Inkjet or laser printer for reliability with really minimal use?
December 17, 2007 6:47 AM   Subscribe

Will an inkjet or laser printer be more reliable if the printer will be turned off for 99.9% of its life?

My mum wants an all-in-one printer (including fax), but I can't imagine she'll use it very often. In fact I suspect that it won't get turned on more than once or twice a month, and then typically she'll only print out half-a-dozen pages.

Cost—both upfront and per print—isn't as much an issue for her as user-friendliness and reliability (especially as she'll likely only print a couple of hundred prints per year). But as she isn't going to need networking ability, etc, it's likely we'll plump for a pretty basic version of whichever technology we end up settling on.

I've searched the Hive, and read half-a-dozen threads on the relative merits of inkjet v laser, but not surprisingly such minimal usage isn't typically a consideration in the discussions of the competing technologies.

(And mono will be fine—it will be used to print documents, not photos)
posted by puffmoike to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
I've seen inkjet cartridges get clogged from lack of use. The liquid ink slowly leaks out of the cartridge and crusts up the nozzles on the bottom, rendering the cartridge useless.
posted by Coffeemate at 6:53 AM on December 17, 2007

unused inkjet cartridges are famous for drying out and/or gumming up the print heads. I'd go with a cheap laser.
posted by cosmicbandito at 6:53 AM on December 17, 2007

Best answer: Definitely a laser printer. I've seen more inkjets go bad from lack of use than I've seen laser printers go bad period.
posted by wierdo at 6:58 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I will fourth the Laser recommendation. We use them in an environment where they are off pretty much all the time, and they still work when you need them years later.
posted by Amby72 at 7:03 AM on December 17, 2007

My HP Laserjet 4p just died (and, silly as this sounds, it feels like a friend has gone). It's the only printer I've ever owned. I bought it over fifteen years ago.
posted by grumblebee at 7:13 AM on December 17, 2007

I'm in this same situation, and my solution was to buy the laser printer. The inkjet I had before would invariably be clogged up when I went to use it, so I would print a sheet, look at the junk it printed, figure out how to clean the heads (wasting ink), then reprint, then repeat until it was OK. I also got annoyed that it would stop working when the color ink ran out, even though I had black ink left. It was so useless, I put it away in the closet.

OTOH, the laser printer is great, fast, and prints immediately even if it hasn't been used in a week.
posted by smackfu at 7:15 AM on December 17, 2007

A week? Try a year. I've had my laser printer for about ten years, and recently changed toner cart for the first time. I had a brand new inkjet that I turned on, printed a test sheet on and then left for 6 months, it just plain didn't work after. I would have had to buy new cartridges which at the time at least would have cost more than a new printer with carts included.
posted by Iteki at 8:06 AM on December 17, 2007

Definitely laser; inkjet cartridges seem to only last about six months whether you're using them or not. Except for home photo printing -- a real niche market, when you consider how inexpensive real photographic-paper lightjet prints are -- I don't think there's any reason to buy or own an inkjet anymore. Laser printers are just flat-out better.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:16 AM on December 17, 2007

Nthing the laserjets. I work in a school setting with a lot of laser and old inkjet printers. There is no comparison- get the laserjet as they last a LOT longer and don't dry up like the inkjet cartridges. And laserjets aren't too difficult to repair- it's almost always the fuser or rollers that go bad and a few screws can usually get you there.
posted by jmd82 at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2007


Iteki writes "I would have had to buy new cartridges which at the time at least would have cost more than a new printer with carts included."

Note that the carts included with new printers usually aren't full. I've seen capacity ratings as low as 10%.
posted by Mitheral at 9:14 AM on December 17, 2007

1) I've never seen an all-in-one device at a low-end price point (i.e. < $300)

2) Inkjet printers are functionally disposable in my experience.

If you've got access to a technically competent friend, get an old LaserJet 4-series and a USB to parallel cable or a printserver box and use that for printing. If you find that you actually need a fax machine just pick up the cheapest one Staples sells.
posted by Skorgu at 11:28 AM on December 17, 2007

Skorgu, I forget what exactly the price was, but I seem to recall a Brother all in one for right around that price point. We bought it because the printer part happened to be exactly the same as the HL-1440 we had been putting in clients' homes for a while, thus we knew how to make various pieces of tricky software work with it. (That is, things that don't rely solely on Windows printer drivers, like Client Access)
posted by wierdo at 12:24 PM on December 17, 2007

If you don't need a proper scanner, you can get a laser fax like this under $200 Brother.
posted by smackfu at 12:34 PM on December 17, 2007

I realize everyone has already answered this, but I think this answer is so true it needs to be said 10 times:


Inkjets are HORRIBLE if you rarely use them. If you even plan to skip 2-3 days I would avoid an inkjet.

Lasers (or color lasers) handle it just fine. We use ours intensely sometimes, turn it off for a month other times. It always works.

Our previous printer was an all-in-one Brother mono laser printer. It was replaced with a color HP, but it still works fine.
posted by mmoncur at 1:41 AM on December 18, 2007

Err, oops, that should have read I've never seen an all-in-one device at a low-end price point (i.e. <>that was any good. I fail at HTML twice.

Which isn't to say they don't exist, only that building things to a price like most consumer electronics is usually a bad sign for their reliability and robustness.

Thanks Jessamyn

posted by Skorgu at 6:46 AM on December 18, 2007

Three. Three times I fail at html. This time it can bloody well stay as a warning to future Mes.
posted by Skorgu at 6:47 AM on December 18, 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 11:11 PM on December 24, 2007

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