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What is a Good Printer for Linux? 38

mystik asks: "What would be a good printer for my linux system? I bought an HP712C for a great price, but was disappointed to find out that HP made the Protocol propriatary, and unanable to work without some siginificant hacking of my linux system. Hopefully I can get some good printers cheap... " Well, this is a rather broad question. It would help if folks would recommend several different printers covering as many of the printer classes (ie dot-matrix, bubble-jet, ink-jet, and lasers) as you can.
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What is a Good Printer for Linux?

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  • I use a couple of old Apple Laserwriter IIs at home. They can be had pretty cheaply these days, most versions have a serial port that will work with PCs, and one version (IIg) even has an ethernet port and allows you to connect using lpr protocol.

    Otherwise, you should be able to find some HP laserprinters at reasonable prices, though network support will probably cost you extra. In the linux world PCL is about as well supported as postscript, so you won't be losing too much.

    The really good thing about these older laser printers is that they are built like tanks, turn out pages at fairly high rates (8ppm is common) and under normal home or student use they run forever on a single toner cartridge.
  • Like above any postscript printer is a sure bet, but they don't come cheap. I personally have an Epson Stylus 800 and it works great. Most linux distros have the proper filters for this printer and support up to 1400 X 720 dpi for it. Not to mention it's pretty cheep, about $300 CDN.
  • I've had good results with an HP Deskjet 692C.

    I use ghostscript to print anything "pretty" using cdj550 as my printer type.

  • I have an epson stylus 640. Very nice. All the epson printers are very nice. The one complaint I have about them is not postscript support.

    On the other hand, we have this wonderful tool called ghostscript that will turn a postscript file into your printer native language and you can do things like `cat /dev/lp0` or use lpr.

    Writting filters for printcap isn't that hard either. I haven't bothered to do it yet, but I do have an alias set to turn a ps into a gs and dump it to lpr.

    I wouldn't be surprized if someone made their filter available, although I use slackware and, from what I understand, the more frilly distros come with fancy gui's to set up printers.

    have fun.
  • Have you checked out a filtering application for your HP printer. I have a HP 820Cxi that I have working with Linux.

    Try this filtering program listed on Freshmeat called ifhp. [freshmeat.net]

    Just trying to help you save some cash!
  • I wanted a laser printer as they get far more pages for a given amount of money spent on cartridges than inkjets do and the quality is great. I didn't want to pay for Postscript, so I got the HP LaserJet 1100. As other posters have noted, ghostscript handles the Postscript interpretation for me on postscript printing, but when I print TeX formatted documents (e.g. GNU stuff) i can get great quality using dvilj4 - no postscript stage at all!

    Chris Morgan
  • ...but unfortunately I'm at work now and the URL is at home. It lists printers which are supported by Linux, primarily via Ghostscript IIRC.

    I'm sending email home to remember to post a followup to this. Check back after midnight GMT.

  • I have Epson Stylus Color 740... It has that variable dot technology and that Linux can't use... This stuff brings a lot better pics, but only in Windblows... C'mon do that bit of coding! :) Btw, is there a linux printer drivers page or something?
  • While postscript printers may be expensive when you buy them new, they can be had at very reasonable prices when bought used.

    I can find Laserwriter II series printers on the net for between $100 and $250 (Nostromo Enterprises [sacnetworks.com] is one source, but there are others) and simlar deal on older Deskjets are fairly easy to find.

    The only reason that it is reasonable to buy and use used printers is that most older printers are built very sturdily and don't degrade much with age. Also, the general task of putting computer output on paper hasn't changed very much in the last ten years, with the exception of the ready availability of color output these days.

    If you want color, however, and you are on a budget, you are pretty much restricted to inkjet printers, which eat int carts quite rapidly. (but produce very nice output)
  • There's a number of fairly inexpensive Postscript Laser printers around. If you're happy with black and white, don't care that the print quality isn't *quite* as high as a LaserJet, do care about the environment, and/or want to print lots of stuff fast, then look at the Kyocera range -- and before you buy anyone else's, work out how much extra it'll cost you in consumables over its life. The FS-3750 is blisteringly fast and will run for 400K pages on nothing but a few toner refills, at a small fraction of the cost per page of any other make. KPDL2 is a Postscript-clone rather than Adobe, but I've not had any problems. FS-1750 is the same with a cheaper, slower processor. The FS-800 isn't quite so fast or so cheap to run, but is a lot cheaper to buy and shares the permanent-everything technology and KPDL2. Any of these are great for anyone who wants to "use the source". If you don't care about PS, the entry model does Laserjet emulation only and is still cheaper - again with the very low consumables cost. If you do care about PS, the cheapest PS printer I know of is a Lexmark - again I've no experince thereof. I wouldn't recommend an inkjet as an only printer to anyone who intends to be printing manuals and source listings - I'm sure the manufacturers sell the printers at or below cost and make money hand over fist on the ink. Of course, if you want colour...
  • A linux driver for the hp 7xx and some 8xx series win-printers [httptech.com] exists and works well, although it currently supports black and white printout only.

    It is easy to install, and works with Ghostscript, so the printer looks like a postscript device.

    I have had no problems with it, and installation is pretty straghtforward (instructions are on the above site).

    I don't blame HP so much for creating the whole winprinter concept (which after all is not much different then PCL). It makes sense, as current host CPU's are SO powerfull. I don't want to pay for another CPU and more RAM for my printer... I already have that in my PC. Go ahead and make the printer dumb and cheap.

    I do blame HP for not opening up the interface specifications, however. It is silly to make people reverse engineer everything to get these (otherwise quite nice) printers supported on other operating systems.

    I, for one, would not have bought my 720 had I not known already that it was supported via the above linked product.

    That being said, it is a great little printer for black and white output under Linux, and coupled with good plastic coated Kodak inkjet paper, can produce some stunningly high quality photographs under Windows. It's a lot of bang for the buck.

    Bill Kilgallon
  • I have an old HPLJIII purchased second hand for about $250. Toner for these warhorses runs between $50-$100 depending on where you buy and if you get HP brand or a refilled pack. Xerox now makes a toner cartridge for this printer and it's cheap. My only regret...I had a chance to get the IIID model (prints on both sides) for about $100 more and passed it up. Wish I had gotten that one instead. Saves a lot of trees! Works great with GS.
  • If you want/need color, i would recommend the Lexmark Optra 40/45 (or whatever the newer one is). It's a color postscript inkjet, comes with 4MB of ram (and has a simm slot for up to 32 more MB), and is pretty fast. I got the Optra 40 from onsale last summer for $230, and i love it. They even provide (from their site) linux/unix utilities to perform functions (like changing cartridges, cleaning heads, alignment, etc). Plus on the warranty registration card there was a box to check if you want the technical reference manual... and they send you one for free! You can press one of the buttons and it prints out a page with the current ink level in each tank, plus all the configuration information. I have been quite happy with it, except for the fact the the black ink smears, but they have supposedly fixed that. Cartridges are everywhere, and because its PS its easier than H to set up.

  • In the laser category, I would recommend the Lexmark Optra E310. It's the best priced PS laser printer I have found. I got one a few months ago, and the output is very nice. Postscript level 2 comes standard as well as PCL 6, 5e. 600dpi, 8ppm, 2MB standard, expandable to 66MB. USB and parallel, with ethernet add-on available I believe. Got mine for about $450CDN.
  • I also have an HP LJ III which I picked up for $50. The going price for them these days seems to be about $100 or so. I got mine cheap because the person who had it had a mishap that caused a large amount of toner to be spilled inside, but after some careful cleaning it now works fine. Supplies as noted are cheap (unlike an inkjet, it prints good on even the cheapest copier bond). Refilled toner cartridges can save you serious money, but even new cartridges are cheap compared to inkjet when you consider a $50-$80 cartridge will print 3000-4000 pages compared to a lot of inkjets with $20-$30 cartridges that print 500-700 pages.

    One recommendation is to add additional memory to improve performance. The LJ III's only come with a small amount of memory, and adding more really helps.

  • http://www.picante.com/~gtaylor/pht/printer_list.c gi

    There it is..
  • I have an Epson Stylus Color 800 as well, and I love it. It prints well on plain paper, and beautifully on expensive glossy paper. If you run Red Hat, you'll have to download a new copy of Ghostscript that contains the filters, but other than that initial annoyance, it should be pretty easy to use.
  • I had an HP LaserJet 4M (Postscript, notionally
    for the Macintosh market) that was fabulous.
    Got it back in 1992 or 1993 when it came out
    and ran it for six years. Great printer. I
    finally used it up earlier this year and bought
    the HP LaserJet 3100. Great printer too, BUT
    not suitable for Linux use. Its pluses are that
    it has a good scanner, a nice standalone fax, and
    an excellent printer. Its minus is that the
    protocol on the wire is proprietary and the
    drivers for it are only available for Windows
    95, 98, and (recently) NT. From the behavior
    of my PC when I print (painfully slow), I surmise
    that the printer is very dumb with nothing even
    as sophisticated as PCL, much less PostScript,
    on the wire. I guess that the PC's CPU is doing
    all of the page composition work and probably
    sending rasters over to the printer. What
    comes back from the scanner is anyone's guess.

    Too bad HP hasn't published a spec ... *if* it had
    a good driver for Linux, it would be a wonderful
  • There's an incredibly nice package called apsfilter. It's really nice and SuSE will configure it through YaST. Imagine 'lpr foo.pdf' or 'lpr bar.jpg' and it starts to look quite nice.

    I have an Epson Stylus Color 600. I have it set to 720x720 dpi (you can go up to 1440). Print quality is fantastic. I've printed transparencies for positive PCB making on LaserJets at work which completely sucked. Dark areas faded in the middle, it was really spotty. It was unacceptable for what I was doing. I sent the files home and printed them on my el-cheapo Epson. The images were perfect. The boards actually looked professional. Not even any breaks on the very thin lines. I've found the quality better than the DeskJets I've tried, as well.

    Despite what many people have told me, It's incredibly reliable. I've never had a paper jam, it's never pulled two pages through as one, and it takes very little space on top of my print server, a mini-tower. Tech support is very good, too.

    Basically, Epson gives you quite the bang for your buck. I've had no problems with it in Linux.
  • So I guess I won't post it again!

    Very nice printer guide.

  • ... is a postscript printer that goes for around $400-. I have one and I am very happy with it.


  • Also don't forget Lexmark for low cost PS.

  • I'm running an Epson 640 on a Mandrake 6.0 system, but I've never gotten the thing to print anything but plain text, jpegs, and pdf's. I'm using the RedHat printtool to configure my filter, but it still doesn't allow me to print WordPerfect files or HTML with my printer. Consequently, I'm lead to believe that a laser printer is the only way to go. Am I mislead??
  • Personally I have a Canon 4300 which is reasonable (for the price). More recently a friend bought an Epson 460 which is pretty nice. But I would recommend a visit to the Unix printer compatability db before any purchase;

    http://gatekeeper.picant e.com/~gtaylor/pht/printer_list.cg [picante.com]

  • But sadly the control and output from Ghostscript is crap. Compare it to a printout from Windows on the same printer printing the same thing and you'll see what I mean. Colour gradients are just awful in ghostscript (even using the universal driver - which is better but not perfect).
  • Do you have it directly connected to your Linux box?

    Mine is on a FreeBSD/Samba box, and it works okay form a Windows client, but remote printing to it from Linux is iffy. Any hints?

  • I have tried many dot matrix and inkjet printers, the last being the epson stylus 500 I got for
    about US$100. They all sucked--poor quality, slow. Sure you can use ghostscript with most printers, but hell, my epson took about 6 min per page! Dot matrix printers usually take me 15 min per page to print.

    I decided to buy a postscript laser printer, but couldn't find one for a reasonable price. Then I discovered the HP 1100 laserjet. No postscript, but costs under $400. Ghostscript works wonderfully--the 1100 is lj4/5/6 compatible (in fact the 1100 is replacing the lj6 line, according to HP when I called). Talk about fast!!! and awesome output! It's highest res. is 600x600, but that is good enough for my needs. This is the best printer I ever bought. It is so easy to set up too---you don't need to even get Aladdin gs and recompile after tweaking the driver. Just plain awesome.
  • I recently went looking for a cheap laser for my Linux based network. I found the Brother HL-1040 for about $270. It is a hardware PCL4 laser printer with 2 MB of memory. Under linux it runs just fine at 300 dpi using the HP laserjet II drivers. I share the printer over a Samba network, which allows the windows machines to print at 600dpi using the PCL5 software emulation. The toner carts are good for 2000 pages and cost about $25. Paper feeds though the top, and there is a single-sheet feeder built into the front (great for envelopes). My favorite feature is the fact it prints on the bottom of the page...so the first page printed is always on top. Overall I have been very pleased with this printer.
  • Agreed. My DJ 890C works well with the cdj550 driver. (OK, so I cheat; I use Red Hat's rhs-printfilters and printtool package to set up printcap so I can just lpr file . I normally have the filter set at "normal"; if I'm printing anything "high-quality" (which is rare) I reconfigure it for Floyd-Steinberg.)

    I could be wrong to make this generalisation, but it looks like the entire 700 series use this new page definition language (or whatever it's called) -- the term "WinPrinter" starts to spring to mind...

  • I would recommend the Lexmark Optra E310.

    I've been seriously considering one of these, having found a source of them at a very good price. I have a few concerns though. Firstly, what's the print quality like? I'm not after anything spectacular, but I'm always a bit wary of "low-end" tech. Secondly, is the standard 2MB enough, or should I look at getting more? My current printer has 512K which is definitely not enough for some of the image-based stuff I print. Also, what does it do on a PostScript error? My current printer (a QMS 410-PS) just stops, and awaits a new job. The ones at work print out the PostScript error, so you can see what's gone wrong. Obviously, I'd prefer the latter...

  • Remember Microsoft at work?

    And the WinWriter line of printers?

    That was a whole heap of stuff I'd like to forget. But hey, life is better now, and I'd have to say that the printers that has the *nicest* output, bar none, are the Lexmark Optra E series.

    Nice looking printers too.

  • The print quality is very good. On the memory front, you will likely want to add some memory. I did find that 2MB wasn't enough for complex pages, and slowed the print speed. I upped the memory to 6MB total, and have had no troubles since. Also at 2MB full print speed wasn't achieved, but with 6MB the printer goes full out. Postscript errors are configurable, you can set them to print or not. I think it defaults to not printing. But all setting are stored in flash memory, so you don't have to refresh your configuration each time you power up the printer.
  • In my opinion, if you are going to print on an Unix platform go with HP. These guys even make their own unix OS (HP-Unix). I work at CAE Electronics in the publication departments and the combination of Unix and HP printers simply kick ass. john monteiro
  • I am happy to hear that you have a good experience with the HP 692C. While I don't know about Linux support, I do know that these printer are shit. I have about 30 of these to manage and I have a few of these experiencing mechanical problem (strange noise coming out the printer, does'nt feed paper, etc.). They constantly need service. For durability, you can pass. I sent one once to HP service; it cost as much as a brand new one (300 CDN$) and breaked again a year later. Beside that, their driver are quite buggy (especially on NT). And the ink cartridge are quite expensive.

    These problems are pretty common with cheap ink-jet. IMHO, you should avoid ink-jet printer at all cost unless you need color printing. Invest in a laser; you'll save in the long run on the supply and keep your printer longer.

    Just my 2 bit.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982