A printer is a printer is a printer …. right?

Asking any IT person to recommend a printer (or a laptop or PC for that matter), is like saying “which car should I buy?” or “which house should I build?”.  It strongly depends on what your needs are, as a printer on a network for 10 people in an office printing mainly documents is far different from a home printer that you want to handle photos.

Here are my top five printing tips :

1.  Laser or inkjet/bubble jet:  In the Australian market at the moment, you will find brand name sub $100 inkjet printers.  The sting? Replacement ink approx $35 (yes, in some cases this is half the price of a new printer)!  Printer manufacturers make very little money on printers but a ton of money from inks.  And you will find you need a new ink cartridge after 200 pages or less (around an 18c per page ink cost).  NB: These calculations are very approximate, as factors like how much ink is on the page (e.g. blocks of graphics versus text), print quality, paper quality and orginal vs ‘copy’ inks .. will all have a great impact on the ‘yield’ (or number of pages from a single ink cartridge).  Step up to a $200 brand name laser printer, and now you’re looking at around $85 for replacement toner (used instead of ink) but approx 1500 pages, so a cost of about 5.6 cents per page.  (For more info on how laser printers work, and how static electricity can be used for good instead of evil, visit  http://computer.howstuffworks.com/laser-printer.htm ).  So, after you’ve spent $260 odd for 1500 inkjet pages, you might wish you had bought a laser printer.  Personally, I run a Samsung CLP-500 laser workhorse for general printing, and a Canon i850 inkjet for playing with photo printing.  And, if this entire paragraph has just confused you, think of how expensive it is to fill the tank of a 4WD/SUV versus some little, zippy economical thing 🙂  Ink and toner compare nicely to a ‘miles per gallon’ analogy.

2.  Out of colour?  Some inkjets will refuse to print black only (with a full black tank) if the colour tank is empty.

3.  Seeing double?  Automatic double-sided (or ‘duplex’) is fantastic for saving paper and helping the environment.  Oh, and speaking of the environment, don’t throw your old toner or ink cartridges in the general waste/rubbish.  Visit www.planetark.com for safe disposal or find a recycling service near you.

4. Generic=cheaper?:  So many places are offering generic, compatible inks and refill services.  I’m not a great fan of these due to all of the hard work that goes in to making sure that genuine branded inks truly do offer the best performance and best quality for your printer.  They are certified to run through your machine with no damage.  Take special care if you are thinking about taking the cheaper option and your printer is still under warranty – using non-genuine inks may void it.

5.  Then there are the good old ‘multifunctions’, which let you scan, copy and fax too.  Great space savers, but if the scanner breaks and needs to be sent away for repairs, there goes your printer too.  Also check whether your PC needs to be turned on to use the faxing function, or if it can operate independantly of your PC.

My favourite printing brands have to be HP and Canon, due to the committment they make in the research and development labs, their superior support and their committment to the environment.  But at the time, my Samsung was a great deal, and the support has been great even though it’s had nearly every internal component replaced!


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