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A guide to buying a new printer

Preview:Upset about printer

Factors to consider when buying a new printer. I discuss a range of printer types used by very small businesses, home offices and consumers. Which brands to buy and which to avoid. What they eventually cost you and how they will connect to your computer.

What I'll cover

  • I'm covering printers for single users or tiny business (fewer than 6 people).
  • I'll discuss various printer options, color or black and white, Laser or Inkjet, printer only or multifunction.
  • Pros and cons of various types of printers and costs.
  • Good and bad companies
  • Various ways to connect your printer and the advantages and disadvantages.

Types of Printers

Get Black and White if you can

The cheapest and most reliable printer is a black and white laser printer. I know you can get a cheaper inkjet color printer for less up front cost, but you'll end up paying more eventually. For example, I bought my Brother Laser printer 15 years ago. Every 5 years I have to replace the toner or toner and drum. It costs me $25. So, over 15 years, I've run it for a total of $75 and it is still running perfectly. If you don't need color, don't buy color. Like most businesses, I don't need color. Admittedly, I don't print much because I'm mostly paperless, but still, I do send out some paper bills monthly and it is available on those occasions when I need it. I don't hesitate to use it when it could be handy.

InkJet printers are normally less reliable and cost much more to run. Ink dries out and it costs more per page to print, so your supplies are much more expensive. If you have to get an inkjet, go with Brother or Canon. Epson if you must. Don't buy HP.

Brother has some nice black and white laser printers for as low as $120-$160 depending on how they connect.

Duty Cycle

If you pay more, you'll probably get a more reliable printer. You should check the duty cycle, particularly if you expect to print over 1,000 pages a month.

Color Laser Printers

Prices for color laser printers have dropped rapidly. Brother has some nice ones in the $250-$300 price range. Again, they are much cheaper to run than Inkjet printers.

Color Inkjets

Color inkjets have the advantage if you are looking for the cheapest device possible and expect to die soon so the cost of running it is not a consideration. They are superior to color laser printers for commercial quality color prints of photographs. Color lasers are excellent, but Inkjets can be better, particularly if you are careful not to smear the ink.

Multifunction Printers

Once again, both laser and Inkjet options are available. Once again I recommend Brother for Laser and either Brother or Canon for inkjet with Epson coming in third and HP to be avoided.

However, I tend to suggest you strongly consider a different option. My old Brother multifunction printer copies and scans. I don't ever use those functions. For about $320-$450, you can get an excellent dedicated scanner it is roughly 183 times as good as the scanner you'll get on a printer. Check out https://www.scantastik.com/. At $320 you can get a network connection and a 3,000 - 4,500 daily duty cycle. Personally, I like the smaller ScanSnap series recently purchased by Ricoh from Fujitsu which sits on my desk and scan almost everything, even checks I receive or grocery receipts!

I'm getting an $85 refund for a battery I got yesterday from the Toyota dealer. They replaced my battery. Since I scan nearly everything to searchable pdf files, I did a search for the last time I bought a car battery. I found I was still under partial warranty from my four plus year old battery, so the dealership refunded part of the cost. My normal procedure for receipts is to scan into folders then shred the receipts. It's easy with a dedicated scanner sitting on your desk.

If you don't want or need a desktop dedicated scanner, Brother has color laser multifunction printers for $300-$400 so you are only paying about $100 extra for the copy and scan functions.

Why do I hate HP?

You might have noticed that I am recommending against HP. Why? From an exciting beginning in 1939 through the excellent 1988 Deskjet, HP produced good equipment and some excellent printers. I loved my HP 67 calculator (1976). However, as the decades passed they have lost their quality and customer service. I think they lost their way morally. They have a major line of printers and laptops called Envy. Imagine what must be going on in a marketing person's mind when he decides to use one of the 7 deadly sins to be the name of his product line. Why not the others, pride, greed, wrath, lust, gluttony, or sloth? What is wrong with these people? Imagine management approving such a thing. So I expected them to have poor quality control, lousy software and horrible support.

They do.

They are currently being sued by many for their vicious attack against their customers who use third party ink cartridges. They require that some printers be connected online, so they can update the printers firmware to stop them from using third-party products. Then updating the firmware again as the third party makers got around HP's restrictions. In May HP forced a useless firmware update designed to restrict their customers options. It broke a million printers. Those printers won't even startup. Believe it or not, they had a blue screen of death after the "update"! A month later there was still no fix. Remember, the purpose of the update was to stop customers from saving money with reasonably priced ink cartridges.

This is a company we should avoid.

Irrelevant point of interest

The $450 I paid for my HP 67 calculator in 1976 is equivalent to $2,417.59 today. The average annual inflation rate was 3.64% from 1976 to 2023. Link here. Imagine paying that much for a calculator and being amazed and thrilled! The Google Play store has an HP 67 simulator you can buy for $2.99. It adds that functionality to your phone!


We've talked about Ethernet, which is the most reliable way to connect to a printer. There's nothing quite so reliable as a copper wire. Then there is USB which is also connected via a wire. WiFi connections can be very useful and nice because of no wires, but it still isn't as reliable as a copper wire.

There are also a seemingly infinite number of connectors for other devices like Chromebooks, iPhones, Android phones, Google stuff and an array of others that could be useful for some people. These operate through services in the cloud. If you need this, be sure your new printer supports it.

Date: September 2023

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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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