Printer copier that isn't going to lock me into years of rip-offs?
April 30, 2020 6:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the sad position of needing to own a home printer/copier, something I swore off of years ago. Are there any available new/refurbished now that A) are reasonably well-built; B) Aren't going to mean contending with years of ink replacement cartridge mafia tactics from the manufacturer?
posted by ryanshepard to Shopping (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Get a laser printer and use 3rd party consumables.

Laser toner is a lot more standardized than inkjet ink. Black is black - print quality from a 3rd party toner bottle will be exactly the same as from a 1st party bottle. Colors vary a bit more so you may find reduced gamut when printing in color, but spot color works fine.
posted by doomsey at 6:54 AM on April 30, 2020 [8 favorites]

I owned a black-and-white laser printer that worked well for years and had many years left in it when I had to relocate and pass it on to someone else. If you only need black and white, I highly recommend going with a laser printer.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:08 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

What they said. But you'll still need a scanner? Or can you just take photos with your phone?
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:13 AM on April 30, 2020

If you decide to go with a laser printer (highly recommend), the Brother laser printers consistently get excellent reviews everywhere I've ever seen them discussed.
posted by mekily at 7:27 AM on April 30, 2020 [13 favorites]

Strongly recommend Brother, I've owned 3 laser printers since the mid-90s. All Brother printers. I worked one to death, the other B&W model still works but I decided I wanted color printing and bought a color model. I don't print a lot but I'm still on the original toner cartridges that came with it.

If you need copying and only B&W printing, I'd look at something like this model.
posted by jzb at 7:38 AM on April 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Brother’s WiFi configuration is pretty lackluster- the one a coworker got for working from home kept forgetting its settings and had to be connected by USB.
posted by zamboni at 7:54 AM on April 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I really like my Brother HLL2390DW for this, has been very reliable. The initial wifi setup was irritating on a tiny screen but it's been fine for me so far. Maybe it has trouble with more complicated networks or something?
posted by JZig at 7:58 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Laser is the way to go if you can manage only b&w printing. I bought a HP multifunction several years ago so it can be a standalone copier, and ethernet accessible. Have not tried scanning with it. Copies work fine, no computer involved.

I dont use it much and will soon be needing only my 2nd toner replacement and thats after 5+ years. No inkjet head cleaning, or ink drying out or whatever. Its always ready to go, and even the name brand toner is inexpensive in comparison to ink.

Look into the various brands, i know people swear by brother for example. If you need wireless check for reviews of that feature, apparently some go to sleep and you have to walk over to wake them up, wait for them to sync, etc.
posted by TheAdamist at 7:59 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

We just bought a Brother All In One (the DCPL2550DW) renewed from Amazon for $110, based on this Wirecutter review (that specific model is mentioned as a good bargain pick under "The Competition").

We just set it up yesterday so I obviously can't speak to longevity, but I will point out that it came with a laser cartridge installed + a spare, so I expect we won't have to buy toner for YEARS (at the rate we print).
posted by natabat at 8:16 AM on April 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Brother DCPL2550DW and MFCL2750DW owner here. The MFC is a slightly better copier (and shit-hot better scanner: colour duplex scanning without flipping the pages) than the DCP. Third-party consumables are available. Brother ones are expensive, and I'm told they're "chipped" to make cloning more difficult.
posted by scruss at 8:37 AM on April 30, 2020

What they said. But you'll still need a scanner? Or can you just take photos with your phone?

I already have a scanner, and this is going to have to be in another part of the house, in any case.

Hopefully we can use a hard-wired connection rather than wifi, because I really don't want to be trapped into a troubleshooting dick around.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:00 AM on April 30, 2020

Third-party consumables are available.

Thanks - do you have any experience w/using them for those printers? Trouble-free, if so?
posted by ryanshepard at 9:03 AM on April 30, 2020

I currently have three Brother printers connect, via LAN, Wireless and USB. The oldest is about 10 years old. They have been maintenance free, with the exception of replacing the toner cartridge every couple of years.
posted by tman99 at 9:22 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have a Samsung CLX-3185 colour laser printer / scanner / copier and I'm reasonably happy with, although I have no experience with the Brothers that everyone else is talking about. I'll echo comments above that toner is far easier to replace than ink, and we are on round 2 of 3rd party replacement toner after 6 years or so. The 3rd party full colour pack (C,M,Y,K) cost about the same as just the black from the OEM.

We have it plugged directly into the router, so no wifi (WPS is horribly insecure), and I've had the common issues that all printers have.

If you can, try to make sure there's no DRM baked into the toner cartridges so they don't "expire" or "require branded ones for consistency and safety"
posted by sauril at 9:31 AM on April 30, 2020

Thanks - do you have any experience w/using them for those printers? Trouble-free, if so?

I can report that I’ve had a Brother HL-5250DN since 2007, and I’ve never even tried third-party toner because, like most black-and-white lasers, it is dirt cheap to operate per page even with first-party consumables.
posted by musicinmybrain at 10:02 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are two types of laser printer consumables:
- Ones where the toner cartridge and imaging drum are integrated. Typical of HP and Canon.
- Ones where they are separate modules. Typical of Brother.

You will not have any problems with 3rd party black toner, but sometimes the imaging drums are not up to snuff.

I have and prefer the first type. I like the convenience, and because you don't have to replace expensive consumable long-life drums if a paper jam takes the drum out, but on the flip side the 3rd party drums don't last as long so I end up replacing the third party cartridges when the drum starts misbehaving rather than when they run out of toner.

For the second type, you can and probably should use the first party imaging drums which can cost a fair amount and may make you feel cheated.

Whether the operating cost of the first type or the second type is worse is a crapshot. In theory the second is cheaper but I find that typically I don't get the rated life out of the drums, which pushes toward the first.

My Canon MF8580cdw has been great; I use LD cartridges which typically last me a bit more than a year.
posted by doomsey at 10:25 AM on April 30, 2020

I've had a Brother DCPL2540DW for about 3 1/2 years (this must be an older version because mine only cost about $120). It has scanning, which I need for work, but has been an excellent purchase. About a year ago I ran out of the "trial toner" that it came with, which I think wasn't supposed to be a full toner. I purchased one from EZink on Amazon (here's a 4-pack for $39 - I think my single toner was about $15) and it's worked perfectly. I know it was EZink because they sent along a sticker to attach to the side of the printer... smart move, EZink.
posted by jabes at 10:33 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nthing Brother laser printers. I've only ever used B&W, but in every office I ever worked, the Brothers outperformed and outlasted everything else. Anecdatally, HP printers are the worst.

My current workplace gets 3rd-party toner and drum replacements from Precision Roller. Two caveats - the drums do seem less durable/reliable, and you have to dispose of old drums/toner yourself. Brother brand cartridges include a shipping label so you can mail back the used cartridge for them to recycle. Now we have to e-cycle them ourselves.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 10:59 AM on April 30, 2020

We use the Brother MFC-9340CDW and MFC-9970CDW in our office and both are workhorses; they're not even that expensive (< $500 iirc), highly recommend. (Edit: looks like they're both around $600)
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:16 AM on April 30, 2020

We recently got a Brother DCP-L2550DW for a little over $100, so bottom level costs, and although it prints nicely I'm disappointed in that the scanner doesn't do double-sided (it can print double-sided) and their software doesn't even have a way to interleave pages by flipping the single-side-scanned stack.
posted by anadem at 12:11 PM on April 30, 2020

I'm another Brother user (currently have the HLL2380DW, previously had the HL-2140) and I'm a big fan.

I get my third party toner from Amazon (specifically I bought this) and I've had no issues whatsoever with getting the toner to be recognized and used by the printer (unlike my experience with nth Canon and HP printers). I've had this printer for about four years or so and have only had to replace toner (not the drum unit which for printer yields about 12K pages), but I am definitely not a power user these days so mileages vary there.
posted by sm1tten at 3:50 PM on April 30, 2020

Forgot to add: the particular unit I have takes a hard wired connection. I have had probably two or three instances where the wifi connection went wonky, but interestingly enough only one "service" would be affected (e.g., I could scan, but not print, or vice versa).
posted by sm1tten at 3:53 PM on April 30, 2020

I also have a Brother Laser. I use Lyinko toner cartridges from Amazon. I have it hooked up via Ethernet to a Raspberry Pi and via wireless to a Windows 10 laptop. WiFi printing is weird. I keep getting a message that there was an error in printing, but it always eventually prints.
posted by kathrynm at 8:09 AM on May 1, 2020

I had a Brother laser that worked well for years but finally quit pulling paper at a time when it seemed clear to me it was due to the use of a third party drum or toner replacement.

But I would still say that third party is absolutely worth it. It saves so much money that you could replace the whole printer more regularly and still come out ahead.

I’ve been on a bit of a printer shopping kick. You can get great deals on working printers on Craigslist and eBay, if cost is a factor.

I ended up buying a basic Samsung laser from Craigslist to keep in my classroom. Even the third party consumables are more expensive than Brother and HP so I probably wouldn’t buy it again, but it was the right price ($40) in the right location (bikeable) and it will make sense to keep using it until it dies. So far I’ve replaced the drum once and the toner a few times, all generic.

For home I ended up going with the integrated toner/drum HP lasers, and they’ve also been going fine with third party toner.

It all feels kind of wistful since we started remote learning :(
posted by Salamandrous at 6:11 AM on May 2, 2020

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