Joy found a great deal on a laser printer at Amazon.com. She then clicked to buy without realizing it was a model older than the one we were getting rid of. This turned out to be a really nice mistake.

We ended up with an older model Okidata c3400 for only $278 instead of a new one for over $500. The colors seem a shade less spectacular than those produced by the more expensive printer we used to own, but they’re still brilliant.

Unlike the newer models, the c3400 doesn’t have a little LCD screen to tell you the printer status. But that turned out to be another big plus. We used to have to lean over our desk and twist around the computer and printer to even see the error message on the tiny screen. If there was sunlight coming in the window you couldn’t read it anyway. The older model gives us the same messages – like: “You’re out of paper” – in a pop-up window on our computer screen. This is a lot handier than the latest LCD display screen.

So what is the moral of all this? The moral is that there is a lot of old equipment out there, and you can buy it for half the price of new models. And the old stuff is still brand new; no company ever sells every last one of their older models before moving on to the next. And the newest models usually just have some trivial addition like putting on an LCD screen to tell you you’re out of paper, or it prints two pages a minute faster.

Our new Okidata c3400n is quiet and doesn’t take up too much room, though at 43 pounds, it’s much heavier than some of the new models. Here’s a little warning, by the way: you shouldn’t use color laser printers to print on glossy photo paper. It’s better to upload pictures to a photo service or use something like the Epson or HP photo printers. Using glossy photo paper with your color laser printer will eventually get you into big and expensive trouble; it can ruin the print drum. Otherwise, lasers are fast and sharp.

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