Yay, I can ask questions! Time to upgrade my printer!
March 7, 2008 12:50 AM   Subscribe

Howdy all! My first question on ask.MeFi so I'm all excited. My standard ink printer is starting to show its age and I think its time to upgrade (woohoo). Looking for any good suggestions. Finding a good laser isn't the hard part, the hard part is trying to fit it in with what I want:

Colour laser (I'm expecting to mostly print text with an image in the text here and there, nothing too colour intensive)
Duplex built in, or at least a cheap addition
Mac OS compatible (postscript support would also be nice, but I won't lose any sleep over it being absent)
Networked (not absolutely necessary, but strongly preferred)

The most important condition though is that it needs to be cheap, I'm just a poor little student.
posted by doctor.dan to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is this any help? I'm considering it myself.
posted by dance at 1:05 AM on March 7, 2008

To help us help you, can you tell us why you're set on laser? I have found, although I'm not assuming anything in this case, that some people believe that laser printers are "just better" than inkjet printers. Inkjet printers, however, are typically cheaper to purchase, offer higher DPI settings than equivalent-range laser printers, and can have lower operating/maintenance costs as well.
posted by chudmonkey at 1:09 AM on March 7, 2008

One interesting thing I'll mention, though it doesn't involve finding you a laser printer. In inkjet printers the actual printing technology is mostly contained within the disposable ink cartridges. The printer itself is really just electronics for talking to the computer and a few servos for feeding paper and moving the ink cartridge/printheads around.

As a result, most of the development in inkjets in the last decade or so has really just been to find cheaper, crappier ways to construct them so that the profit margins of the printer companies are increased.

So I've done pretty well with the last couple printers I've bought by going on eBay and finding a heavy-duty industrial inkjet that's four or five years old. You can actually get a really good printer with some really nice features - being able to print on wall-poster-sized paper, for example - for less than a hundred bucks, easy, enough savings to cover any factory repairs it might need (though I haven't run into need for repairs.) And you can easily find zillions of reviews on that printer model before you buy it, the printer drivers are always in the 10th revision with all bugs fixed, and you can get the cartridges anywhere.

Though as you can see I spell it “color”, so there may be different results in your geographical area. ;^)
posted by XMLicious at 1:31 AM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks dance, I'm going through the list now. I've heard some bad things about HP's Mac OS driver support but I'll see what I can dig up.

chudmonkey, I need to print journal articles, and lots of them. I prefer to print two pages per sheet to save paper. This makes the text tiny. I like to save ink as well so I usually print in standard if not in draft mode. Tiny text with non-high settings usually means pretty crap printing. I've done the same on the lasers in the office and it is easier to read and generally looks better. Also, when you highlight laser printed text it won't smudge :)

XMLicious, the canon I have has the inkjet outside of the cartridge. I thought it was only HP that put the print heads into the cartridge, but I'm not too up to date with printer technology (still trying to make sense of MatLab and E-Prime, sigh).
posted by doctor.dan at 1:47 AM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: The Phaser 6180DN would be perfect, if it wasn't so pricey…
posted by doctor.dan at 1:50 AM on March 7, 2008

Best answer: It's actually kind of the other way around, I think - I believe Canon is the only major brand who frequently does separate ink tanks and printheads. But for many of the Canon's I've seen you can replace the printheads cheaply as well as the ink tanks. All of the Lexmarks I've seen have the print head fused with the ink tank and you're right about HP. (But for a while Lexmarks were mostly rebranded HPs in the U.S. - possibly the reverse thing, many brands are rebranded Canons, is going on where you are if you're not in the U.S.)

Another thing that occurred to me - I like the crisp black color of a laser printer too, it's still better than a good inkjet on inkjet paper, so I can see why you'd want one. I've gotten a quality mid-range model used HP inkjet for US$10≅5€ (the sort that was US$400≅200€ new), so combine that with a low-end new or a used black and white laser and you can have both sharp laser black and color printing on the inkjet.
posted by XMLicious at 2:08 AM on March 7, 2008

Look for one that takes cheap no-name refills. If you are smart like a colleague, the kind available in a stack of 5 in the work stationery cupboard.
posted by bystander at 2:48 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would suggest taking a looking at this purchasing website If you go to the Printers section, you can filter by any requirement you want. I've found it to help a lot when deciding what printers to get at work depending on what the end-user needs.

Also, where ever you buy it from, be sure they have a 30-day full refund policy. Laser printers can be strange beasts, particularly color, and you might find that it's not exactly what you wanted. During those first 30 days, but it through the wringer to make it sure it can handle anything you'll be throwing at it.
posted by jmd82 at 5:54 AM on March 7, 2008

If I was purchasing a new printer, I'd go to the ink refill aisle and see which brands have the more reasonable ink replacement cartridges. I got a "free" printer with my bundled HP computer when I bought it, but the ink cartridges are pretty expensive. Don't discount that cost when looking at printers.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:12 AM on March 7, 2008

Agreed with what others have said about laser vs. ink; lasers aren't necessarily better these days, as inkjet technology has come a long, long way in the last 10 years. People often latch onto laser because of the notion that they are better, but these days they only offer a higher monthly duty cycle, higher purchase prices and more expensive consumables.
posted by slogger at 9:06 AM on March 7, 2008

Best answer: I'm doing some printer shopping of my own at the moment, so let me share what I've learned.

Regarding the preference for color laser... I understand that you will be doing a lot of text printing and highlighting, so you have your reasons for wanting a laser. I just thought it would be prudent to tell you that Consumer Reports, in the Nov. 2007 issue, said: "Color lasers slow down when handling color, and photo quality on those we've tested has been poor. They're also big, noisy, and comparatively pricey. We don't recommend any." On the other hand, about black & white lasers: "If you print only black text, a black-and-white laser printer is hard to beat for top-quality text at high speed and very low cost." They recommend the Dell 1110 ($100, 10 ppm) and the Dell 1720 ($200, 18 ppm).

Inkjets are a lot cheaper though. Maybe you could try underlining with a bright ink rather than highlighting! You could even get an all-in-one for a very reasonable price. CR recommends the Canon Pixma MP180 (all-in-one, $100, 6 ppm). I don't think a lot of inkjets have duplexing built in, but you can always do manual duplexing, which is where you print odd and even pages separately, flipping and re-inserting the paper after the first batch. It does take some practice to get right, though.

Then again, maybe you don't have to be printing anything at all... You said you're on the Mac OS, right? If you have 10.4 Tiger, there's a great open-source program out there called Skim that lets you mark up PDFs in all sorts of ways, including sticky notes, highlighting, underlining, strikeouts, boxes, circles, and arrows. (Of course, if you have 10.5 Leopard, you should be able to do all this in Preview.app, although Skim works on that OS as well.) I'm a science major in college (Bio., Envi. Sci.) and have been doing all my article markup on my computer for the past 2 years. The only problem is that underlining, highlighting, and strikethroughs don't work if the text of the PDF can't be selected (it's just an image). Even then, the sticky notes, boxes, circles, and arrows work just fine.

(Oh, and for what it's worth, I have settled on an HP Deskjet D4260 for my purposes. One of CR's top picks, 6-8 ppm, and only $55.99 after a 20% off HP printers coupon I have at Office Depot.)

Hope this helps.
posted by dondiego87 at 9:33 AM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: From what I've seen so far, the colour printers that would best suit my needs are the HP LaserJet 2605dn or the Samsung CLP-610ND. The Samsung CLP-350N is nice and small, but doesn't have duplex built in (or as an option from what I can see).

If I were to give up colour, the printers would get a lot smaller and cheaper, as in the Samsung ML-3051ND or ML-2851ND. I'm hesitant to give up colour (it would make papers using fMRI useless, as none of the colours would come through). It will depend on my finances.

As for using Skim on the Mac. I already use Skim (as well as Papers) for my PDFs. I'm just not as productive using a computer as I am with paper. That, and I'd like to be able to read stuff on my way home :)
posted by doctor.dan at 6:16 PM on March 7, 2008

Agreed that lasers don't do photos well. Or at least not in the nice way inkjets do where the photos look like they are on photo paper.

As for color lasers being slow on color printing, that's fast becoming an obsolete notion. (That's what CR seems to specialize in...) At least for decent machines with a proper amount of memory. They used to use a four step process for color, making the thing 4x slower. But nowadays most if not all color laser printers have the four colors in line with each other so that as the paper runs through the paper path, each color is layed down at once. So the speed of the pages through the printer is identical. The more expensive the printer, the faster the RIP processor will be. (And the cheaper the per page cost will be over the life of the printer.)

My limited experience is that the Xerox Phasers are really, really good printers. But you pay for it dearly. HPs aren't bad, though their build quality has gone down from the days of the LaserJet III.

If you're going to go Inkjet, check out HPs business line. Tons more features, classier looking plastics and better pricing for inks and the initial cost. I have an OLD Deskjet 970Cxi with a duplexer that I garbage picked, cleaned up and it prints beautifully. YMMV
posted by gjc at 8:04 PM on March 7, 2008

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