Should I Buy a High-End Inkjet Printer?
Over the past few years printer manufacturers, HP and Epson in particular, have been pushing high-end inkjet printer models as a laser printer replacement. They suggest that these high-end inkjet printers cost less to operate compared to a colour laser printer. Often these high-end inkjet printers cost $500 or more.
I've been asked many times if a person should consider purchasing one of these expensive printers instead of a much less expensive mid-range inkjet printer which normally retails at $100 - $200.
Number 1 Rule for Inkjet Printer Purchase:
In general, it is my opinion that most home users and small to medium sized business owners should look at inkjet printers as a disposable device. Why do I say this? Most inkjet printers are replaced because of clogged printhead nozzles, not mechanical failure. It is just the technology ... High speed printing, fast drying liquid ink and incredibly small printhead nozzles ... it's a recipe for failure. Heck, if a person understands how inkjet printers work, you'd have to wonder why they work at all:-)
It's pretty much a given that most inkjet printers will be replaced because of clogged nozzles. Inkjet printers don't usually 'live' long enough to wear out rollers, gears or other parts in the course of normal wear and tear.
All inkjet printers use the same technology regardless of the price.
Cartridge Sales Tell the Story:
When a printer manufacturer introduces a new inkjet printer model using a new series of inkjet cartridges, it is easy to see the life of the printers using this 'new cartridge'. Initially the sales will steadily rise over the next six or so months as the new model(s) of printer is sold. Generally the sales of this 'new cartridge series' will peak at 6 -12 months meaning that the manufacturer has probably introduced new printer models using yet another different cartridge series. By the time the printers are 12 - 18 months old the cartridge sales for these printer models has sharply declined by 40 - 60%, meaning the printers have probably been replaced. By the time the average inkjet printer is 2+ years old the cartridge sales are less than 25% of what they were at the peak. In other words, if your inkjet printer is more than 2 years old, you've beat all the odds. My question is, are you willing to pay $400 - $1,000+ for a printer which has a life expectancy of 12 - 18 months?
HP PageWide Pro Series Printers:
The PageWide Pro Series is HP's answer to an inkjet printer sold as a laser printer replacement. Rather than a small printhead which moves back and forth over a page, the PageWide printers have a stationary printhead which goes across the whole page. The paper passes under the page wide printhead as the printhead sprays liquid ink straight down onto the page. This does allow it to print very fast ... HP claims up to 70 pages per minute.
A typical inkjet printhead is shown at the bottom right in the picture below. The PageWide printhead assembly unit is the one pictured on the left. So I ask, which printhead 'type' is more susceptible to clogging? I would say that a printhead with 10 times the number of nozzles probably has about 10 times the chance of getting clogged nozzles. This is just my logic but does that not make sense?
Lets look at the cost ... The HP PageWide Pro 577dw is currently retailing for $899 CDN$ and the prices go up real quick from there. You can actually pay $3,500 to over $10,000 for a PageWide 'Enterprise' Series printer!! Really??? For an inkjet printer????
HP PageWide Enterprise Colour Flow MFP 785zs Printer
Really????? A $12,000 inkjet printer?
Replacement Original HP cartridges for the 577dw are about $450 for a set of regular capacity cartridges rated at 3,500 pages black and 3,000 pages for the colours. The high capacity cartridges are about $700/set rated at 10,000 pages black and 7,000 pages for colours. So it is true as advertised that going with the high capacity cartridges does offer printing which is less expensive than most laser printers BUT ....
So lets say you've owned one of these printers for 18 months and have just put in a new set of high capacity cartridges which cost you $700 ... the black printhead develops clogged nozzles which cleanings or even a purge cycle or two won't clear. (again, that is why mosts inkjet printers are replaced) It's off warranty ... I don't know if you can buy a replacement printhead assembly, but if you can it, rest assured it will be expensive. Even if you can buy a replacement printhead, paying someone to replace it will be very expensive. Chances are the cost for printhead replacement will be close to the cost of a new Pro 577 printer.
Are you willing to risk a $900 (or a $10,000) printer and a $700 set of cartridges just because of a few clogged nozzles?
Unfortunately this very scenario played out for one of our customers. I suggested a mid-range colour laser which was on sale for half price, about $400. They couldn't be happier. While the 'cost per page' to print is a little higher, in the long run laser printers are simply more dependable because they use toner instead of liquid ink.
Mega Tank Inkjet Printers:
Most printer manufacturers are now producing some form of extra large cartridge or ink tank printers. These are to combat the inexpensive Compatible Cartridge industry. Again they aim the advertising a lower per page print cost. In actuality, this is probably not as large a savings as the printer manufacturers imply, particularly when you take into account the higher cost of the printer itself! In most cases the cost per page will be similar to that of a mid-range inkjet printer using new, compatible cartridges such as the ones which are available through InkMagic International. In general a mega tank printer will be much more expensive to purchase than a comparable model with readily available compatible cartridges. So again, do you want to spend the extra money on a printer, usually $400 - $800, which should be looked at as a disposable item?
What to look for in a High-End Inkjet Printer:
Replaceable printheads ... yes, there are a few inkjet printers where you can purchase replaceable printheads. The ones which come to mind are the Canon Pixma Series printers. I have had a Pixma Pro 9000 printer for about 10 years. It is an 8 colour wide format photo printer aimed at the semi-professional/professional photographer. Printheads were available directly from Canon for around $150. Also a removable printhead makes it possible to remove the printhead from the printer and manually clean it. I've found an ultrasonic cleaner to be extremely effective in opening up clogged nozzles. Even with an ultrasonic cleaner, I've replaced the printhead 3 times over the 10 year period. This further proves my point that IF the printhead is user-replacable at a reasonable price, then you may be able to justify paying a premium price for a high-end specialty printer such as the Canon Pixma Pro Series. Unfortunately inkjet printers with user-replacable printheads are few and far between!
If you are serious about photography, then you may be interested in looking at the current model which is a Pixma Pro 100.
These high-end, expensive printers are still inkjet printers and are just as susceptible to clogged nozzles as a $100 inkjet printer. I refer to my initial statement that an inkjet printer, regardless of price, is best looked at as a disposable item.
If one of these printers is in your future, all I can suggest is that you purchase the longest extended warranty available, thus bumping up the price further. Be prepared to spend the extra cost for OEM cartridges until the warranty has expired.
In many office situations, rather than buying one high-end inkjet or laser printer ($500+) perhaps consider buying 2 mid-range printers @ $250 or less each. Preferably two printers which use the same cartridges/toners. These days you can easily network printers so everyone in the office will be able to print to either one. This will give you a backup printer and often it is more convenient for an employee to have their own printer rather than one big monster printer that everyone in the office sends their print jobs to. Lets not even consider what happens if you have only one printer in the office and it starts to act up:-(
Need Information on What Inkjet Printer to Buy?
Check out our article on 'What Inkjet Printer to Buy'. It will teach you of the many underhanded techniques which printer manufacturers use to force you into using their high priced cartridges rather than less expensive compatible cartridge alternatives. HP has lost 2 class action cases and Epson is currently in the middle of one. Read all about it here:
This article was written by Dale R. Farrier, president of InkMagic International Ltd.
All opinions stated are those solely of Dale Farrier and are not meant to offend any company or product discussed on this page. The purpose of this article is to introduce the average printer purchaser to another way of thinking when it comes to evaluating which printer to purchase.
All material is copyright InkMagic International Ltd. and my not be copied in part or whole without explicit permission in writing from InkMagic International Ltd. All rights reserved.