If that title sucked you in, great, that was my plan. However, I’ll come clean right from the start that I don’t think you can pin down what is the best printer. It’s a little like finding the perfect mate. There are a lot qualities, some good and bad, and there’s some compromise to make. Nonetheless, there’s nothing wrong with looking for the Gisele Bundchen of printers, right?
Most people have it easy when it comes to printers. They buy them and they work. If I have one super-power it’s that I can destroy a printer’s ability to print in a single use. This clip (caution adult language) from Office Space is a common occurance with me and printers.
The only printer that is immune is my beloved HP LaserJet 4L that is about 20 years old now. I’d still be using it, but I can’t figure out how to hook it up without a LPT1 port. (I bought a USB to LPT1 adapter, but couldn’t make it work.) That thing printed thousands of high school, college papers, resumes and more. The whole dorm used it. I changed the laser cartridge once at a cost of about $70.
Times were simpler then. Printing in color wasn’t a big deal, we didn’t have digital cameras. Wireless technology was still years away. No one conceived of a machine for the home that did scanning, copying, faxing, and printing. In an age where we strive to go paperless and use our tablets to share information it seems strange that there’s so much more to consider in choosing a printer.
The last few printers I’ve had have been… well… disposable. I picked the cheapest one at Staples. Then I supply it with whatever generic ink cartridges that I find on Ebay because ink is so expensive. Often the official ink is more expensive than the printer itself. I know these buying choices may play a role in my ability to destroy printers rather quickly. However, now that I’m not turning in 20 pages for the entire dorm, the amount of printing I need to do is minimal.
Last Friday my latest disposable printer this terribly reviewed HP) died on me. I had a critical 2-page document to print, sign, scan, and return for a business deal. I ended up having to go to FedEx Office and spending an entire 26 cents to print it out. (I was expecting it to be a lot more.)
I’m done with my disposable printer plan. It’s time to get something steady and reliable. So last night, I started to do some printer research. I immediately gravitated towards laser printers because of that wonder HP LaserJet 4L. I wanted to put all the ink jet crap in the past. As it turns out there aren’t a lot of laser printers that the essential functions I need like scanning and copying. (Some day I’ll get faxing to work with my Ooma VOIP.) There was one that met my needs, Canon Laser imageCLASS MF4890dw and at $195 the price isn’t bad. The reviews of it are outstanding. I had a talk with my wife as to whether we can give up color printing, since we don’t use it much. She was hesitant, but agreed that color printing is usually not necessary for us.
I was about to pull the trigger when a little voice said, “What does The WireCutter think is the Gisele Bundchen of printers?” I love the WireCutter, because they often make the same technology choices I would. So when I have doubts, I go there and see what they are recommending and why.
They weren’t recommending any laser printers. They explained that ink jets have caught up to laser printers in many ways, including the price to print a page. Not only that, but unlike the laser printers, a color printer doesn’t cost $500+. Additionally they cited this excellent PC World article about how a more expensive printer with cheaper ink can save money.
The Wirecutter particularly liked this Epson WorkForce WF-3520, saying that for $120, it does most everything well including a cost per page (CPP) of about 3.2 cents, which is below average. However, the also mention that for $80 more the HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus has a cheaper 1.6 cents CPP and is a little faster, plus the ability to scan legal sized documents.
Given The Wirecutter’s advice, I’m rethinking going with a laser printer. With the young baby, there might be a need to print out pictures for grandma. So assuming that I ditch the Cannon laser printer, I’m between the two Wirecutter options. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as it seems as the Espon they recommend is $20 more than when they recommended it. The gap between the two has narrowed. Additionally, I feel better about the cheaper CPP even though it would take about 3000 pages to make the HP cheaper.
The Amazon reviews for the Espon are better, especially with far fewer people giving it a dud rating of one star. I think the Espon is going to be my next and hopefully last printer for some time.
Readers, what are your thoughts on printers? Find any great ones that you are particularly happy about? Have thoughts about these? Let me know in the comments.