Best Printers

by Izzy Goodman

Read this to learn which printers will give you the best features, best warranty, best price and ink cartridges for free or close to it If you come across a deal you think is better, please email and let us know.

Printers to avoid:   Worst Printers

Inkjet printers

Inkjets and lasers fill different needs. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. The advantages of inkjet over laser are:
-lower costs up front, particularly for multi-function devices
-lower cartridge cost
-smaller footprint (usually)
-lower electrical costs and less heat output
-better quality for high-resolution photographs

Most warrantees only apply to printers bought from authorized dealers. Never buy a printer new or used from a second-tier shop such as an unauthorized seller on ebay. A customer bought a brand new Epson sealed in the box off ebay. It died in under a week. Epson is refusing to honor the warranty since they say the seller was not authorized to resell it. The customer is now pursuing the ebay guarantee. If that fails, she will attempt to charge it back on her credit card. Had she bought it from an authorized Epson dealer (Staples, Officemax, BestBuy, etc), she would have gotten her replacement the next day. There are also folks who buy a printer, remove the cartridges and then sell it on ebay without ink.

If you are looking for a top-of-the-line, professional photo printer, The Canon Pro100 (about $500 but you can usually find $150 rebate) prints in 8 colors to sizes up to 19 x 13. Cartridges are about $3.

The best printers from Canon use PGI280/CLI281 cartridges which are about $20 a set with prices slowly dropping. This is far cheaper than similar offerings from HP and Epson. The TR8620, 8620a, 8622 and 8622a are about $150 and use those cartridges.

Beware the new Epson cartridges. Epson has tried a new tactic to prevent refilling and compatibles. They are putting serial numbers on the chips. If you put in a cartridge with a serial number you have used before, it will be rejected. This means you can't refill a cartridge. It also makes it more difficult for compatible manufacturers because they now have to program a unique serial number in every cartridge and that number must match Epson's format. This is the reason for the higher price.

Epson has gone even further. There was a time when several printers would be released which all used the same cartridge. Now every printer needs a new cartridge. They know compatible manufacturers can't go to the trouble of making cartridges which only fit one or two printers. Again, that raises the price.

Epson Ecotank printers: What about Epson's Ecotank printers which work with ink bottles rather than cartridges? As expected, these are a great deal for Epson and a terrible deal for you. Read Ecotank printers - the real story for details.

Laser Printers

The advantages of laser over inkjet are:
-they print faster and sharper on text than inkjets
-because they don't have heads which clog or burn out, they tend to last much longer than inkjets (I have one over 20 years old still going strong)
-because they use dry toner and not ink, they don't clog or dry up. You can put a laser printer away for months and it will still work perfectly when you turn it back on.
-though toner cartridges are more expensive than ink cartridges, they yield more pages, so the cost per page is usually lower. At $20 per 3000 pages, it is under a penny a page. Since toner doesn't evaporate or clog, you should get close to that 3,000 figure, unlike ink where the page count is like the MPG in a car advertisment.

When choosing a laser printer, you have to look beyond the cost of the printer to:
-the speed in pages per minute
-the cost of the cartridges AND the number of pages they yield to get the accurate cost per page. A $30 cartridge which yields 1,000 pages (like many of the newer HP) is not as cost-efficient as a $40 cartridge which yields 10,000 pages (like the Canon CRG57H).

Some printers combine the drum and toner in one unit. You are forced to buy a drum with each toner, which raises the cost. With HP, there is usually a large difference in cost. With Canon, the difference in negligible. There is the advantage of knowing that you always have a new drum and don't need to replace it separately. Some companies (usually HP) create a different cartridge for every model printer. Why? Because they know that compatible manufacturers will not make the effort to produce cartridges for a very small market segment. If every printer uses a different cartridge, no one will make compatible cartridges for it. This gives them a monopoly on that cartridge which allows them to charge whatever they want. So when looking for a printer, find one which uses a cartridge which also fits many other models.

This is why I recommend Canon and Brother laser printers. They are always cheaper than the competition for the same features and so is the toner. Unlike other brands where every model printer has a specific cartridge, Brother laser cartridges fit many models of printers. They cost as low as $20 and yield about 3,000 pages or $30 for 6,000 pages. Canon has similarly priced cartridges. Under a penny a page is as low as it gets.

Many years ago there was a sale on the Brother HL-2040 for $50. I bought two and a number of friends bought them as well. Most are still going strong and all they ever needed was $20 toner cartridges. I never even replaced the drums. Years later, a client bought a multi-function Brother laser. It uses the same $20 cartridges

Color lasers tend to be more expensive, larger, and need 4 toner cartridges. There are some models (Canon and Brother) with $20 cartridges and some (HP) with $80-$250 cartridges (per cartridge). Since you need 4, this price difference can be substantial, so check out cartridge prices before buying.