Printer technology has made tremendous advances in the past five years. Speeds are up and print quality is great. Meanwhile, printer costs have declined.
What has not improved is the cost of ink. Printer manufacturers expected to make their profit on replacement cartridges, and they do. But in charging high prices they created another industry that they have to compete with.
Now there are generic or compatible replacements; you can buy refilled cartridges and refill kits so you can refill them yourself. Worst of all there are counterfeits. And there's a big market for all of them due to the sky-high price of OEM cartridges.
The manufacturers are full of tricks. Some of them use tiny cartridges that don't hold much ink. Most of the standard cartridges are half full of ink. They sell high capacity cartridges at premium prices that are full of ink. They run promotions on printers that have sample cartridges that barely have enough ink to try out the new printer.
These are all factors you have to consider when you buy a printer. There are makers who have addressed the problem in another way. All printers have a separate black cartridge for obvious reasons, but a few use a separate cartridge for each color. If one of the colors runs out you can replace it individually. This way you aren't throwing away good ink. One maker gives you the choice of a double size black unit that is more economical than two singles.
Most printers use a cartridge with a built- in print head, but at least one has the print head built into the machine. The cartridges are only ink containers, consequently very inexpensive and easy to refill. The downside of this arrangement is that the print head is a wear item and it's quite expensive to replace.
The point is that these two style printers are more economical to operate than the conventional type. There are some printers that will operate with only the black cartridge installed, and this is a good choice for students and others that only print text. If you don't need a fancy printing job, often you can set your printer on "draft" which saves a lot of ink.
Be careful when you are buying a printer especially, but not exclusively at auctions; they're selling them without ink.
A diligent shopper can sometimes find printers with and without rebates that are below the cost of the ink. This is a good way to go. For more information about shopping visit my web site: http://www.caveatemptorus.com/
I've tried refilling and using refurbished units with mixed success. Refilling is risky business. Maker's claim that it voids your warranty, this is debatable, but there is some validity to their concerns. There are different kinds of ink and using the wrong or an inferior ink can do damage. Many refurbs are poor quality so you end up returning them for replacement.
At the moment my choice is a printer with print heads in the cartridges and I buy good quality generics. Keep in mind this creates warranty problems. If you have a problem printing, you can't get technical service unless you buy a set of OEMs.
Written by: George W. Cannata the publisher of the web site: http://www.caveatemptorus.com, July 8, 2005.