The lowdown on printers

Photo of computer

Printers. Gotta have ’em, gotta loathe ’em. The cost of ink alone is something to turn the corners of your mouth earthward, says computer columnist Matt Bentley.

Besides that, they tend to break down after a while, due to one mechanical component or another failing. So consider them an ongoing expense.

How do you reduce that cost? Well, estimates as to which is more expensive to run, in terms of inkjet vs laser printer, vary, but there’s no comparison in terms of the quality of the print: laser wins, hands down. Laser is also a lot faster if you’re printing a lot of material. But inkjet cartridges can often be refilled by hand, or with the help of a local printer ink outfit, so they can be cheaper.

Brother and Ricoh are the two biggest names in laser printer companies, but most printer companies now do both laser and inkjet varieties. But for the ‘big two’, Brother’s alright. Ricoh’s customer service unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired.

Most people are going to opt for an inkjet printer, as the up-front buying cost tends to be lower, so which brands are best? As with all things tech, these change over time, and a company that was once good, can become sub-par, so take this with a grain of salt.

In my experience, Canon has been the most reliable. They were as far as I know the first to introduce separate ink cartridges for each ink colour, which greatly reduces waste and printing costs. Their print quality tends to be very good, particularly for the Pixma variants. By the way, I always recommend systems with the full 5 or 6 cartridges (black, photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow), even if they cost a little more – they have better print quality and cost less to run long term.

Epson is second on the list, usually reliable, though a lot of the cheaper models fail early (and this goes for all cheap printer models, mostly). They also have some models with very-large-scale cartridges/tanks, which are a lot less wasteful and expensive to run. HP is generally an ‘avoid’, although their larger models tend to be significantly more sturdy. I don’t tend to recommend anything HP – they have a nasty habit of skimping on component quality, which is how they make things so cheap.

Hopefully that gives you a bit of a head start. Today it’s almost an anachronism to print something out rather than reading it on a screen, but there can be times when it’s useful.

As a final aside, cheap paper? If you’re not printing anything significant, copier paper is perfectly fine (it is simply a bit thinner than most printer paper), and tends to be a lot cheaper. There’s even a fully-recycled variety available, again for cheap (google “reflex copy paper recycled a4 nz” to find new zealand sellers).

  • Need help with your printer/need help not using your printer? Email Matt here
    or phone 021 134 8576.  $60 per hour, or $50 for drop-off-to-workshop services.
Share this page:


Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: