Byte Me Article 103 – Printers, it’s a throwaway society

Printers, it’s a throwaway society

1 December, 2012

Right now you are reading this article because some ink or coloured toner powder has been sprayed or baked onto a sheet of previously white paper. Prior to what we know as a printer this had to be manually done with a pen or quill or a hand carved stamp.  I even remember 18 years back to my first “Bubble Jet” printer – it cost around $800, printed in black only, did not scan, copy or fax and took around a minute to print each page.  It also cost a fortunate to keep ink supplies up to it.

Now we take printers for granted and expect colour output as well as the ability to scan, copy and fax.  We also often expect to be able to print photographic quality prints, we demand 10 to even 60 pages per minute and don’t want to spend a fortune on printer supplies.  Certainly printers have come a long way in the last two decades but there is still no such thing as the perfect printer and certainly not at the cheaper end of the market.

2012-12-01 Byte Me Article 103 - Printer Selection

It is not hard today to find big brand name printers available for under $100 and some of them can even scan or copy as well.  When they run out of ink the cartridges for these same printers can often cost more than the original purchase price leaving the owner wondering if they should throw it away and just buy another one.  Well we live in a throwaway society but it is not that bad, just yet!  With these cheap printers, the manufacturers are severely discounting the new printer in the hope that we will continue to buy ink for it – they make a lot more profit out of the inks than the original sale.  For this reason every new printer comes with ink tanks that are only half or even a quarter of the normal replacement capacity.

If we buy a new printer every time the old one runs out of ink, not only are we contributing to global waste but we are missing out on a better run from the subsequent sets of cartridges.  Unfortunately though with the cheapest of printers, some of them have mechanics that are flat to even last more than a few sets of cartridges – it becomes a vicious loop.  The only answer here is that you (normally) get what you pay for.  The cheapest of printers become a very dear purchase and a hassle to keep replacing.

What makes printing solutions more complex is that the manufacturers are often coming out with new models every 6 months.  They are doing this because they are also bringing out new cartridges and toners at the same time to beat the non-genuine market.  They don’t make money when people either buy non-genuine replacements or refill the ink.  So they are putting smart ‘chips’ on the ink tanks to stop them working when refilled and they are bringing out new ink tank models to reduce the chance of duplications in the marketplace.  What is the answer?

You firstly have to consider your own individual requirements.  In an office situation if you have around 3 to 5 computers and do an average amount of printing then normally one good laser printer is the only way to go.  This can be colour if needed although it will always work out a lot cheaper if you don’t need this option.  There are certainly plenty of good monochrome (black only) laser printers starting around $400 and the same thing with multifunction (scanning, coping & faxing ability) around the $700 plus bracket.  Adding the option of colour for the same usage pattern will increase this cost to around $1200 for a colour laser multifunction.  Once you get beyond say 6 to 10 computers of if you print around a ream (500 sheets) of paper a week you should be considering printers and multifunctions in the $2000 plus bracket.

For smaller offices or for the home user situation a good ink based multifunction is hard to beat.  We are constantly researching or evaluating new printer models and have been finding a tendency toward good reliability and very economical running costs with some particular printers around the $300 bracket.  As an example we now sell a $329 Lexmark model which has colour, does scanning, coping, faxing, has wireless, USB & Ethernet, is iPhone & iPad compatible and can even do double sided printing/scanning.  This model has genuine $40 black inks which can print as many as 2500 pages plus has proved ultra-reliable.  This cost per page by the way rivals even the $2000 monochrome lasers!

We also suggest using good quality printer paper such as HP Multipurpose Copy Paper ($4.89 / ream from Officeworks) as the budget papers create a lot of extra dust and wear on printer feed pads and rollers.  Printer purchase can present itself as a minefield but do your research and don’t be tempted by what may appear to be a ‘bargain’ sale at the end of an isle – these often come back to bite the hip pocket. 

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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