Sunday, December 26, 2010

What is the most refill friendly printer?

When buying a new printer, it is very important to look beyond the bells and whistles of the printer "in the moment" of the sale of the printer.  Oftentimes, the inkjet or laser printer manufacturer will offer rebates to the retailer who is carrying the printer on their retail shelves, which is passed down to you, the end consumer and buyer of the printer.  So the price of the printer, before or after rebate, could be enticingly cheap.  You can find inkjet printers brand new at retailers sometimes for around $100 or even less.  It is even not impossible to find an inkjet printer with reasonably good features (prints per minute, page capacity, print quality and print resolution) for $50 to $75.  In the market for a laser printer? Laser printers take toner cartridges, and are a slightly more expensive print technology than inkjet printers, but can still be bought for very cheap deals.  It is reasonable to find a monochrome (black prints only) laser printer for $100.  It is also possible to find cheap color laser printers (typically 4 color printers black, cyan, magenta, yellow) for under $300.  Samsung for example has had a consistent line of color laser printers in the $300 price range, starting with the Samsung CLP300 a couple of years ago, and the more recent Samsung CLP310 / CLP315 color laser printers.  But there are 2 important things to take into consideration:
  1. The cost per page using the starting toner cartridges that come with the new printer (also known as the starter cartridges), and
  2. The cost per page for using the printer with replacement toner cartridges
The answer to these 2 points is different in each case some of the times because "starter cartridges" often carry less toner than replacement toner cartridges. Take for example Brother laser printers.  They often will take a smaller "starter cartridge" and a higher capacity "replacement cartridge".  For example, the Brother TN330 toner cartridge is the starter cartridge for printers that will also accept the Brother TN360 toner cartridge (which is around double capacity).  The same is true in the case of Brother TN430 vs the Brother TN460, and the Brother TN540 vs Brother TN570 toner cartridge.  HP ( Hewelett Packard ) also does a similar thing, the way to typically identify a lower capacity vs higher capacity toner cartridge by HP is to look at the ending letter on the toner cartridge model.  For example the HP Q7553a is the low capacity version of the HP Q7553x (printers that accept the HP Q7553a will also accept the HP Q7553x).  Another example is the HP Q2624a vs HP Q2624x, the HP CB435a vs the HP CB435x and more.

When considering which printer is the most "refill friendly", consider the capacity of the cartridge (page yield, that is how many pages can be printed with 1 toner cartridge based on a 5% page coverage), as well as how easy the cartridge is to refill and if there are any anti-refill mechanisms on the cartridge or printer.  As far as anti-refill mechanisms, toner chips come first to mind.  These are "page counting" electronic chips that allow the printer to keep memory of the pages printed (and therefore the pages remaining to be printed) with the cartridge installed in your printer.  But they are also anti-refill devices because when you refill an empty toner cartridge (one in which the chip has counted down to "zero" pages left for example), that chip still "remembers" the zero toner left, so adding toner to the cartridge is not enough.  In cases like this, the printer or cartridge either needs to be reset (if possible), or the toner chip needs to be replaced.  New replacement toner chips can add typically $5 to $15 to the price of the replacement cartridge, and usually the newer the cartridge technology the more expensive will be the chip.  So for a true refill friendly printer, consider those that accept cartridges without such chips (also referred to as "lock-out" chips in the case where the chips will not allow the cartridge to print once the chip has run out).  Printers that don't have chips include models by Brother (printers that accept the Brother TN430, TN460, TN540, TN570, TN580, TN650 and other toner cartridge models), as well as some Samsung and HP models among others.

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