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August 12, 2008 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Which printer is the one for me?

I have a compaq laptop, sometimes use a dell, and want to buy a printer. I would like the printer to be as small as possible and as inexpensive as possible. I will be using it infrequently and for small jobs. Does anyone know of a great little workhorse of a cheap printer who can be put away for weeks, then rally when called upon? That's the guy I want!
posted by moxiedoll to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you looking to print photos or documents? What size page are you looking to print? How much are you willing to spend?
posted by lekvar at 12:50 PM on August 12, 2008

How infrequent? If it's very infrequent, you might want to think laser, because you'll be replacing a lot of dried up ink cartridges if you go with ink-jet. Or you can do what my Gramma does when she goes south for the winter- she pulls them from the printer and vacuum seals her inkjet cartridges to kepp until she gets back. It seems to work.
posted by dogmom at 12:52 PM on August 12, 2008

For infrequent use, I always recommend that people spring for a laser printer, rather than something that is "as inexpensive as possible." The reason for this is that ink cartridges are priced outrageously, and my experience is that if you use them rarely, they dry out before you get your money's worth. Pretty soon you've bought 2-3 cartridges in a year, and your $40 printer has cost you $130.

Laser printer toner is not a lot more expensive, prints far more sheets per cartridge than ink, and will not dry out. If you don't need color, laser is the way to go in the long run.
posted by autojack at 12:53 PM on August 12, 2008

Do you really mean "small as possible"? I usually go for HP printers but the Canon BJC-85 is a portable printer I used for a while that was pretty nice. They're only available used now, but it actually makes lots of sense to buy inkjet printers used because the actual printing technology and components are in the disposable cartridges.

Canon also has a newer version that is marketed as a photo printer, the PIXMA iP90.
posted by XMLicious at 12:53 PM on August 12, 2008

I think autojack makes good points with ink cartridge drying / clogging problems due to infrequent use. Though unfortunately laser printers don't get anywhere near as small as inkjet printers do.
posted by XMLicious at 12:55 PM on August 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses!
1. I don't care about photos or scanning or faxing or anything except printing words on normal pieces of paper. I don't need color, either.
2. Frequency - I might go weeks without using it... I definitely wouldn't be using it daily, and my plan is to put it somewhere away from my desk and then pull it out and plug it in when I have some printing to do... so that's why I'd like it to be small.
3. I guess I'm looking for a balance between small and inexpensive - so if the tiniest printer costs $50 more than a small-ish printer - I'd forgo the tiny one.
posted by moxiedoll at 1:23 PM on August 12, 2008

Whatever you do, please, please, stay away from HP. They make cheap printers that crap out all the time. I have three friends who have purchased different models of HP printers, some cheap and some expensive, and all three absolutely chug ink, and that's during the sparse time when they're working correctly.

I'd pony up for a nice Canon, I adore my MP600.
posted by InsanePenguin at 1:28 PM on August 12, 2008

I went through several ink-jet printers because I don't print often. After a few months without use, the ink would clog at the print-head.

I spotted an older model HP laser printer being closed-out at Office Depot nearly four years ago, and I bought it. I haven't had a problem since.

WOW! This is on sale, and it sure is affordable. Color too.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:29 PM on August 12, 2008

WOW AGAIN! Here's one for a hundred bucks!
posted by 2oh1 at 1:33 PM on August 12, 2008

Samsung make some extremely fast, high-quality mono (and colour) lasers that work equally well on recent linuxes, OS X, and Windows. 2oh1's recommendation backs me up here :) We picked one up a few months ago, hooked it into a linux box on our network, and suddenly we have an offline network laser. Turn it off, send a few documents, turn it on later, pick them up, shut it down again. Couldn't be more efficient.

I've seen an even smaller model than this one, around half the size on each axis - couldn't tell you the model number though (it's Samsung). Very cheap, you're not paying for a huge paper tray, which may or may not be an issue.

Second avoiding HP. Awful machines, bogged down with bloated software. Unless you can get your hands on the old business laser printers, which were super awesome and would last forever.
posted by davemee at 1:43 PM on August 12, 2008

In contrast here's a 900-series HP printer (fairly top of the line), bidding starting at six dollars. Or a Canon portable starting at ten bucks.

When the size of the printer isn't an issue you can get really sweet, sturdy old industrial warhorses cheaper than the cheapest new printer, with fancy features like wide-format printing so that you can print posters.
posted by XMLicious at 1:47 PM on August 12, 2008

It seems to me that you want a cheap and cheerful laser printer. They can often be had for no more than $50 at your local big box office retailer, with some sort of discount. Samsung, Brother and HP are the most common vendors. I have a Samsung that does everything you want. It works perfectly every time, produces excellent quality pages and costs almost nothing to run. It can go months between uses; I've had it for at least four years. It cost me about $75, if I remember correctly.
posted by bonehead at 1:48 PM on August 12, 2008

I've loved my cheap Samsung; I have a ML2010, but I assume there are newer models out there. It's nice and small, and has worked great. I'd never go back to an ink-jet for black and white text; the speed, quality, and per-page-cheapness of laser is hard to do without.
posted by bsdfish at 2:04 PM on August 12, 2008

I love my old-ass HP LaserJet 5. My even older HP LaserJet 4M is a close second. In my experience anything newer from HP is potentially flaky, but these old beasts just keep running. They're not going to meet your size requirements, but they are absolute workhorses and have served me reliably for years with basically no maintenance.

For the money I'd stick with laser. If you don't have easy access to used printers, go for the new Samsung linked above. I'd jump on it, but I rely on the built-in network cards in my HPs for print sharing, so I'm not excited about moving to a USB only printer.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:14 PM on August 12, 2008

InsanePenguin suggests staying away from HP, but I've been using the same HP LaserJet 2100 for the past seven years, and it was here for at least a year before I showed up. I use it every day, printing out 10 to 100 sheets per day. It has never had a single breakdown. Not one. The thing is a tank. The cartridge costs about $120, but with as many sheets as I print out I only replace the cartridge twice a year. The printout quality is high enough that we use them instead of film for making plates for our smaller offset prints. I'm not sure they're still being made, but if you can find one used I'd suggest considering it.

At home I have the Samsung ML-2510. It's good enough, no real complaints, other than it's a bit slow and noisy compared to my HP 1200. I go weeks without using it and it always starts right back up when I need it to.
posted by lekvar at 2:35 PM on August 12, 2008

Samsung ML-2010. No contest.
posted by flabdablet at 6:49 PM on August 12, 2008

Get a laser printer. You'll pay more at the beginning, but much less in the long run. Cheap ink jet printers are generally built terribly, and the cost per page is often 5 times that of an inexpensive laser. Brother and Samsung both make good, inexpensive laser printers. Some of HP's low-end lasers are good (and others are not).
posted by cnc at 9:18 PM on August 12, 2008

I second the older HP laser series. I am looking at a 5 on the desk in front of me and I have a 2100 at home that is at least 8 or 9 years old which finally needed a new cartridge last year. They both do exactly what you want when you want. My Canon Color printer copier scanner works for pictures when I need to do those but those ink cartridges are pricey and go away real fast.
posted by ptm at 6:25 AM on August 13, 2008

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