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Stop buying ink!

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

If you're in the market for a new printer, ditch the ink and go laser!


Because people come to me for advise on what printer to buy so often, I've probably spent well over 100 hours researching into the topic. Everything from professional reviews from sites like consumer reports, to the user reviews left on Amazon. Over the years I've ended up recommending just about every brand under the sun, and after tracking the units I've recommended, I've come away knowing at least 1 thing for sure: Inkjet sucks. Period.


Apples to apples


There's a good reason that if you look into the commercial and enterprise environment virtually every printer is laser. They've tracked the costs, and at the end of the day, inkjet just doesn't make sense. It can be hard to believe that a $300 printer with $100 toner cartridges can possibly cost less than a sub $100 inkjet printer with $45 ink cartridges, but you need to look at actual cost per page. That toner might cost twice as much as the ink upfront, but it can print 5x as many pages. An equivalent inkjet cartridge would actually cost more like $200+ when you compare apples to apples. Beyond that, most laser printers can be easily repaired. If a wear item in your inkjet breaks, good luck fixing it. They typically sonically weld (melt the plastic) those cheap inkjet printers together in an effort to reduce production costs, and that means you literally have to break them to take them apart. Laser printers on the other hand are made to be repaired, and their wear items are cheap and easy to swap out. The printer I've personally tracked the longest is actually my own mothers Brother laser printer. It's approaching its 8th birthday, and even after printing over 30,000 pages, it's still running perfectly fine. I've had to fix it once in that time (because she used cheap toner), but it was a cheap and easy repair.


What about photos?


Inkjet printers are better at printing photos, that is true, but todays modern color laser printers aren't far behind. If I printed the same photo from both types of printers and held them 3 feet away, you probably wouldn't be able to tell me which one was printed with the inkjet. The only people I still recommend inkjet printers to are people who need a printer for professional photo use, as in professional photographers or print houses. For the other 99% of people, the difference between the two is negligible.


It can't dry out if it's already powder


If you've owned an inkjet printer for any decent amount of time, you've had this happen at least once. After printing something out, you've gone to retrieve your freshly printed page only to find a blank sheet of paper. The ink cartridge "dried out" on you. It may have still had 75% of the ink left in it, but you didn't use it soon enough and it dried out. This is especially common for people who don't print all that often, because they're typically the ones who buy the cheapest printer possible. After all, they're not printing often so why spend a lot of money on the printer? It's actually these people, the ones who rarely print or maybe they're buying one for a second home or cabin, that I recommend laser printers the most heavily to. It might cost 2-3x more than the equivalent inkjet, but there's a good chance it's going to be the last penny they spend on printing over the next 5 years. Literally. You can't find me an inkjet that can sit for multiple years between use and not dry out.

On a slightly related note, this also speaks to why toner doesn't smear like ink. Even after a page printed with ink dries, it can still smear if any water touches it. Toner is instantaneously fused to the paper during the printing process, so there's no drying time and contact with water won't smear it afterwords.


What about those "ink tank" printers?


Smart Tank, EcoTank, MegaTank, etc.. In an effort to help reduce the cost of ink for Inkjet printers, a few manufactures have come out with printers that use "ink tank" systems instead of individual cartridges. These have much high higher capacity than cartridges, but still suffer from the same reliability, user serviceability, and drying out issues. In fact, because these tanks aren't sealed as well as cartridges, they dry out even faster and have even more problems with clogging. It's a small step in the right direction, but there's a reason you don't find them in commercial and enterprise environments. Laser still costs less and performs better.


Refurbished/open box


If the upfront cost of a laser is still kind of hard to swallow, I highly recommend looking for a refurbished or open box unit from websites like Amazon or Adorama. Amazon has their "warehouse deals", and Adorama takes in units, inspects them, and sells them as gently used or refurbed. I regularly save 20-30% buying gently used on Adorama, and they back their products with a 180 day warranty plus whatever is left from the manufacturer warranty. Every now and then you can get lucky on eBay, but you need to know what to look for ( for example, sometimes a unit will be hundreds less, but won't include any toner or accessories).


The right laser printer for you?



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