Printing News & Reviews for Inkjet, Laserjet, Large Format Digital Printers, Ink, Toner, Paper.
Best Inkjet Printer? Continued
Inkjet printer manufacturers use similar technologies to get the ink onto the paper, but some build the print head onto the cartridge and others into the printer itself. Epson inkjet printers have a built-in print head which means that replacement cartridges contain just plastic, ink, and a smart chip. Lexmark, Dell, and the majority of HP inkjet cartridges contain a print head built onto the cartridge itself, so every time you buy a new cartridge, you buy a new print head. The advantages are that the print quality should be as good as new every time you replace the cartridges. The downside is that you are buying a piece of technology every time which can dramatically add to ink replacement costs.
To reduce printing costs using this type of cartridge the options available are usually refilling the original cartridge using an ink refill kit, or buying a remanufactured cartridge. A remanufactured cartridge is an original cartridge that has been refilled, and in some cases refurbished internally with new sponges. Print quality is determined by the age and how many times the cartridges have been remanufactured, and the method of the refilling process. The failure rate on such remanufactured cartridges varies depending on the model.
To complicate things further some manufacturers have introduced smart technology to tell the printer if it is using an original cartridge or a refilled one. If the printer senses it to be a second use cartridge, then it produces an error and either stops you from printing or displays an annoying message on the screen. There are usually ways to cancel the error pushing a sequence of buttons on the printer or performing a series of routines on the pc, however some new Lexmark cartridges cannot be refilled and reset.
Canon has recently introduced cartridges with chips, the CLI-8 and CLI-521 Series for printers such as the ip4200 and ip4600. These printers have a separate print head part which clips into the printer and can be replaced when worn. The replacement ink tanks clip into the print head. These particular cartridges contain an ink level chip that estimates the remaining ink in the cartridge. Compatible cartridges with no chips for these printers have been available for some time. It is required that the end user transfers the old chip from the original cartridge and attach to the compatible one. Unfortunately the cartridge will not read as full and it is required to disable the ink counter to proceed with printing. Fortunately compatible CLI-8 and CLI-520 / CLI-521 cartridges with chips became available in 2008 and 2009 for these models.
Chip resetters for Canon and Epson printers are available that can reset the ink level on various cartridge types. This means that you can refill the cartridge and reset the ink level back to read full again, preventing ugly error messages. No such chip resetters are available for Dell, HP and Lexmark cartridges.
Refillable cartridges have become more popular in recent months. They often include an auto reset chip that automatically resets on every cycle. The down side to such cartridges is that the chip only estimates the ink level and users have to always ensure that there is ink in the cartridges to avoid burn out of the print head. The advantage to such cartridges is that they can often be refilled or topped up whilst inside the printer.
Continuous Ink Supply Systems (CISS) contain ink bottles that sit on the desk next to and at the same height as the printer. Tubes feed from the tanks to refillable cartridges with automatic reset chips. A vacuum is created and the printer sucks ink from the tanks continuously, removing the need to change cartridges or refill them. This can be by far the easiest and cheapest solution to supplying ink to your printer, particularly if your printing volumes are high. The bad news is that the set up of such systems can be frustrating and painful. Ink tubes need to be positioned correctly, air locks removed from tubes, and chips have to be recognised by the printer.
Installations of such systems and their level of difficulty vary tremendously. They are often manufactured in Asia and the instructions can be poor and such systems should only be recommended to the ‘do-it-yourself’ type of person with patience. If a printer is important to you then I would always recommend having a spare or second printer available in case of any down-time caused by the installation and maintenance of the system.
Wireless printers have entered the marketplace over the last couple of years enabling people with limited space to position their printers in different locations around the house. Printers with this feature tend to be either more expensive to buy or expensive to run. Unless this feature is necessary to your set-up I would advise against buying one unless money is not a concern and your budget will not be affected.
A main factor affecting your decision on the printer you buy should be the volume of printing you will be doing during the life of the printer. If you are only going to use the printer occasionally, say a page or two at a time, and then the replacement cartridge costs are not so important to your decision. The saving you make on the original cost of the printer, say by buying a bottom of the range Lexmark may not be eclipsed by the purchase of one ink cartridge at say twenty pounds, however a further two or three would seem to suggest buying a different printer would be advised. Typically, if you move into the forty to five pounds price bracket you can expect to acquire an Epson printer that does not cost too much to maintain, if using compatible cartridges that is! If you buy a good quality compatible they should serve you well. The printer should then provide you with a couple of year's service before it will need to be replaced. Common reasons include blocked heads, and 'Service Required' error message that occurs when the printer reaches the end of its estimated life cycle. Resetting the ink counter will bring the printer back into service, and a utility is available online to do this for many models. Unfortunately many people do not know about this and they send their old printers to land-fill sites.
Lexmark have introduced a range of cartridges called ‘Return Program Cartridges’ containing smart chip technology, which once empty, can no longer be used, even after being refilled with ink. The printer recognises that the cartridge is not new and refuses to print. As the cartridges are worthless after one use, let us hope that they do not end up in landfill sites!
Alongside these cartridges Lexmark also market an ‘A’ version cartridge that is more expensive, but can be refilled and used several times until the cartridge reaches its natural end of life. If you intend to refill and save money then always buy the ‘A’ version cartridges. Unfortunately they are not as freely available as the ordinary cartridges.
Print quality on Lexmark printers is usually very good considering the low cost of some of the models. If you can purchase a Lexmark printer that contains cartridges that can be successfully refilled and you do not mind spending time injecting ink into the cartridges, then this option could be right for you.
Epson’s cheapest printer is currently the S20 or newly introduced S21 printer. This bottom of the range printer uses four very common cartridges T0891, T0892, T0893, and T0894 and is also compatible with the higher capacity T0711, T0712, T0713 and T0714 cartridges.
The Epson S20 takes just over five minutes to print a high resolution A4 image, a little slow for many users, however the results are good. The slow print speed is to be expected on lower end Epson models, but it is hard to fault at this low price, usually around £39.00. Running costs are also very low if you use compatible cartridges. It is also possible to use refillable cartridges with this machine.
The next level of Epson printers such as the SX100, SX105, and SX115 offer copying and scanning functions, eliminating the need for a separate scanner on your desk. Again these machines are great value and offer reasonable print quality for the money. They use the same cartridges as the S20 and S21.
Canon’s entry level printer is currently the ip1900 inkjet printer using two cartridges, PG-37 and CL-38. Both cartridges contain a print head similar to Lexmark and most HP cartridges, pushing up the replacement costs. The good news is that they can be successfully refilled. Unfortunately the printer will recognise the cartridges are not new and will not allow you to print until you perform a reset routine. This involves pressing and holding down the resume button for two minutes, then release the resume button. The printer will then be back to normal.
Text print quality can be an issue with this printer, even in fine mode. For an additional £15 or so I would advise looking at the Canon ip2600, superior design and build quality, faster print speed and image quality. It uses the same cartridges as the ip1900 but produces better results for a budget printer.
The HP DeskJet D2660 printer finished in black has a tiny desk footprint and only weighs 2.7kg, making it easy to transport. This simple no fuss printer has no scanner, cannot print perfect quality images but offers decent text quality and good print speeds.
It uses two cartridges with built-in print heads each costing approximately £15 each. The Black HP300 (CC640EE) and the Colour HP300 (CC643EE) are the lower capacity cartridges. XL version cartridges are also available which contain far more ink.
The HP300 cartridges can be refilled successfully (see Eco-Fill Refill Kit), maybe three to four times before they will need to be replaced. Please note if you are planning on refilling them you should do so before they become completely empty and dry up inside.
If we take a leap up to the SX400, SX405, and SX415 multi-function models then a 2.5 inch colour LCD screen is added and the ability to print directly from a digital camera or memory card. Although you can expect to pay almost double that of the S21 for this machine, the extra money is well worth it if you require these added features and faster printing. The colour screen and card slots allow you to view the photographs on your memory card and then print them without using a computer. A stand-alone mini photographic laboratory. These printers also use the same cartridges as the S21 and SX100 models.
If you do not need a scanner, and simply printing documents, photographs or maybe disks is your requirement, then why not take a look at the Canon ip4600 or ip4680 printers. For around £90 you get a printer with a separate print head. This means that the replacement cartridges are simply a plastic ink tank, reducing the cost of replacement ink, or so you would think! The printer uses 5 ink tanks, a Pigment Black PGI-520BK, and smaller dye based Black CLI-521BK. There are also CLI-521C Cyan, CLI-521M Magenta, and CLI-521Y cartridges. In comparison to the model of cartridges they replaced, the CLI-8 series, they are not as tall and contain less ink. However print quality of the latest models is a slight improvement over the ip4200, ip4300, and ip4500.
If you intend to print high volumes on the ip4600 and ip4680 printer then your budget may demand using compatible cartridges. Up to recently it was only possible to get compatible cartridges with no chip, but now reliable fully chipped compatibles are available. For less than £20 it is possible to purchase a full set of 5 compatible cartridges, halving replacement costs.
For users with more time on their hands or possibly ink on their hands, can now purchase refillable cartridges for these machines. They are transparent with a removable plug at the top for refilling. They contain an auto reset chip which prevents the printers from displaying ink low messages and refusing to print. The disadvantage to using such cartridges is that they do not warn you when the ink is really running low. You have to manually monitor them to ensure that they do not run dry; otherwise the printer head can be damaged beyond repair. Always make sure you have enough refill ink suitable for Canon printers to hand!
Part 3 - Wireless Printers
Wireless printers have become commonplace in today's living rooms, in many cases replacing their wired cousins. This fairly new technology is not just a gimmick, it actually has a purpose. Users with limited space around their computer desk can re-locate their printer to a different area, providing freedom to print from anywhere in their home using multiple computers. Unfortunately Wi-Fi Printers can be double the price compared to their equivalent wired version and you need a wireless enabled computer to use one.
So far I have not succumbed to the delights of Wireless printing, but why should I. I live in a big house with large rooms and plenty of desk space. I much prefer to think of all that jargon being sent down a wire rather than whizzing past my ears at an invisible frequency. But I can see why people are purchasing Wi-Fi printers. It's not just about manufacturers brainwashing the general public into buying something they do not really need. The technology can be extremely useful in tight spaces, not to mention the convenience of the laptop user who may use their computer in various locations around their property. However if you do have plenty of desk space and do not use a laptop around the house, old fashioned as it might sound, I would advise using a good old USB A to B cable to transfer data to your printer!
The HP DeskJet WiFi F4580 wireless all in one A4 printer with integrated memory card reader and 3.8cm colour LCD screen is available for around £55. This looks to be a popular model to be sold by Supermarkets and Chain Stores. Great initial value for money for the consumer providing up to 4800 x 1200 dpi colour printing using the correct settings and paper, and 1200 x 1200 dpi scanning capability. The compact and attractive black machine has a small desk footprint, only 434 x 290 x 162 mm. All good news for the consumer until the ink runs out! The printer comes with starter ink cartridges that have a limited life, so you would need to budget for a further £30 or so for another set of HP300 cartridges, that is unless you decide to refill the starter cartridges.
Retailing at around the £65 point is the Lexmark X4650 Multifunction Colour Printer with Wi-Fi. This all-in-one printer scans, copies, and prints at quick speeds up to 25ppm according to manufacturer statistics, but in practice we found it to be much slower. Print quality was average with the Black Lexmark 36 and Colour Lexmark 37 cartridges, using a combination of pigmented and dye-based inks. These cartridges can be refilled but ink levels will show as empty after doing so.
Buying the cheapest available printer is often a mistake, particularly when for thirty or forty pounds more you can buy one with lower running costs. The Epson SX515W has so many things to offer the consumer for a modest £100. A 6.3cm LCD colour screen so that you can view and select the photographs you want to print without having to turn on your computer. Various card slots so that you can print direct from your compact flash memory. Fast printing at up to 5760 x 1440 dpi using four separate ink cartridges T0711 Black, T0712 Cyan, T0713 Magenta, and T0714 Yellow Cartridges, Scanning facility providing up to 2400 x 2400 dpi and of course the ability to copy. The printer software also includes ICC profiles, which allows the printer driver to adjust colour balances depending on the type of paper being used with Epson original ink.
Canon's lowest price wireless printer is the £120 MP560. This printer has a print resolution up to 9600 x 2400 dpi, a 5cm LCD display, borderless printing, and direct printing from a camera or memory card. It uses 5 individual printer cartridges and reliable fully chipped compatibles are available, giving it the edge over the Epson SX515W in my opinion.
Also available for around £130 is the Brother MFC 490CW all in one colour printer. Geared more towards the small office it has a 15 page auto document feeder, and the flexibility to share access with multiple users via a wireless or a wired network connection. It does everything the Canon and Epson printers do but in addition includes a fax facility. Compatible ink cartridges for the MFC490CW are available for a low price, maybe because they do not need a microchip to work.
In summary I would choose either the Canon MP560 or Epson SX515W printers. I have previously owned a Brother all in one machine and suffered from regular paper jams which would discourage me from buying another for the time being; however my experience should not stop office users from enjoying a wealth of facilities and low running costs. Those on a budget should think twice before buying either a Lexmark or HP if they will be printing in high volumes. That is unless they have the time and patience to refill the cartridges!
Part 4 - Used Printers
printer technology moves on, new models continue to flood the marketplace.
Every six months or so printer manufacturers release their latest
offerings, adding to the many model numbers already available and
with it some added confusion over which printer cartridges they use.
Fortunately manufacturers tend to use the same cartridge for a whole
range of machines, releasing a new set of cartridges every year. For
instance Canon recently released the CLI-521 series of cartridges,
and Brother the LC1100 also known as LC61.