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Printer Hardware

What Do You Do When Printers Cost Less Than Ink? 970

An anonymous reader writes "A family member recently asked me to pick up more ink for her Epson Photo RX 595. Unfortunately, replacing the black and color ink cartridges costs $81.92 + tax at the local store! That's so bad that I got a replacement printer that's just as good, and spare ink, for less. But now I have a useless piece of e-waste that I can't even give away. What can you do with a printer like that? I hate to just throw it away."
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What Do You Do When Printers Cost Less Than Ink?

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  • Prevent. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:23PM (#30316420) Journal
    The best course of action for this sort of thing is prevention. Keep consumables prices in mind when buying hardware in the first place, get a decent laser printer if you can, and give 3rd party consumables a try.

    If you do end up stuck with a printer, or printers, you might want to see if you are, or if you know, any electronics/robotics hobbyists. Even cheap and ghastly printers contain a reasonable supply of motors(some conventional DC, some steppers) and gears and optointerrupters and other fun little gizmos. The larger and more sophisticated printers can contain pretty impressive quantities of such.

    Failing that, you probably just want to find a recycler.
  • not a bargain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Speare ( 84249 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:24PM (#30316442) Homepage Journal

    The new printer you bought came with "demo" ink cartridges that are nearly empty, compared with full ones. You didn't get a bargain.

    Personally, while I understand the business doctrine of "whatever the market will bear," I think it's time that Congress look into market collusion and racketeering. There's no way that a pigment can cost thousands of dollars per liter.

  • Re:Cheap Printer? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frooddude ( 148993 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:29PM (#30316556)

    What company sells full cartridges as replacements ?

  • Re:Donate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:32PM (#30316636) Homepage Journal

    And what good is a printer with no ink, which will require expensive ink cartridges, be to the Salvation Army? Or to put it another way, what makes you think they will have any more use for it than the poster has?

    This is like the folks that will give the Salvation Army their old 486 and think they are doing the Salvation Army a favor, when in truth all you are doing is making the Salvation Army pay for disposal.

  • Red Ink (Score:4, Insightful)

    by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:33PM (#30316662) Homepage
    Paper and Ink have been HP's bread and butter for a long time. They sell the printer at a loss, but keep the price of ink and paper high. Sadly because they give away the printers, the printer companies have also stopped investing in quality printer designs, drivers, software support, etc, and you can more or less kiss the printer goodbye once it starts to behave badly. Most printer related jobs have now been succesfully outsourced to Asia. Ten years ago when HP had its first lay offs, they didn't touch the printer divisions. Now they can't seem to cut employees fast enough. Printers have become a commodity in which innovation and quality are really no longer important.
  • Re:Donate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MiniMike ( 234881 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:37PM (#30316750)
    It's also a scanner. Donate it to a school, maybe they need a scanner but don't care about printing (at least from this device).
  • by AK Dave ( 1459433 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:41PM (#30316810)

    This is the WORST bait-and-switch with new printers. You're absolutely right, those dirt cheap new printers are often boxed with sub-volume starter ink and then you have to turn right back around and get a set of REAL ink cartridges.

  • by _merlin ( 160982 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:42PM (#30316826) Homepage Journal

    That's because you're buying cheap loss-leader printers. My $1,000 colour laser printer came with full-capacity toner cartridges. The best thing that could happen would be for people to break the cycle and refuse to buy these crappy printers and their expensive ink. But that'll never happen - people find low initial outlay very attractive.

  • Re:not a bargain (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clong83 ( 1468431 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:44PM (#30316888)
    I think you misunderstand why they are there... An inkjet necessitates very small ink droplets to be deposited on the paper surface so you can get a high-resolution and fast drying time, and thus better quality. The droplet size is literally microns in size. Thus, micro-fluidic devices are included in each ink cartridge to create micro-droplets.

    I agree with your point that there ought to be more of a standard, but even if everyone used the same standard, the high manufacturing costs would still exist.

    I don't know a whole lot about it, but perhaps there is a way to unload the microchannels from the ink cartridge and make it a component of the printer instead, thus requiring only a simple reservoir of ink that you would need to refill occasionally. If you can figure that out, I bet you'd make a tidy bundle selling low-maintenance printers. Or find a horse's head in your bed.
  • Re:not a bargain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by captaindomon ( 870655 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:45PM (#30316894)
    Prices aren't based on cost. No prices from major corporations are based on cost. They're based on Willingness to Pay: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willingness_to_pay [wikipedia.org] . This is a very basic economics/business concept.
  • Re:ctrl+p (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Garridan ( 597129 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:46PM (#30316912)

    Don't be dumb! Looks like [lmgtfy.com] you can get a pair of complete refill sets for $33 to me...

  • Re:Prevent. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:52PM (#30317024) Journal
    Yeah, and spend $20 for the postage there...

    Ah, but therein lies the beauty.

    All the major printer manufacturers have recycling programs. Usually these only apply to ink and toner, but you decide exactly what you put in the box.

    HP toner, for example, comes with a prepaid UPS shipping label. Of course, they want you to use that to send them back their toner (and even prefer you to send them back in bulk, thus saving on the total shipping cost for them).

    So when you next replace your toner or ink, you take the mailing label, put it on a box big enough for the toner plus the printer, and send it on its way.

    As for whether or not this counts as abusive of their recycling program - First, they shouldn't make crap printers that cost less than replacement supplies, period. And second, don't think they do this out of the kindness of their hearts and a concern for the environment - They do so solely to keep you (or a third party) from refilling their supplies and getting more than your "fair" share of use out of them.

    Oh... And you might not want to give a return address if you do this. I doubt it breaks any laws, but better safe than sorry.
  • by uglyduckling ( 103926 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:53PM (#30317042) Homepage
    I suppose it's possible that there are other factors that affect the price of a printer than print speed. But I may be wrong.
  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:54PM (#30317062) Homepage Journal

    as this is a family site).

    You must be new here!

  • Re:not a bargain (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MayonakaHa ( 562348 ) <mayonakaha.gmail@com> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:56PM (#30317096) Journal
    Check out most of HP's new inkjet printer line as well as any current plotter in existence. It's completely possible, but they'll still charge you an arm and a leg for the ink. It's not the printheads that they're charging you for, it's the privilege of using their device they're charging you for.
  • Re:not a bargain (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:02PM (#30317222)

    There's no way that a pigment can cost thousands of dollars per liter.

    It doesn't, but the cost to the company is not just the cost of the pigments, it is also the loss leader price for just about every printer they sell; especially true with the consumer grade laser and photo printers. The market has demonstrated, whether through ignorance or otherwise, that they prefer the razor and blades [wikipedia.org] model to paying what the individual items actually cost. This could happen even in the absence of any collusion.

    This is BAD for the public, and should be discouraged by law. The "razor and blades" model is what has bankrupted our economy. It stretches one time expenses into sustained costs, prompting horrendous debt. The irresponsibility loss-leaders encourage is easily as destructive as credit industry practices which were recently barred by regulation because they contributed to our economic collapse.

  • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:09PM (#30317328)
    True.. But gee, why is that...

    Oh, your $1000 printer?!? Hmm... Why doesn't everyone rush out to drop $1000 on a printer. I just can't guess...
  • Re:Donate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:13PM (#30317400)

    Sorry, but a lot of all-in-one inkjet printers (such as Epson) won't scan unless there's ink in the ink cartridges. So if you give someone one of these printers without ink, it's absolutely useless.

  • Re:ctrl+p (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:15PM (#30317450) Journal

    Maybe they modded it redundant for posting a reply to an obviously pointless post to get their post up near the top of the page instead of in a separate thread on it's own. Some of us have our comments sorted by rating to hide threads like such. Now, redundant certainly is the wrong mod, however you could consider it trolling for karma, or off-topic.

  • Re:not a bargain (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:25PM (#30317614) Journal

    I miss the days of the informed buyer. :( What changed that people don't research their purchases anymore that requires government oversight?

  • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:27PM (#30317654) Homepage Journal

    As for the actual printer, I've learned to buy LASER printers. They have a high initial cost but low-priced ink (~$50 for 5000 pages). The laser printer ends-up being cheaper after you pass 800 pages

    Yep. Laser printer for 99.9% of my printing needs, color is either online photo printing (whats the going rate these days, $0.09/3x5"?), or if you need it TODAY I go through wally world for about $0.24/3x5". I don't know anyone who prints enough color photos at home to justify the cost of owning a photo quality printer at home. Unless your home color printer is a dye impregnation printer, that hp-uberjet ink is going to fade in 5-10 years anyhow.

  • Re:Donate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xiterion ( 809456 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:30PM (#30317708)
    Wait, what?! I think the printer companies are as evil as the next /.er, but that's a whole new kind of evil. That's almost cell-phone company evil, come to think of it. Have you personally run into this kind of behavior?
  • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:33PM (#30317748)

    Kinko's and/or Staples for all your occasional printing needs. For less than the cost of an ink cart, you get an entire lifetime of printing service.


    ..and no worrying about driver support or spyware.
  • by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 ) <sirlewk@gma i l . c om> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:37PM (#30317796)

    That seems to indicate that you can't use the business reply envelopes as labels on heavy objects and such. If I'm understanding this correctly though, you could theoretically smash up the printer first, then place it inside several of these envelopes. Pack them up nice and heavy so they cost more too.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:44PM (#30317892)

    WTF. People still buying inkjets and bitching about it? Is lexmark STILL in business?

    It's simple. Don't buy inkjets. Buy a laser that has decent sized laser cartridges. B/W if you print lots of text. Color tends to have small cartridges out of space considerations.

    Besides the cost, with inkjets, you have clean the head constantly and if you don't use in a while (say you have a several week vacation or other trip), worry about the printer head drying out. Headaches and a fucking waste of time, imo.

    And for photos, dye-subs. Even if they don't beat inkjets on dpi, my 300dpi dyesub beats any 1200x1200 in actual results. You JUST DON'T see the millions of dots with dyesub, it's all blended together, and because there is a clear coat, no smearing of the images, even if you lick your fingers and go across the picture right after it was printed. It looks as good or better than from professional print shop.

    I don't even know why this argument is still going on after all these years. Inkjet was and always will be a half-assed home solution when the good solutions have matured and become considerably cheap. In the space of 5 years, I threw out just as many inkjets in the early 2000s with lots of printing problems aggravation. In the same space of time, I have had just 2 lasers and 1 dyesub, all still working (1 for b/w, other a color copier) and I probably printed out 10x the material with them because it was just easier.

  • Re:Red Ink (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tsm_sf ( 545316 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:46PM (#30317936) Journal

    Carly Fiorina was the gift that just keeps on giving, wasn't she.

    Proof positive that it only takes one person to destroy decades of other people's work.

  • by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:53PM (#30318024)
    Woah people use inkjets in offices? Pretty sure we were talking about individual use. By that I mean, we are talking about home use. Inkjets haven't been used in offices/schools/libraries in years.

    For major office use then yes I can see spending more. For regular people an 80$ laser printer will last 5years of normal use. Unless the 1000$ printer is supposed to last 50years ... which I'm sure I'd replace before then anyways. My tray only fits 200~300ish sheets but that should be plenty for a home user. And depending on the type of workplace they are probably the cheapest/best choice available in many corporate situations.
  • Re:ctrl+p (Score:3, Insightful)

    by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <digitalunity&yahoo,com> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:05PM (#30318166) Homepage

    Even so, brand name refills often have far more ink in them than the "demo size" cartridges in the retail printers. The cartridges that come with new printers often don't have much ink in them.

  • Re:Simple! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:10PM (#30318256) Homepage

    Um, that's theft.

  • Re:ctrl+p (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:16PM (#30318324)
    Me too!
  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:48PM (#30319360)

    A mid-range or high-end recent inkjet will produce very high quality photo prints. Many professional photographers use inkjets to produce their fine art prints for sale. The best inkjets have a color saturation and sharpness that is superior to dye sub, with droplet size small enough that it takes a strong loupe to distinguish. Most people have trouble with inkjets because they buy cheap inkjets.

    That said, the biggest argument against them is the frequency of use. You do have to use an inkjet to keep it in fine printing condition.

  • by Pyrion ( 525584 ) * on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:54PM (#30319400) Homepage

    It'll never happen because people are bad at math. They look at the initial cost and that's what sells it, without of course taking into consideration the limitations of inkjet printing. Like for instance, how much ink is used per page, such that in the best case, you will only get a couple hundred pages out of a cartridge before you have to buy a replacement. That adds up. Moreso if you don't print that often, such that the jet nozzles get clogged with dried ink and the cartridge (and all that ink inside) becomes effectively worthless and you have to buy a replacement anyways.

    It costs about $250 to replace the toner cartridges in my color laser printer, but these are cartridges that last for years without problems. You just use 'em until they run out of toner.

    And then of course there's the quality of workmanship you're buying in the printer itself. That much more expensive laser printer is far less likely to break down on you than an el cheapo inkjet printer where the ink costs more than the damned printer.

  • by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:59PM (#30319432)
    He was talking about wanting people to change from using inkjets. That IS a home use. So most of your list is unnecessary. As your sibling post points out colour laser printers have come down to 120$. 5ppm is fine for home use. Poster printers or anything much bigger than legal/letter will cost a fuckton and not for home use or even office use. 35,000pages per month is plenty for small business use. Hooking it up to your computer(home) or a secretaries negates the networking need. If you NEEDED it you could spend 15$ extra on a router and get something that supports a printer.

    And lastly for #6, cost comes into play here. The cost of maintenance, even if it is only a few hours a year will be more than the cost of a whole new cheap printer. Reliability is replaced by the fact that you can buy 10 of them for the same price.

    Say they only last 2 years each (Seriously I haven't had a printer die on me ever... even my inkjet which i think is in the basement still probably works, though I am not a heavy user)... And you buy 5 of them. That results in pretty huge savings. Even if the big ones are uber reliable they will need maintenance over those 10years, add 150$ minimum. Also the tinier printers get constant upgrades or get cheaper so they are flexible.

    Honestly unless you run a big office with tons of people on the same printer it makes NO sense to spend 1000$ on a printer. And even then it might make more sense for there to be a few smaller printers.
  • by number11 ( 129686 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:03PM (#30319920)

    The sub-$100 laser printers are just as bad as the sub-$100 inkjets: they come with starter cartridges, they don't have network hardware on-board, the consumables are expensive, they aren't rated for high duty cycle, etc. You get what you pay for.

    Some people don't print much, and are ok with using their desk computer as a print server, in the preceding discussion there are people who talk about getting years out of the starter cartridge. True, the consumables tend to be expensive, but not if you don't use them much. If you need a standalone on the network, 40ppm, and run 10K copies a month, you need to spend more.

    If you don't need color, and are in a metro area, you can probably find a decent HP-4, -5, or -6 cheap at a thrift shop (aside from the 4P, I think they all use the same print engine). HPs are nice because there's lots of places selling aftermarket toner at reasonable prices. My HP-6MP cost $1.49 (sale day at Salvation Army) and the only thing wrong with it was a missing lifter spring in the paper drawer (which turned out to be identical to the spring in the dead HP-4P in my junk pile).

    "You get what you pay for" is an overrated expression. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. And sometimes you get a lot more.

  • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @08:06AM (#30322522) Journal

    People still buying inkjets and bitching about it? Is lexmark STILL in business?

    Inkjets are small and cheap to buy, so they have mass appeal. Capitalism in action.

  • Lightbulb Moment (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eyendall ( 953949 ) <eyendall@rogers.com> on Friday December 04, 2009 @11:48AM (#30324334)

    Reading this article, I have just had one of those lightbulb or epiphany moments.

    If inks cost more than a new printer, why should I care about the manufacturers warning that using third-party inks will damage the printer? I'll never buy the branded inks again.

panic: kernel trap (ignored)