Is This the Most Economical Printer?

Category: Printing

Epson is challenging the business model of the printer industry. Or maybe, Epson is capitulating to consumer demand. Either way, the new line of inkjet printers coming from Epson in September is revolutionary, and it should make you think differently about your next printer purchase. But not, perhaps, in the way Epson wants you to think. Read on!

A New Idea in Printing

Epson’s new EcoTank printers will come with super-sized ink cartridges that print 4,000 pages, about two years of average service, the company says. That’s 10 to 20 times more than typical ink cartridges. Better yet, when a cartridge is empty you can easily refill it from a bottle of ink that costs just $13!

There’s a catch, of course; the EcoTank printers themselves start at $379, and some retailers like Best Buy are already marking them up further to $400. Apparently, they’re expecting huge demand for these hassle-free, inexpensive, and eco-friendly printers.

But before running out to buy an EcoTank, take a clear look at your printing habits. I know that I don’t print nearly as much as I did ten years ago; the ease of managing, sharing, faxing and even signing documents electronically has eliminated a significant portion of my printing needs. And when I do need to print, it’s black-and-white text much more often than color.
Ecotank Vs. Laser

The biggest problem many users encounter is caused by infrequent printing. Ink dries up and clogs the tiny nozzles in a cartridge’s print head, producing horizontal streaks. To clean a clogged nozzle, you have to run a utility that forces excessive amounts of ink through the nozzles, or remove each cartridge and wipe off dried ink with an alcohol swab. It’s wasteful, messy, or both.

It’s unknown at this time whether Epson has engineered a new ink that resists drying and clogging. (It's also unclear if they'll buy you a new shirt when you ruin yours during the "refill from a bottle" procedure.) But there is already a printing technology that is not susceptible to these problems, and its economics are comparable to EcoTank’s.

Inkjet Versus Laser: Who Wins?

If you're looking for ways to cut back on printing, see my related articles on Free Internet Faxing, Digital Signatures, and Save Time and Money with Alternatives to Printing

Laser printers use dry powdered pigments called “toner” instead of wet ink. The powder is deposited on paper and fused to it with heat from a drum. Toner cartridges typically yield 10,000 or more prints, and drums often last for 100,000 prints or more.

Laser printers are generally more durable than cheap inkjet printers; several people I know have gotten 10 years of service out of refurbished laser printers they bought for a couple of hundred bucks. At least one of those printers is still using its original drum.

Inkjet technology has a slight edge over laser when it comes to printing color, especially for photos. By design, the ink droplets bleed slightly, producing more even color than the pixels of toner. But if you need the very highest quality photo print, there's always Walgreens or some other place with photo-printing service. Most people don't need to do that very often.

Epson’s EcoTank is a great idea for high-volume printing, especially in color. But for the typical home user, a comparably priced color laser printer may be a better option. Refurbished or open-box deals can save even more money.

Do you have a laser printer? Would you consider buying one as a long-term investment, or does the Epson EcoTank sound like it better suits your printing needs? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Is This the Most Economical Printer?"

(See all 42 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Jim Martin
07 Aug 2015

Laser would definitely be the better option. But I have not yet been able to get laser to print accurate colors as does ink jet. Any suggestions?


Posted by:

OldGeezerTech
07 Aug 2015

I agree with most comments here. I have/had a HP inkjet that constantly clogged up. When I closed my computer store I brought home my IBM Network 17 Laser. We used it for customer invoices. It prints on both sides of the paper. I like that. I've had to change out the fuser roller once but it still works great. IBM was built like a tank, it just keeps on going. Parts are hard to find but toner is readily available.


Posted by:

nosemore
07 Aug 2015

.

Inkjet printers have 2 problems.

1. If used frequently, refills are too expensive.

2. If used infrequently, the cartridges dry out.

Both problems are avoided with a laser printer.

.


Posted by:

Linda
07 Aug 2015

I have had a Dell AIO 922 inkjet printer for over 10 years, and it still works perfectly. Have never had problems with ink cartridges drying up, and I don't do a whole lot of printing. However, when I do print, I often need to print in colour, so I am a fan of inkjets, and of this inkjet in particular. The printer came bundled with a desktop computer many years ago, so I have no idea what it would have cost separately. The computer bit the dust a long time ago, but I think I am going to have to beat this printer to death with a stick, as it just won't give up. My only regret is that it doesn't work with Windows 10, so I am stuck with Win7 either until Dell writes a patch to make my printer compatible with Windows 10, or I figure out what my next printer will be.


Posted by:

Gar
08 Aug 2015

I have purchased refillable cartridges and ink from a 3rd party supplier for my last two printers. I have had excellent results, and low printing costs.

They print very well, including photos, although I admit I don't print many photos. I have found it's better to use four-color printers than the usual 3 color, with separate cartridges for each color, and black. That way, when you print something grayscale, you are only using ink from the black cartridge, rather than faking black from a mixture of cyan yellow and magenta, which saves you nothing.


Posted by:

Paul Kelly
08 Aug 2015

I purchased a HP4L printer about 21 years ago. I have been using it almost daily and it still operates as new.
I don't believe I have purchased more than 4 or 5 cartridges.


Posted by:

Paul Kelly
08 Aug 2015

I purchased a HP4L printer about 21 years ago. I have been using it almost daily and it still operates as new.
I don't believe I have purchased more than 4 or 5 cartridges.


Posted by:

Laurie
08 Aug 2015

Your article outlines my feelings on the matter of printers. I don't have to print at home very often these days. When I do, color isn't needed. With my last inkjet printer, I dried up two batches of ink because my printing habits have decreased so much. So, with my next purchase, I went laser. I have an AIO because I wanted the scanning ability built in. (It does scan in color.) It is perfect for my needs. I find I scan more often than I print, anyway. The toner lasts and lasts. While I spent a little bit more up front than I would have for a comparable inkjet device, it's far more hassle-free and cheaper in the long run to use.


Posted by:

SamiamHis
08 Aug 2015

After years of using HP all-in-one printers that always had high ink costs, the last one finally gave up the ghost in the middle of an intense printing job for a local event that required a lot of print outs for mailing/posters/inserts. I live too far from any office supply place that could have done the work for me to make it worth the trip. It was the dried out inkjets that were the hurdle I could not overcome. I replaced my HP with a Canon MF216 monotone AIO printer on sale for $149.99. It was the best price I could find for any laser printer that I could drive to within an hour for store pick up. It performs beautifully for all black and white printing needs. I have a backup toner cartridge (they are expensive: $75 on sale) in stock but having this printer for 5 months and not even going through 20% of my toner seems like a bargain to me. I print a great deal and HP was breaking the bank especially when I had to replace dried out ink cartridges or work for hours to force an inkjet to function for a couple of days before it went dead again. I will not go back to inkjet! My next move will be a color laser as there are projects where printing in color really makes a difference to highlight an item. I think it all depends on how you use a printer. As far as photos are concerned I have a Walmart that is somewhat close and I can print my photos there or go a little further to Walgreens. When you live in the boonies, there are plusses and minuses. Distance is always a factor that you have to deal with when you need something right now. :)


Posted by:

Duane
08 Aug 2015

I'm an AIO fan. Canon MX860. Love the multiple cartridges so only fill what's needed. Print multiple times a week. Have never had dried ink problems.

Only AIO change I would make is to eliminate the Fax - never used, even once.


Posted by:

Calvin
08 Aug 2015

I bought a colour laser for $125 about 5 years ago and while the colour printing is not as good as my inkjets, I have yet to spend another cent on it and it still works. I've been through 4 injets in that time. At this point I rarely print in colour, so my Kodak inkjet does what I need for that. Otherwise I use the laser printer.


Posted by:

Henning Pedersen
09 Aug 2015

I picked up a brothers DCP 7020 laser printer scanner copier working as volunteer at MCC Thrift Store last year as could not resell the donated printer. I noted has 3/4 of cartridge left, black only laser printer, and rated at 10,000 pages. Took it home and use for all my B&W printing needs, and works excellently. I will certainly look at a colour laser if one becomes available used or on a good sale. Fantastic what people throw away, or don't use.


Posted by:

Sara
09 Aug 2015

I had NEC black & white laser printer for many years. When it finally needed a new cartridge the cost to replace was $150. Not wanting to pay that much & this was online price for refurbished cartridge I bought HP 1018 black & white laser printer for about $50 after it being on sale and with coupons. It came with full 5000 page cartridge which I replaced after about 5 years of usage. New cartridge was $22 online. Printer has been wonderful for my needs. Also have HP Officejet 6210 AIO for past several years which I use for occasional Fax, some copying & scanning. Printer can be an ink hog & since I don't need color printing, I don't use it for printing. Have been able to update both sets of drivers for Windows 8.1 & am happy with the way I use both printers. If you don't need color printing don't get an inkjet. You can scan & fax using Windows Fax & scan feature so you don't really need an inkjet.


Posted by:

Sara
09 Aug 2015

I had NEC black & white laser printer for many years. When it finally needed a new cartridge the cost to replace was $150. Not wanting to pay that much & this was online price for refurbished cartridge I bought HP 1018 black & white laser printer for about $50 after it being on sale and with coupons. It came with full 5000 page cartridge which I replaced after about 5 years of usage. New cartridge was $22 online. Printer has been wonderful for my needs. Also have HP Officejet 6210 AIO for past several years which I use for occasional Fax, some copying & scanning. Printer can be an ink hog & since I don't need color printing, I don't use it for printing. Have been able to update both sets of drivers for Windows 8.1 & am happy with the way I use both printers. If you don't need color printing don't get an inkjet. You can scan & fax using Windows Fax & scan feature so you don't really need an inkjet.


Posted by:

Steve
09 Aug 2015

I have been frustrated with the permanent printhead model inkjet printers. If and when the printheads clog, they can be a bear to unclog. Yes, ink is cheaper for these models because you are just buying an ink tank.
I have been using the printhead in Cartridge older HP printers. One is an old deskjet 820C from circa 1995-98. It is a tank that just works, refilled Inkjet cartridges are cheap and they hold a lot of ink, and there are no chips, etc. to prevent refills. I have become adept at refilling the cartridges and it is really, really inexpensive--(about $2). Should the printhead get hopelessly clogged (rare), just replace the cartridge with a refilled one for $7-12. I also use an old HP PSC 750 all in one, and ditto for the cartridges.
Refilling cartridges can be messy, especially if you are new at it or not at all handy. Once you get the hang of it, it is not a problem.


Posted by:

Narada
09 Aug 2015

No mention of laser printers being the #1 factor in office air pollution, emitting VOCs and submicron-sized particulates. High toner coverage (graphics) and high volume printing exacerbate the problem.
http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2009/02/just-how-safe-is/
"Because these particles are so small, there is a very high probability for these particles to deposit in the deepest alveoli in the lung … from there they can enter the bloodstream," said Lidia Morawska, the scientist who co-authored the study, which appears in this month's online issue of the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology. 27% of machines tested had particulate output equivalent to a lit cigarette.
"The theoretical concern is also that because these ultrafine particles could deposit in the small air sacs in the lung and then enter the bloodstream, they could trigger changes in blood vessels that could promote heart disease or even carry cancer-causing toxins," said Marshall.


Posted by:

nana
10 Aug 2015

Thank you for your clear explanation of this new printer. I have an inkjet and am fairly happy but I do have to replace the cartridges more than I think is necessary. I don't print all that much anymore, just like some of the folks who commented. My neighbor has a laser printer and is happy as can be. That may be the next move I make some day. All the comments and your information Bob, have been very informative. But then you always do a good job. Thanks again from a Grandma who appreciates you and the work you do.


Posted by:

Mary S.
10 Aug 2015

I bought an HP color laser printer for $200 during a Black Friday sale 4 years ago. I was replacing the inkjet cartridges every 10-14 days. Now I replace the toner cartridges about once a year. One of my best Black Friday buys!!


Posted by:

C. M.
27 May 2016

I feel it's probably also important to mention that the toner used by laser printers is incredibly carcinogenic.

That may well be a consideration for some of your readers.


Posted by:

Elliott Bettman
18 Jul 2016

One possible problem (for me) with an Ecotank would be that the computer work station sits in my living room, on a nice rug. Any leak could ruin it. I have an HP 7520 with the usual dry ink, phantom empty ink issues. It has TWO Black cartridges. One has a Tuxedo bowtie logo (for photo printing) the other a pentagram (for regular printing.) I just replaced a cartridge, and now NO Black ink prints out. Cleaning the cartridge head has not worked. This SUCKS. I don't know about laser carcinogens, I just hope the dust-again-doesn't stain rugs or furniture. There are also LED printers (similar to lasers) out now. The All in One is Heavy. I hope I can get it in the basement without falling to my Doom.

I think I'll get a B&W Laser Three in one.

Another issue-I would like to have a duplex scanner for old documents and receipts. I guess I'll need a separate machine for that.


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