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
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
When choosing a printer, don't forget to take the warranty as well as cost of ink into account. You can also get an extended warranty on any printer through a company such as SquareTrade.
Most warrantees only applies 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, Circuit City, 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 highly-rated photo-quality printer which can also be used as a regular printer and uses the cheapest cartridges at 1.50, look at the Canon Pixma MX922.
I bought the MX922 for my son as a photo printer (he already has a Brother laser) at Staples. Though they had it for $129, they price match and add 10% of the difference. Since several places have it for $100, I paid $97. They also sold me a 3 year Squaretrade warranty for $15 (normally $30). So I know he will have this printer for at least 3 years. I was so impressed, I bought a second one for myself. Over the past year, it has run from as low as $59 on sale to about $80 on average.
Canon, Brother and Epson have some good printers with cartridges in the below $2 range. However, all companies have some lemons, so make sure you check out ratings and cost of ink before you buy. I have heard that the print output of Brother inkjets is not quite as sharp as Epson and Canon.
If there is some reason you don't want the Canon MX922, let's talk Epson. The best Epson printer had been the Workforce 845 and its little brothers the 645 and 545. They were discontinued and replaced by the Workforce 3520, 3530 and 3540 which were highly rated. I bought the 3530 for my father years ago and it's still going strong. These were discontinued and replaced with the excellent 3600 series. My son has the 3640, both my daughters each have the 7610. All are happy with their printers.
If you are looking for a heavy-duty printer which also does a nice job on photos, look at the Epson Workforce 7610 (wide carriage) or 3640 or 3620. The lowest price I have seen for the 7610 is $150 with free shipping. The 7610 has been replaced with the 7710 which looks very similar and uses the same cartridges. The 3620 is usually around $90 and the 3640 $100 in places like Staples, Bestbuy, Costco.
The workforce 2600 and 3600 series replaced the 2500 and 3500 series and appear to be just as good. However, the 2600 series use the new T220 cartridges with a twist (see below). Though we have the cartridges in stock, our advice is to stick with the older models or the new 3600 series since compatible cartridges are easily available. The 3600 series and the 7610/7620 are the first printers which allow you to use compatibles. A message will come up saying "these are not epson cartridges. Proceed?" and you can keep going. The black XL cartridge contains 3x the ink of standard cartridges and is rated at 1200 pages (though 800 is probably more accurate.) Pretty good for a $4 cartridge.
Beware the new Epson cartridges. Even though we now have the T220, T288, T410 and T786 in stock, you should be aware that 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. It also means you can't shop around. Once you have chosen a supplier, you may have to stick with them because in switching you run the risk of getting duplicate numbers.
Beware Epson's newest printers. 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 printer. If you buy a printer which which uses one of these cartridges (702, 802), you will be stuck buying Epson cartridges which cost as much as the whole printer.
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.
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
-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 about the same
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 is not as cost-efficient as a $50 cartridge which yields 6,000 pages.
Some printers (HP in particular), often combine the drum and toner in one unit. You are forced to buy a drum with each toner, which raises the cost considerably. Some companies 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 Brother laser printers. They are almost always cheaper than the competition. 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 2,500 pages. 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 with $20 cartridges and some with $80 cartridges (per cartridge). Since you need 4, this price difference can be substantial, so check out cartridge prices before buying. Again, Brother tends to be the cheapest at around $20.