What Injet Printer is most affordable to operate?
September 15, 2007 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I have to go out right away and an inkjet printer for a college student. What affordable ($80-$150?) printer should I buy that is also economical to operate?

I got tired of the cost of constantly buying ink cartridges or the hassle of refilling them, so I trashed my inkjet printer years ago and bought a laser printer instead.

Now I've got a college student who has to print some color drawings for a class project. She also doesn't have any kind of printer to use with her Apple laptop. Except for this project, she's mostly going to be printing text.

So what inkjet is affordable to buy and also to operate?

posted by 14580 to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Unless you need color, don't waste your money on an inkjet. You can get a fine laser printer for the same price and the toner cartridge will last way longer. Within your budget are printers such as the HP 1018 and the 1020 (when on sale). Others might be able to recommend other laser printers.
posted by furtive at 7:59 AM on September 15, 2007

The concept of ink jet and economical to operate is an oxymoron.

That said, I've had excellent experience with the small epson printers on Macs... pretty foolproof...
posted by HuronBob at 8:00 AM on September 15, 2007

I believe it's Kodak who has recently been trying to change the status quo on printers. Basically, the past market strategy has been to sell dirt cheap printers and expensive ink, with the printers dying before you've used 10-20 refills. Their new strategy is expensive printers and cheap cheap ink, like $10, which makes more sense anyway.

With that said, I had a kodak a couple of years ago and hated HATED it. I only ever advise HP's and no matter what never EVER a lexmark.

Really about your best bet is to go to Office Depot or Office Max, or Staples, or whatever, and look for a couple in your price range, then go see how much ink costs, and strike a compromise. You might also try one store and then another, because most have 110% price matches or better. I'd wait until tomorrow though, since that's when the sale flyers come out.
posted by TomMelee at 8:00 AM on September 15, 2007

I got a $50 CDN Canon PIXMA iP1800 at Staples yesterday, and so far I'm quite pleased with it.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:09 AM on September 15, 2007

Is there a reason you can't just have these few color documents printed out at Kinko's or a copy shop or even her college computer lab? That seems like the most economical approach.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:06 AM on September 15, 2007

Check to make sure that her campus does not have printers for student use--art departments generally have (color) printers that can be used for a fee per page, and if she won't need to print color things that often, this may be the most economical choice.
posted by that girl at 9:06 AM on September 15, 2007

If it's just a one-time small project, I'm sure it would be cheaper to hit Kinko's or the school's printshop for copying/printing, even at $1 a page for color. Also, you can upload images (if they're your own) to, say, Target and they can have perfectly glossy images ready for you by the time you get there; I think 4"x6"s are like $.17 or something.
posted by glibhamdreck at 9:08 AM on September 15, 2007

Get a Kodak EasyShare AIO 5100, 5300, or 5500. They're multifunction printer, scanner, copier machines, and the inks are like $10 each.
posted by fvox13 at 9:09 AM on September 15, 2007

HP C3180 all-in-one. It's easy to use, the cartridges aren't as insanely expensive as others I've seen, and it's definitely a workhorse that will be useful in the future.
posted by brina at 10:18 AM on September 15, 2007

Getting a nice color laser print from the copy shop is way better than a cheap inkjet. When you do the math on the ink cartriges, I bet it isn't that much more expensive.
posted by anthill at 10:45 AM on September 15, 2007

We actually bought one of the Kodak EasyShare All-In-One printers. Reasons:
1. We didn't have $300 to spend on a cheap laser printer
2. We wanted to be able to print out photos
3. We were sick and tired of the expense of cartridges and were seduced by the promise of the cheap replacements.

We have had it for 6 months or so (we bought it right after they were announced) and have been extremely happy. It works as announced, the cartridges are indeed not very much money (and Best Buy had a nice online special where you could get the cartridges and 150 sheets of 4x6 photo paper for not much more than the price of the cartridges, to be picked up at the store ---about $18 today), and it prints nice photos, especially if you use glossy paper. Also, it turns out that having a copier (and a scanner, if you didn't already) is extremely useful on occasion.

We use it with macs.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:39 AM on September 15, 2007

Sorry, hosed the link. I'll try again:
Kodak All In One 5100
posted by leahwrenn at 11:40 AM on September 15, 2007

I got a used HP Laserjet 2100, they go for $60-$100 on ebay. Toner costs a bit, but you can get several thousand pages out of a single toner cartridge. It's mac-friendly if you add a JetDirect 610N card ($30 on ebay shipped) and use it as a network printer. I'm not sure if the ebay lead-time kills this idea for you, but I heartily endorse this model of printer if you're doing high-volume text printing.
posted by Alterscape at 1:57 PM on September 15, 2007

I'll second the Kodak Easyshare (5100). I regularly print out photos and whatever text/webpage/directions I need to carry and it performs wonderfully. It's never given me an error, was effortless to install, has handy on-computer ink gauges, somewhat compact, and of course the refills are a doable $10/$15 (black/color).

It hasn't gotten the best marks in any category in any reviews I've read, but it's been a good workhorse for me. Reliable and easy.
posted by cowbellemoo at 5:01 PM on September 15, 2007

I'd really watch out for printers that have time-sensitive cartridges. My wife had such a thing a few years ago. We barely ever printed in color, and rarely printed period, so imagine our surprise when the printer told us that we needed a new color AND black cartridge- even though the color was barely touched and the black was half full- because they were both 6 months old. Never touched the thing again, can't remember what brand it was or I'd tell you to stay away from it. I have no idea if this is something relatively standard or not.
posted by baphomet at 9:24 PM on September 15, 2007

If you need an inkjet just for a project, just buy something cheap - or go to Kinko's and print it for a much cheaper cost per page on one of their color laser printers.

Brother makes some nice, cheap, B&W laser printers.
They use a drum unit, so the toner is cheaper to replace than most other laser printers.
The drum unit lasts a good long time, and costs about as much to replace as the ~100-130 dollar printer itself.
(Amazon has good prices on both the printers and the toner, BTW)

Any laser printer is going to more or less pay for itself in the first year. Better quality prints, MUCH faster than an inkjet.
posted by itheearl at 9:51 PM on September 15, 2007

My Brother MFC-3220C died today (Machine Error 41. Unplug machine, then call Brother). I Googled the error and got this, so I would avoid buying a Brother.
posted by tellurian at 11:12 PM on December 24, 2007

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