DAMN THE PRINTERS, FULL SPEED AHEAD

You like humor on the web? We like humor on the web. And among the funniest things to read are printer reviews. If you read those you might never buy a printer. Joy said to Bob: “I wish I could find one printer without lots of negative reviews, but it’s impossible!” (She gets emotional about these things.)

Some printers have online reviews from nearly 10,000 users. Most are favorable, but the ones that aren’t can be very funny. Example: “I wish I could give this atrocity of a printer 0 stars. I have literally spent hours, HOURS, of my life trying to fix (it). I have read all the detailed instructions on the Canon support website, followed them, with a flashlight I might add, all to no avail.” Of a similar Canon printer, a guy said it required a master’s degree in tech support. Another pronounced it “dead on arrival.”

The Canon PIXMA MX922 is Amazon’s best-selling all-in-one machine. It has 6,369 four-and-five-star reviews. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But look at the 1,616 one-star reviews. These are not happy people: “For those of you who might be inclined to think I’m too simple to understand how to fix such a basic problem, my husband, is an engineer with 20 years experience in the industry.” He said: “What the %#%*$#%&&!!!!” because he couldn’t figure it out either.” By the way, we used to have one of these Canon PIXMA printers too. “Used to” because we gave it to Goodwill. The paper jammed almost half the time we tried to print.

Let us leave Canon for now, less we sound like a shill for other brands. Believe us, things are no better elsewhere. The number one best-selling color laser printer, the Brother MFC-L2700DW, has 1,724 reviews. About ninety percent are four or five star, full of lavish praise. But don’t forget the 204 negative reviews. One is titled: “Buy if you want to spend 10 hours on hold, only to have tech support trash your new computer.” Another concludes “Oh Brother!”

The HP Envy 4520 is the top top-selling inkjet printer on Amazon. Its overall rating is 4.1 out of five stars. But 382 people gave it withering, one-star reviews. One guy spent four hours on the phone with HP trying to get it to connect to his laptop before they concluded it was not their problem. Our own experience with HP “tech support” was the guy didn’t fix the problem, but did offer to sell us a new one. Many complaints focused on HP’s intrusive on-screen ads. On the Envy 4520, every time you print, you get a pop-up ad for HP’s ink subscription service. The cheapest plan costs $132 a year for 50 pages a month which is less than two pages a day. Since the printer costs $50, the makes the actual price with ink — and we figure most people will want to print with ink — close to $200.

The cheapest color inkjet printer we could find was the HP Deskjet, which you can get from Walmart for only $20, but you have to pick it up yourself. At those prices they don’t want to pay to ship it to you. Once again, the ink price is the killer.

Speaking of Ink

Were we speaking of ink? Printers follow the old razor blade marketing gimmick: Give the razor away, sell them the blades. Similarly, inkjet printers sell for $30 or less and yet ink cartridges sell for $40-$50. To cut that cost, we turn to so-called “third-party” inks.

HP is particularly interesting when it comes to ink costs, because nearly all of the company’s profit comes from selling ink. It’s actually an ink company. Their cartridges have identification chips that the printer checks for and refuses to print if you try using someone else’s ink. Naturally, we tried. (You think we’re going to let them get away with this nonsense?) So we tried, and were rejected. Well, we are used to rejection, and have been thrown out of the some of the best computer companies in the land. If there’s a screen message asking you if this is HP ink, say no. Be honest. The printer will eventually give up and actually print. At least that’s been our experience and others on the web. The quality was good and the ink cost was one-fifth the HP price. Hah, humans win again. Remember our team motto: obnoxious in victory, petty in defeat.

Over a thousand people on Amazon gave four and a half out of five stars to an ink supplier called “Arthur Imaging.” They offer a 28-pack of inks for $30, including 12 large black cartridges, four small black and four small in each color. But four percent of users complained that the inks weren’t accepted by their printer (they should have kept pressing the button) or the quality wasn’t there in color photos.

Another choice is the 18-pack from Office World for $21, which got a five-star rating on Amazon. Only two percent of the 1,002 people who tried it were unable to print or were unhappy with the results. Once again, people: never give up.

As for us, we use an Okidata color laser printer. Must be ten years old. The main reason we use a laser printer is the cost of color. Though you pay a lot more upfront for a good color laser printer, the toner replacement costs, in the long run, are lower than for inkjets unless you can find third-party inks that work well. Main thing is we like the print quality.

On the down side, this printer must weigh about the same as a freight car, and it’s not on wheels; you don’t ever want to have to move it around. The on/off button sometimes won’t turn off, which is only fair, because sometimes it won’t turn on. (Always keep pushing the button.)

We like Okidata because their tech support is incredible — all day every day, and all night. We went on a quest for a second printer only because our Okidata doesn’t do “cloud printing;” and it won’t print from our phone or Google Chromebook. So we save those documents to a thumb drive or email them to ourselves, then open em up on another computer.

 

 

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