using the sample toner cartridge that came with it.
posted by IpsoFacto at 11:57 AM on July 17

This discussion inspired me and I replaced an old Canon inkjet with the Samsung SL-M2875DW/XAC printer/scanner/copier that Sweethome recommended at $130. It's nice! It's remarkably faster than the inkjet, and starts printing immediately; none of that nozzle cleaning nonsense for a seldom used inkjet printer (at least not yet).

I disagree with Sweethome in that the setup is not particularly easy, at least if you're stubborn like me and try to do things their way. I got further when I just used their install wizard and accepted that wireless setup was going to require a USB cable. But that's all done now and it seems like a nice little device.
posted by Nelson at 11:32 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]

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