Printer Advice

Does any of my readers know anything about printers?

I’m looking to buy a printer for home or small office use, so massive speeds and loads aren’t important. I also need a scanner, so would want one which also has that capability. I’m thinking of going for laser rather than inkjet, mainly because I find the quality much better on lasers and inkjets tend to dry out unless used regularly, and this printer might be sitting idle for long periods. Colour printing isn’t important – I can get by on black and white – but is the price difference these days such that I may as well get a colour one? Any brands to avoid? Finally, I don’t need some huge thing: compactness would be desirable. Budget: not entry level but not hi-end pro either. Low-end pro is about where I’m at.

Any advice or recommendations?

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33 thoughts on “Printer Advice

  1. Definitely go for laser over inkjet if you’re not printing that often as the ink dries out in the heads, as you mentioned. Factor in the price of a few sets of (black) cartridges as new printers usually only come with ‘starter’ cartridges filled with just a whiff of toner.

    We have a Lexmark CX310n which fits the bill, but is no longer available as far as I can see.

    HP have always had a good reputation in this field – something like the M281fdw for example.

  2. See what the Apple Stores stock and then go and buy one of the printers they stock from a cheaper supplier.

  3. You’re right about inkjet drying out. I have an hp laser pro (mp12 I think) for less than $100.

  4. Check out the prices of replacement toner. Printers are sold cheaply to enable margin on the inks.

  5. I looked at IJT Direct to figure out cheap replacement cartridges and ended up with a Samsung LaserJet. Would recommend.

  6. Cheap printers don’t last and don’t produce the quality you at least occasionally need. Even for low volume work a small office-style machine with integrated scanner is great. The toner/machine price thing is partially reversed with professional kit.

    I have an Epson, Aculaser CX29. It’s no longer available but you can find it online and they will have something similar. I have always sworn by Epson printers, and been disappointed by HP. The document feeder on the scanner has enabled me to halve the weight of my filing cabinet, painlessly. I think it’s a must on a scanner.

    The only disadvantage with something like the CX29 is it is a pretty hefty piece of kit and will take up some serious desk space, so not compact, and you definitely won’t be slinging it in your carry-on for a weekend to Annecy.

  7. Samsung M2070W – monochrome laser, scanner, reasonably compact size. I’d echo what the others say about avoiding inkjet for infrequent use – the ink will dry up and end up costing more. Not to mention the frustration you’ll feel when you plug it in to print an urgent Ryanair boarding pass, only to discover that the ink is dry.

    For a cheap scanner, the free Adobe Scan app on your phone might suffice. Try it out before buying a combined printer-and-scanner.

  8. Inkjets are good value for steady use but will die unless you remember to do at least a test print every couple of weeks. They kitted out a school I worked at with a dozen of them and only a couple survived the summer hols. How to waste money, government style.

  9. I’m also very happy with a Lexmark laser printer but like others my model no longer exists. Apparently the life cycle for a printer model is remarkably short in order to make it harder for independent toner (ink to you and me) suppliers to compete with the original and expensive manufacturers’ cartridges so while the shape of the toner cartridges changes, the specification of the newer model is often strikingly similar to its predecessor.

    FNAC or Amazon.fr probably have heaps of choice but I bought from some people called printerbase who were the best value I found and with an impressive range. Worth a look.

  10. Contradicting everyone else, I have just replaced my bog-standard Canon inkjet after nearly 10 years of home office use.

    I didn’t do any research before buying it so had no idea ink cartridges dried out. That never happened to me, despite leaving it idle for a solid month each year. Perhaps because I live in a humid climate?

    Anyway, I have just replaced it with a similar model. £50, all good so far.

  11. In the long run, laser printers are substantially cheaper per page than ink-jets. The upfront costs of laser are greater than ink-jet (although not so much anymore), but the cost of ink-jet cartridges is so high, and the obsolescence of the each model of ink-jet printer and its required cartridges happens so quickly that for anyone doing small business printing (as opposed to home use) ink-jets make no sense.

  12. I replaced my old Cannon MX860 inkjet with a Cannon MF633Cdw a few months ago. I too chose a laser because of my very low print volume and fear of ink drying out. The print quality is outstanding and duplex by default. I’m still on starter cartridges, so don’t know what the eventual running cost will be. The footprint is quite modest, but it is very tall.

    The one aspect that disappointed me was the scanner. I hadn’t appreciated how good the scanner was on the MX860, allowing duplex in, resolution selection – 150dpi to 600dpi and output file type selection. The MF633Cdw doesn’t handle duplex in, doesn’t offer selectable resolution or selectable output file types. If scanning is important to you it may be best to focus on scanning functions.

  13. I have an HP J3680 all-in-one which must be at least ten years old; I’m not suggesting you buy one (even if you still could) but the inks for it – HP21 and 22 and still widely available, whatever other commenters have said.
    Colour lasers are really really expensive to run – avoid.
    Your best bet would probably be whatever the HP Laserjet 4 is described as now, if you can find out – they were the workhorse of all offices for years and years, solid as a rock, and the only replaceable part is the toner/fuser cartridge thingy which again is widely available to this day.
    Having said all that, I have found the Brother inkjets pretty well indestructible too; I supported loads of them on building sites and they never failed unless actually crushed or dropped from a height – both of which did happen!

  14. Like PeteC and unlike Marc, I’d recommend a mid-range Lexmark.

    MS317 or 417, dn versions, as the replacements for the 310s we both use.

  15. The technology has commoditized. You can routinely buy last year’s all-in-one black & white laser device for under $100CAD when the new models come in, and increasingly the low-end models share a toner cartridge design so you won’t need to worry. A high-capacity third party toner cartridge should run you no more than $30CAD (the printer will come with a “starter” cartridge of about 25% the capacity of a high-cap cartridge).

    At these prices, it doesn’t matter what you buy; if it lasts a year, you can throw the whole thing out and buy a new one if you don’t like it. Samsung and Brother are pretty good generally.

    Don’t buy a colour laser. If you’re used to inkjets, the colours are less saturated and the toner cartridges are more expensive. To get bright laser colours, you need a dye-sub printer; they’re in the $1000 range and expensive to operate.

  16. Don’t buy a colour laser. If you’re used to inkjets, the colours are less saturated and the toner cartridges are more expensive.

    This is a good point. Color lasers are ok for for ‘business’ style graphics: charts/presentations and what have you, but for photographs they leave something to be desired. I mean, the newer ones are OKish but an inkjet or dye-sub like Daniel mentioned will blow a laser out of the water for photo printing.

  17. Thanks everyone, this is all good stuff. I looked at doing some photo printing a year or so back and was told for the number I’m looking at (5-10 A4 to hang on walls) I’d be better off getting it done at a professional printers. I’m looking at mostly documents where colour is merely a nice to have.

  18. for the number I’m looking at (5-10 A4 to hang on walls) I’d be better off getting it done at a professional printers.

    This. Unless you’re scrapbooking or crafting or something constantly, just take a USB key to your local Marte-Wal.

  19. We have a Canon all in one thing which is like a mini-office printer with scanner, fax, printer and photocopier all built in. The running costs are small as we hardly ever use colour and we use clone cartridges otherwise it would be ruinous.

    It can scan to network drives and print from devices on the network, including iPhones and iPads. Don’t just think what it can do but how you will get it to do what you want, in other words does it work from iPads?

  20. Since there are printer experts about, any ideas on a laser colour printer can handle card?

  21. any ideas on a laser colour printer can handle card?

    All of them. A decent colour laser runs $300CAD around here, all of those will do cardstock, many will do duplex, some will even handle transparencies.

    The only two things I can think of you’d want to do with colour-printed cardstock, though, are DIY business cards and pepakura/card modelling. In the first case, you’re better served by just going with VistaPrint or something. Print-your-own business cards look like crap and online services produce excellent quality for peanuts. And for card modelling you’re not going to get the colour saturation you want. It’s one of those rare cases where the inkjet is the better buy, but you’re going to pay for it.

  22. Yeah, I used VistaPrint to make a few hundred business cards. Was about €20 or something daft like that.

  23. “Inkjets are good value for steady use but will die unless you remember to do at least a test print every couple of weeks.”

    Dang. You mean they would have lasted longer if I had used them?

    I have a Brother that I use infrequently. What with the carts drying out so fast, I’m guessing my cost per page printed is around $25.00.

  24. “Dang. You mean they would have lasted longer if I had used them?”

    Yes – the ink clogs in the tubes leading up to the nozzles. You used to be able to resurrect them with meths and a cotton bud but I haven’t tried that for years.

  25. The only advice I can give you is don’t worry too much about the cost of the printer – pay attention to how much the ink refills cost and, if possible, get one that has individual color and black feeds, not one single cartridge that holds all the inks.

    Oh, and wifi/nfc is great if you do any sort of doc work on your phone (not just writing docs but if someone sends you one over email, etc).

  26. Nice idea, Daniel Ream. Unfortunately, I’m in Spain, where getting anything to the specifications one’s asked for are only a vague possibility. One has to accept that your Dago is the most lazy & incompetent assole going & if you want something done properly you do it yourself.

    Neatly illustrated by going to a vendor of colour laser printers & asking for a printer prints cardstock.
    “Do you sell a printer, prints on 220g/m card?”
    “Si senor. I sell you this one for 230€. Very good printer”
    “Do you have the technical specifications for the printer?”
    “Si senor” Fiddles with computer, brings up specifications for totally different printer. “Very good printer. I sell you this printer for 230€” Pointing at printer in shop.
    “But this isn’t that printer” Pointing at printer on screen
    “We do not sell that printer, senor. I sell you this one. Very good printer”

  27. Unfortunately, I’m in Spain, where getting anything to the specifications one’s asked for are only a vague possibility.

    Oh dear. Is Amazon an option?

  28. I’ve had a Brother DCP 135 C printer/scanner/copier for several years, cost £50. Never had any problem with ink drying out even though I was away from home at sea for 8 weeks at a time. I get my replacement ink cartridges online from 999 Inks, next day delivery and very cheap.

  29. We’re on a Brother DCP9020CDW.
    Multifunction (even has a fax machine built in I think…), with a document feeder on the scanner which is useful.

    Wifi, wired LAN and Airprint.
    colour and prints doulbe sided.

    All good.

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