Choosing a Computer Printer: Dig Deep for the Right Deal


by Jimi St Pierre - Date: 2007-03-07 - Word Count: 800 Share This!

Today's choice of computer printers is huge, and competition amongst retailers is fierce. Discounts of 60-70% from the manufacturers' recommended retail price are not uncommon amongst multifunctional printer devices, and it is rare not to find at least 25% discounts amongst print-only devices. So, should we consider anything more than the purchase price?

Without doubt, print speed, brand reputation, connectivity to existing equipment and print quality are all part of the mix. But budgeting for the total cost of the selected printer in terms of the consumables used - this is the real challenge for buyers. This is the area where the manufacturers and distributors are battling for the income streams from consumables - inks, toner cartridges, print media, replacement parts and the like. Here the discounts are less obvious, and for good reason. The onus is squarely on the buyer to consider these costs, and to ensure they are not buying into an expensive cost of ownership.

So, rather than going with the brand and the technology they are used to, and looking for the biggest purchase price discount, what do buyers have to gain by doing their research? The answer, of course, is a great deal.

Inkjet or Laser Printer?

First off, the mantra from IT departments is often fixed in stone, that laser printers should always be specified as the more "professional" choice for any organisation. But for small groups, inkjet provides a perfectly professional print quality, and would suit small networked teams, not least because of the quiet operation compared with some extremely noisy laser systems in operation.

On the other hand, in terms of purchase price alone, the cost of entry-level colour laser has also made laser very attractive to corporations, so that they can follow the advice of their IT departments, upgrade monochrome laser to colour and then absorb the supplies and consumables costs in their departmental stationery budgets.

But in another scenario, price discounting has also brought the colour laser printer within reach of the home-office worker, or sole trader company, where the "mantra" factor tempts buyers away from inkjet simply through the belief that laser provides better print quality at faster print speeds. Here, it is quite possible that low page counts and colour content would not justify the higher cost of many laser printers currently available.

On the other hand again, by looking amongst the best discounted prices, colour laser printers in the Canon range can be found at a very similar prices to Hewlett-Packard business inkjet machines, and as we shall see, can offer laser technology at a competitive overall Cost of Printing, when print volumes are below average.

High volume or low volume usage?

In the debate about the best route - laser or inkjet - a major deciding factor is, without doubt, the anticipated volume of use. Even considering the above examples, discounting would have to be far too heavy in order for any laser printer to match the low overall cost of printing available with, say, the HP Officejet Pro K550. Tests have shown that overall cost of printing on this printer, in a high-volume environment, has been shown to be as low as two pence per page taking into account a purchase price that is well below 100.

Conversely, users with low volume needs might aim to avoid replacing the more expensive laser parts. Some might hope not even to need to replenish the colour toners.

At the level of 250 pages per month, for example, a user will print 9,000 pages over three years. Calculating at at black-only to colour page ratio of 70%/30% (in favour of black-only), then only 2,700 of those pages will be colour.

At this level, many laser printers will need a toner change during the life - or the capital cost write-off period - of the printer. But it is not impossible to find a low-end entry-level laser printer with a 2,000-page starter toner capacity so that for such users there is no need for a colour toner change within three years.

Other factors affecting colour printer choice

Colour is desirable of course, when working with presentation materials. But a large proportion of printing can still usefully involve only monochrome output. How much colour is used will always be a factor in costs. Discipline is needed to ensure correct printer settings for the task in hand. Discipline is also needed, of course, for test printing, where draft settings are important to ensure no unnecessary, cumulative wastage.

With the choice in technologies, and with the choice in entry-level pricing inkjets, against high specification or workhorse lasers, and against the additional complexities of multifunctional printers, it pays to think hard about the actual tasks to which a new printer is to address and the number of users it is to serve. This is the starting point for an understanding of the actual costs of owning the printer over its lifetime in the workplace.


Related Tags: printer, inkjet printer, a3 printer, wide format printer, computer printer, laser printer

Jimi St. Pierre writes for several Office Equipment suppliers and Travel Companies in the UK, including wide format printer supplier Officemagic and Country Connect , the latter being a publisher of a daily news feed to the UK travel industry via the Virgin Media Traveleye extranet. Your Article Search Directory : Find in Articles

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