back to article Epson: Cheap printers, expensive ink? Let's turn that upside down

There can't be many printer owners who haven't had an apoplectic fit about the outrageous cost of inks for their machines, and now Epson is trying to change that business model and lower the cost of printing. Traditionally printer manufacturers have sold their hardware at a loss and made the money back over the lifecycle of …

  1. Andrew Tyler 1


    Okay, I like the direction of the concept, but if the printers are still crap (ie, their $379 version is the equivalent quality of a $70 Canon) I dunno if it works on the average consumer level. Entry level printers are of such hideously poor quality, I can't possibly imagine paying more for them than I already do. They aren't amortizing the cost with the ink cartridges, that's just bonus money for them. If they really wanted to make a difference, why not establish an industry standard for printer ink, let anyone make that, and then the printer companies can compete on price and quality of their printers? All that aside, I'm glad to see somebody doing something different if not just for ecological reasons, then just sanity.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hm..

      I can only upvote you once.

    2. Mark 85

      Re: Hm..

      If they really wanted to make a difference, why not establish an industry standard for printer ink, let anyone make that, and then the printer companies can compete on price and quality of their printers?

      Why not? Profit and market share. One can't level out the playing field anymore as there's just too many greedy folks involved.

      1. PNGuinn

        Re: Hm.. Standard ink.

        There's a slight problem with that. Engineering.

        For a start we have 2 basic inkjet systems - bubble jet (boil the ink and use the steam to blast a droplet at the paper) and piezo jet (constrict the jet to blast a droplet onto the paper.

        Then we have basic CMYK and CMYK + extra inks for better colour reproduction.

        How many standards do you want?

        What happens now is that someone reverse engineers the chemistry and tries to make a compatible ink. As cheaply as possible. And sells at as high price as the market will stand.

        Over the years the compatibles have been getting better. Printer manufacturers have reacted by producing unique cartridges for each model and all sorts of dodgy electronic tricks to stop the compatibles, including releasing the lawyers. Lesgislators are beginning to react against this monopoly lockin.

        Maybe Epson have smelt the custard and realised that :

        a. The good times are nearly over and the business model is nearly worn out.

        b. Lasers have got so much smaller and cheaper, tend to be more reliable and last longer, and are beginning to eat the inkjet's lunch. (Yes I know Epson also supply lasers.)

        c. The customer is right royally pissed off with them, and with the low initial cost is well prepared to risk the machine with a cheap compatible replacement.

        d. If he / she does and the machine borks some while later because the cheepie ink was naff the printer manufacturer is likely to be blamed.

        -- Begin rant --

        Yes, I know that there are many cheap and nasty lasers out there, and that the same issues of replacement supplies apply, but I suspect that print lifetimes per cartridge are generally far longer.

        My main concern with all this is the problem of dried out cartridges. Epson heads are part of the printer rather than the cartridge, so that may be the reason why they have jumped first.

        Disclaimer. I seem to do a lot of printing, which is why I've invested in workgroup level lasers. What little experience I've had with inkjets has been pretty poor. Colour device for occasional colour printing. Occasionality limited by the cost of the ink. And (in my case) non waterproof ink. Result - dried out jets quicktime. Now got a colour laser. Problem solved. Still only use it occasionally. Downside - its a big beast.

        The Kyocera black and white FS1020D duplex was expensive at around, as I recall £250, but warrantied for 3 years / 100,000 copies on the process unit. 7200 copies from a tub of black powder (which has proved a pretty accurate average). Now getting on for 15 years and 70,000 copies and still giving me very good quality.

        On the other hand there will always be a demand for the cheapest. Recently collected my daughter from uni for the summer. Loaded up, waiting for her to get her halls room inspection done before she left, watching a staff member going through the bins sorting the rubbish the departing students had chucked out. I was staggered at how many quite new looking inkjets he was extracting from the bins. How many were borked, how many were broken, how many just out of ink and how many just binned because someone was too lazy to take it home I couldn't say.

        Personally, I feel anything that makes the infernal things fit for purpose would be a good thing. Where the line is drawn is open for debate.

        -- End rant --

    3. Kurt 4

      Re: Hm..

      I think you're missing the point. The $379 printer is the same as the $70 printer because the $70 printer is over charging you for ink. If you print a lot as business do, you stand to save thousands of dollars over the life of the printer. Epson will make a few more bucks up front and you'll save a few bucks in the long run.

      1. Richard Taylor 2

        Re: Hm..

        Its not actually the same. The mechanics (including the need to keep nozzles clean) of a printer with refillable ink are a little more complex than those of a printer with snap in cartridges (which deteriorate quite quickly if you refill the cartridges manually - sometimes thwarted by manufacturers 'measuring ink usage' and disabling the cartridge for your own good - of course). I suspect as well that the printer is intended/expected to print rather more pages than the lowest of the low, which again raises costs.

        Yes it won't be $300 but it is probably unfair to claim this is an identical machine.

        1. Paul Shirley

          Re: Hm..

          One huge change possible with very cheap ink is using enough of it to keep the heads very regularly flushed even if the printer is not being used, without annoying the users over cost. I print rarely and both my inkjets died prematurely with unrepairably blocked jets and replacements that cost more than a new printer. I switched to a colour laser printer when the last one died.

          If they get the lifetime right or at least make replacement heads cheap this could kill laser printers for many workloads.

        2. Tcat

          Print heads good vs. cheap

          You are correct. I had totally forgotten about the 3-digit replacement cost od a ceramic print head.

          IIRC, Epson is water based (Inkjet) while Canon (BubbleJet) is oil based.

      2. BigbenNZ

        Re: Hm..

        Not so a Epson is a Real Ink Jet a Cannon is a bubble jet that its print heads burn out, plus the Epson does not need to use Water/Alcohol based Inks.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't speak for others, but what always irked me about the situation with inkjet ink is the sheer dishonesty about the pricing.

    Cartridges of ink costing upwards of $30 a shot is just so obviously bare face extortion it just leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.

    But then the economics of an awful lot of things leave me speechless.

    Take opticians. Typically, there are three costs associated with getting glasses: examination, lenses and frames.

    1) Examination - time with a (hopefully) qualified professional to get a full check up, and expert opinion and a prescription for new specs if necessary. A one-off service would surely be the most expensive part of the whole process.

    2) Lenses - largely made by machine these days but they are custom parts made for the customer. Surely, the second most expensive part.

    3) Frames - standard items manufactured in the thousands in factories in China for the most part. The costs of these would be *by far* the cheapest.

    So what do we have by and large? Free examination, cheap lenses and absolutely extortionate frame costs. It beggars belief. I couldn't work in one of these places. I just couldn't look the customers in the face without extreme embarrassment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Can't fly in the face of fashion

      From the grave goods of neolithic tombs through to SpecSavers, the one constant in humans is the deep compulsion to look good (by whatever standards prevail at the time). So the money will get spent on the visible bits: providing that the prescription isn't so bad that the wearer squints like Quasimodo and that the lenses don't look too much like beer tankards then the frames are pretty much all that gets noticed.

      Is this rational, to ignore the ostensible function of good vision and focus on the presentation? For an individual possibly not, but for a gene line possibly so: a rational peacock might pluck out his tail for better personal survival odds but at the expense of reproductive success. This shades into behavioural economics - the fine art of trying to explain why investors (in any field) so often don't pursue what looks superficially like their rational self-interest.

      1. Cardinal

        Re: Can't fly in the face of fashion

        "so bad that the wearer squints like Quasimodo"

        Well, glasses like that would give anyone the hump eh?

    2. Zarno

      The frames are seen as "status symbols" by a swath of the population, and the prices match because the manufacturers can do it, and most people have their insurance company foot the bill.

      If you don't want to look like Velma from Scooby Doo, you pay through the nose for what sits on your nose. It also goes up 5X in price if a brand name is associated with the frames.

      Although now the styles are changing, and the "Velma glasses" are getting more expensive, the "high school librarian" look is catching on again, and people are starting to like the idea of the pince-nez...

      1. Richard Taylor 2

        If you don't want to look like Velma from Scooby Doo, you pay through the nose for what sits on your nose.

        I think Velma is cute - far more attractive than Daphne - even if the more recent cheap cartoon style is awful.

        (not anon cos I like Scooby and is proud)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Velma is hot, and Daphne is a bimbo.

          Anonymous because... just because.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        If you don't want to look like Velma from Scooby Doo

        But Velma's hot! Phroaw!

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Ah, but there are more pricing models than one. Take your glasses example:

      Like everything else, I buy my glasses online at places like (one of quite a few such firms, but I have personal experience with them) You need your standard prescription plus your Interpupillary distance (distance between eyes)

      They offer PDF printouts of frames, so you can roughly see how they fit. It's not great, but then I'm not looking for top fashion.

      I've had lenses that were mis-made several times, but that was done by the expensive opticians, and I've never had a problem with the online ones.

      This enables me to have 4 pair of glasses for computer use and for driving, with spares, and costs less than $120 TOTAL, instead of the usual $280 per pair.

      My exams are NOT free, as I see a professional optometrist, but it's paid for by my health insurance. Instead of the huge machine with the dozens of lenses in carousels where the doctor constantly asks which is better, she has a computer operated unit where I stare at an image and it somehow figures out my prescription. A couple minutes on that, another machine that puffs air at my eyeball to check for glaucoma, she does a exam of my eyes with the bright flashlight, and I'm done. She then usually spends some time discussing how much my prescription has changed, and why (because I am getting old, that's why)

      Things have changed.

    4. stucs201

      Are the real profits even in the frames? The optician I use seems to have a permanent 2-for-1 offer on glasses. However that doesn't include lens upgrades such thinner lens, anti-scratch anti-reflective coating, tint or light-reactive so the second pair can be sunglasses, etc. The 'free' second pair can work out quite expensive if you want anything other than the basics.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      "Free examination, cheap lenses and absolutely extortionate frame costs. "

      Cheap lenses?

      Lucky you. Mine are about 80% of the total cost! Either that or I have a couple of milk bottles bottoms (ask you parents kids) in front of my eyes.

      1. auburnman

        I feel your pain with the milk bottles. I usually go to Specsavers for the 2 for 1 deal, but instead of getting two pairs I get the thinning/tinting gratis. your local branch might do the same deal depending on the complexity of what you need.

    6. Sam Liddicott

      legal protection

      Interestingly the frame design can be protected by copyright or a design patent and so the price of a desirable frame can be kept high.

      Once you've hired good staff and got a decent lens machine (as any optician in business will have) how else can you add value?

      And if the customers assume good staff and a good lens machine, what they are buying is fashion.

    7. Tom_

      You don't have to play along, though.

      I get the cheap eye tests from Boots and then buy the glasses online for £10 a pair. I can even see through them.

      1. auburnman

        Does that work without being too much of a faff? I've been thinking about it lately. any particular online place you'd recommend?

    8. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      There are two different methods of providing ink, typified by HP on the one hand, and the older Epson printers on the other.

      HP, along with Canon and also Lexmark before they left the market provide you with a cartridge which includes the print head.Every time you change the cartridge, you also change the print head. This makes the cartridges much more complex (and expensive), but at least should maintain print quality over the lifetime of the printer.

      Epson and Brother cartridges are buckets of ink, and if you go back to the late '90s, that's literally all they were. Plastic boxes filled ink, sometimes with foam to control the ink, together with the required holes to let the ink out. More recently, they've had a small amount of electronics in them, supposedly to allow the cartridge to monitor how much ink is left, but actually IMHO to try to make sure that you only use genuine cartridges.

      I currently have an Epson R1800 photo printer that takes a T054X cartridges. I have cartridges from other Epson printers. I've recently found that the physical cartridge from another printer designated T06XX (i.e. the next generation of printer) will fit in the R1800, but the electronics prevent the cartridge from being recognised properly. This strikes me as being a blatant artificial control of the post sale ink market.

      I kept a Stylus 1160, and before that a Stylus 880 (both models without electronics in the cartridge) going for a many years as my always-on network attached printers, because the ink was (comparatively) just so cheap. The 880 eventually had some print nozzles permanently blocked regardless of how I cleaned it, and the 1160 developed a power supply problem. That's when I picked up the R1800, hoping it to be similar. Unfortunately not.

      So it sounds as if Epson are going to go back to their old method of making the printer everything, and the cartridges/ink tanks nothing other than reservoirs for the ink. Great. Just don't push the printer price up too high for artificial reasons.

      1. Nigel 11

        There are two different methods of providing ink, typified by HP on the one hand, and the older Epson printers on the other.

        To be fair, it' s the cheaper HP printers that use this model.

        The HP OfficeJets use ink-only cartridges, and print-heads that are also user-replaceable. The running cost of these comes out pretty competitive in the field of printers in that price bracket (broadly £70 to £200).

        The problem with expensive printers and cheap ink is seen when some idiot loser wrecks the printer by poking his fingers somewhere he shouldn't, or by yanking out a jammed sheet of paper gorilla-style leaving bits of paper jamming up the works ( or bits of printer scattered on the carpet). This is one reason I like the OfficeJets. They're just about cheap enough to replace out of the consumables budget when the losers wreck them.

        My one puzzle is why are the replaceable print-heads so expensive, that it's cheaper to replace the whole printer shoud a print-head fail out of warranty? How does HP make more money out of shipping a vast lump of plastic and metal, than print-heads sold at half the price that they currently charge?

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


          All of the Officejets I have access to use integrated print heads with the cartridge. As does a recent Photosmart that I've used. I'm only really using HP SOHO printers, and I guess mine are quite old, so it may be that the higher or more recent model printers don't use integrated print heads.

          I think the answer to your question with regard to replaceable print heads revolve around the fact that the product life-cycle is pretty rapid. Once a model is no longer sold, the parts are no longer manufactured. As a result, there are only a finite number of spares around, and if the company have done their R&D correctly, they probably won't keep more parts than they will need for warranty re-manufacture.

          Once the product is out of warranty, chances are the parts are in very limited supply, and the marketing model is such that most people won't go to the bother of stripping a printer down to replace the print head, but will just buy a new printer.

          1. Nigel 11

            Re: @nigel

            OfficeJet 8000 models and predecessors - replacing a print-head is as easy as replacing a cartridge. But buying two print-heads costs more than a new printer, and if one has just failed you have to consider that there's a high risk of the other one following it soon.

            They don't change the head design very often. ISTR that there have been only three iterations in the last two decades: the type 10/11, the type 88, and the type 940 (ink cartridge numbers, I think printheads use the same numbers).

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: @nigel

              OfficeJet G55 and OfficeJet 5610 - Integrated print heads. Both are old, but neither are two decades old. And the G55, costing >£400 was not cheap either.

    9. Tcat


      I had a customer that buys lens on-line only, claiming 25% the cost of Walmart.

      1. DropBear

        Re: glesses

        "Free examination, cheap lenses and absolutely extortionate frame costs."

        Dunno about that - in my experience it's rather free examination and reasonable frame costs, dwarfed by a lens cost that should qualify as a crime against humanity (all I ever ask for is light sensitive ones, considering wearing sunglasses is not an option for me). The net result is that I doggedly resuscitate my current specs again and again whenever the frame breaks somewhere: I just can't afford to get new ones and the perfectly good lenses "can't be" transferred to another frame (yes, I _am_ employed. In IT.)...

    10. Schultz

      "Cartridges of ink costing upwards of $30 a shot"

      Or you might go with the 1/2 liter bottle for <$30. I love my HP printer much more since I did that and paying top dollar for new HP cartridges is much less painful if I know I'll burn some ink through them..

    11. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Your Not From Marketing Are You

      Never confuse price, cost and value.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Your Not From Marketing Are You

        My not from marketing? I don't get it...

  3. Peter Prof Fox

    Another option

    This is cool. It's another option for the school kid/person/business that needs a colour printer. (For the school kid it's an exercise in what-if maths -- and also everyone else.) For my arc-light-bright economic insight I should admit that plenty of ordinary kids who are expected to provide computerised homework their only option will be the gouging of the cheap investment then horrendous ink. It's like how pay-as-you-go electricity meters have a much higher tariff than DD etc. So the poor will stay exploited and poor.

  4. david 12 Silver badge

    My older Brother printer with the larger print tanks automatically cycled through (internal, paperless) print head cleaning cycles, to keep the thing operational when not in regular use.

    My newer Lexmark, the printheads dry out, the print nozzles get blocked, you throw out the small cartridges if you can't get them clean when you want to use it.

    Perhaps this new model is intended for regular heavy users.

    1. Skrrp
      Thumb Up

      +1 for Brother

      I've got a 4yr old Brother MFC and it keeps going. As you point out, it sits there and cleans its own heads from time to time, never had to run a manual clean.

      Brother have been running the 'pay up front, use cheap ink' model for years. This isn't a new Epson invention. I pay £9 for a full set of 3 colour + 2 black (compatible) cartridges and they last me about a year a set (very low usage).

      Plus; excellent Linux support from Brother drivers. Works on all my machines.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My older Brother printer with the larger print tanks automatically cycled through ...print head cleaning cycles, to keep the thing operational when not in regular use.

      The British consumers' association recently had a look at ink use by domestic/home office inkjet printers - there appears little correlation between the ink use in cleaning cycles and reliability or performance, and some brands (Canon separate ink printers in particular) were wasting three or four times as much as actually printed in cleaning. Not only does this waste ink, but it means the printer spends ages chuntering and shuffling when I just want my damned print. Some other makers were able to offer self-cleaning printers that wasted far less ink than the Canon single-colour cartridge printers. The combined tank Canon printers wasted far less ink (ISTR that these had an integrated disposable print head on the combined cartridges?)..

      The truly irritating thing about my Canon is that despite its voracious appetite for ink when running self cleaning, it still needs periodic manual cleaning of the print head, which is a chore to get out of the machine, and takes hours of soaking and rinsing to clear.

      I've always liked Canon for their high quality photo capabilities, but I've got tired of the cost of wasted ink (even using third party cartridges), I've got tired of the noise and delay, tired of the need to hold a permanent stock of replacement cartridges, tired of the difficult task of cleaning the print head. Next time round Canon aren't assured of my business.

  5. Zarno

    So how much are the replacement print heads?

    I went to laser because the inkjets were always clogged and streaky, and consumed half a "tank" to clean the heads.

    Not to mention the forced cleaning cycles every few pages.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Yes, laser is the solution

      Used ink printers for years - Epson included. The result was invariable :

      Buy printer

      Use up included ink without trouble

      Buy new ink cartridges (brand name only, no Chinese knock-offs ever)

      Start needing to clean heads regularly

      Start getting degraded print quality

      Move on to head cleaning before each print while cursing profoundly

      Chuck the whole thing out and buy another printer

      Of course, some people would say that I didn't print enough. Sure, about a page a day on average and I agree that is not much, but why does it work find with the purchase-included cartridges then go to Hell with store-bought brand name ones ?

      I solved the issue with a laser printer. Doesn't do color, but it bloody works. End of.

      1. kmac499

        Re: Yes, laser is the solution

        For plain documents I've got a 10yo HP Laser duplex which was recently upgraded via eBay with memory, network card and second paper tray. Toner can be cheaper than a set of inks, and the really neat trick is booklet printing. Take an A4 document and print a nice neat A5 book.

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: Yes, laser is the solution

          Universal drawback for Laser printing.

          If you leave a stack of laser printer output bound under pressure for years (such as in lever-arch binders or just a big heap), the ink will tend to adhere to the opposite page. The pages peel apart when needed, but there's some ink transfer which at best makes the single-sided pages look grubby, and at worst makes the double-sided pages illegible. Related to this is the (theoretical? ) possibility of someone malign lifting selected characters off the pages. Lawyers will advise printing your will using an ink printer for this reason.

          Colour Laser printers are either expensive to buy or expensive to run or both. (The quoted running cost never seems to include replacing the drum, which can last as little as 10K prints).

          1. Zarno

            Re: Yes, laser is the solution

            Yep, all valid concerns.

            I've had some of my early college stuff that came out of a HP laserjet 4 stick together after a few years, and it is indeed annoying.

            We have an HP color laser, and it's on it's first refill after the 4 included toner+drum assemblies lasted 2 years. We re-upped with extended capacity modules, so we should get 3-5 years at our print rate.

            The color toner is expensive, but it lasts if you have the settings proper in the driver, and HP still allows you to print after the "low toner" alarm goes off, so you can use the last of it up before you toss in the hot spares. Mail the old carts back prepaid, and everyone wins.

            I'll write my will with a fountain pen methinks...

          2. david 12 Silver badge

            Re: Yes, laser is the solution

            Reading reviews for middle-price color laser: "Thin lines may not appear". And this gem: "Pictures are recognisable".

            This is not photo quality.

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Epson was doing this to some extent

    Epson has been doing this to some extent already, at the lower end the Epson will cost like twice what a similar HP costs, but the Epson will have less expensive, larger capacity cartridges. My parents have an HP that is nice, but my mom prints photos and such on it and man does it churn through ink. If you print enough it definitely could make sense to buy one of these admittedly costly printers to be able to use giant $12 cartridges.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Epson was doing this to some extent

      Epson has been doing this to some extent already, at the lower end the Epson will cost like twice what a similar HP costs, but the Epson will have less expensive, larger capacity cartridges.

      I have a fairly new WF 7610 (the +A3 version of their printers/scanner), and that choice was made by FIRST looking if I could get replacement ink. However, it seems to be quite reasonable in the way it uses ink, and the black XXL cartridge I just replaced the 'startup' cartridge with is an absolute bucket - it's huge. It wouldn't surprise me if it made sloshing noises when printing, it's that big. Given how that small "startup" black cartridge lasted with normal print jobs I cannot see me replace that before the new year.

      The issue with imitation ink is usually colour rendering. The printer it replaced didn't do a good job using replacement ink, but it was so old it was nigh impossible to get ink for it unless I used the replacement ink market. Hence the Epson. As it stands I'm not sure I'll use replacement ink on it - depends on the costs when I'm ready to buy. So far, the signs appear to favour Epson :).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Epson was doing this to some extent

      "[...] but my mom prints photos and such on it and man does it churn through ink."

      Our Kodak Express photo printing shop has said that the quality and durability of their digital printing is cheaper and better than doing it at home. That certainly appears to be true if you want an occasional A3 or A2 - or even bigger.

  7. JeffyPoooh

    Kodak tried this cheaper ink, more expensive printer business model

    It's not clear that it worked out for them.

    1. Richard Taylor 2

      Re: Kodak tried this cheaper ink, more expensive printer business model

      As did HP with their Office range of ink jet printers about 10 years ago.

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    "The frames are seen as "status symbols" by a swath of the population, and the prices match because the manufacturers can do it, and most people have their insurance company foot the bill."

    I saw an article on TV suggesting that frame prices are as high as they are (in the US at least) in general because Luxottica has agressively purchased a whole supply chain (and built it up well). They've bought several high-end frame makers (which were already priced pretty high, and I don't think prices on these types went up) and produce the frames for several others, bought several regular frame makers (raising prices for these frames substantially), and several glasses chains (so you go to this store and they have multiple brands but they are mainly if not entirely Luxottica-owned or produced brands.) They are by no means a monopoly and you can still find places where the frames are much less expensive, but they do have about 80% of the glasses market.

    Back on topic, I had a IBM Color Jetprinter 4079 PS that I got used for like $10, it was pretty sweet to have a printer that took $4 ink cartridges. Woefully slow though (it was rated at 0.9 ppm.)

  9. Salts

    Continuous Ink Systems

    I have had good results from this type of system, upgrade costs about 70gbp, you hammer the cheap printer and if the printer fails in the warranty period just take it back. Yes it is slow, but these are 30-40 quid printers that give really cheap cost per page.

  10. Brian 3

    The big point IMO is that the cost per page is so insignificant that there would no longer be an economic reason not to print color...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want a cheap low volume printer

    I may go a month or more without printing anything, and average maybe a few pages a week - I buy a new ream every 2+ years I think. The ink cartridges go bad after a year when they have hardly been used, so I end up spending a fortune per page. Maybe I need to buy a used color laserjet next time, if the toner never goes bad it'll probably last me a decade!

    1. Christian Berger

      Get a used HP LaserJet 4

      You can often get them from rubbish heaps usually with a half full toner which will still last for thousands of black pages. New toner is extremely cheap, and since it speaks PCL it's trivial to get running on any operating system, including Windows.

      They might need a bit of sandpaper treatment on some rubber wheels, but otherwise those are near indestructible.

      The same goes for most 1990s non-GDI printers. They all support PCL at a decent version, some even postscript, and you can often even upgrade the RAM with cheap PS/2 modules. The GDI printers have, predictably, all turned into expensive toxic waste as nobody maintained the drivers. (I'm looking at you, Brother)

      1. Steve 53

        Re: New???

        My 1998 Laserjet 4000 is going very strong. If you don't need colour (and i rarely do) then it makes a super occasional use printer. Add a network card and you're laughing, last 10k sheet toner cartridge cost me £15.

        It is a big old beast though...

      2. Anomalous Cowturd
        Thumb Up

        Re: Get a used HP LaserJet 4

        Yep. I only upgraded my LJ5M last year, after 9 years of sturdy service. It was born in 1996, and had only printed 40k pages when I bought it for £50. 14MB RAM and a PostScript ROM.

        It's still working at a friend's house. Brilliant network printer. 600 dpi, 12 ppm. Supposedly good for 30k pages per month. Compatible 9k page cartridges are less than £20.

        I only got rid of it because I needed automatic duplex printing.

    2. stucs201

      Re: I want a cheap low volume printer

      Definitely go for a cheap laser for low volume. I bought an entry level HP mono laser for about £60 quid in 2008. Even though my usage is even lower than yours (it's only on it's second toner cartridge) it still works flawlessly when it is switched on.

    3. Bert 1

      Re: I want a cheap low volume printer

      Definitely go for a colour laser.

      I've got one (after getting annoyed with chucking out half used inkjet cartridges.)

      It lasts for AGES. OK, so the photo printing is not quite as good, but I just get any photos that I want to display printed online by Snapfish (other online photo printing services are available).

      Inkjet is a complete con, I pretty much ended up buying a new cartridge every time I wanted to print something.

  12. Ian Easson

    Pay now ... Pay later .. a Little Later

    Your choice.

  13. W Donelson

    Epson Printers: Clean heads once a week, drain tanks

    For 20 years, off and on, I have owned Epson printers. If you use them around once a week or so, you find that you have to "clean the heads" very often, just to print a single page.

    This burns up HUGE volumes of ink. I never had this problem with HP printers, so I buy them now.

    Anyone else seen ink-guzzling Epsons?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Epson Printers: Clean heads once a week, drain tanks

      This burns up HUGE volumes of ink. I never had this problem with HP printers, so I buy them now.

      That changes when the nozzles start clogging on HP. Worse, it disposes this ink inside the printer onto some absorbent pad, and when that is full the printer will no longer work. I loved my HP OfficeJet Pro printer I had because it was astonishingly fast for an inkjet (it needed a *very* stable table because the head acceleration forces would move it about), but when the heads were close to renewal it got messy.

      I agree with the observation about Epson insofar that a cartridge replacement or a power cycle seems to demand a *lot* of activity before it's ready. Once it is online it is fine, but it takes a while to get there and I suspect there will be ink-wasting cleaning activities involved, so I now leave it online which seems to be the way it wants to be. This is the reverse of the Brother I had which went online immediately, but took a bloody century of rattling around before it would spit out a single page..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Epson Printers: Clean heads once a week, drain tanks

        "That changes when the nozzles start clogging on HP. Worse,"

        About 15 years ago HP printers were claimed to be superior because they had the nozzles in the cartridge.

        My ancient A3 Epson 1160 has dome good service but seems to have overloaded the cleaning cycle pad with ink. That causes paper transport to pick up ink. Looks like a spider has crawled across the prints. However the cartridge cost has become uneconomical at about £70 a set - so a cheap replacement set are in reserve for any rare A3 work..

    2. Hawkuletz

      Re: Epson Printers: Clean heads once a week, drain tanks

      About 15 years ago Epsons had the printing head fixed (as in not user-replaceable). If you somehow didn't use your printer for more than let's say two weeks, you had a good chance of clogged nozzles. This was not repairable under warranty - and the heads would cost as much as the (expensive) printer. I wonder if it would be the same now - I have avoided Epson ink jet printers since then. It seems that 'burning' HUGE volumes of ink might be the attempt to avoid the previous problem.

      On the other hand, at that price, a color laser printer might be better. Yes, toner is quite expensive itself, but not as much as ink and doesn't come with all the other issues ink has.

  14. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    The problem is the average Joe/Jo on the High Street/Mall will look at the upfront cost of the print (I.e. What comes out of their wallet there and then) and go with the cheapest. They won't think about the long term costs. Look at mobile phones: Most of us here on El Reg know it's cheaper to buy a phone separate to your mobile contract, but few people on the High Street bother because they're lured in by the low up front costs.

    1. Richard Taylor 2

      But these are aimed at businesses

  15. Tony W


    I'd like to buy a printer that can be maintained. Like, cleaning the pickup roller and replacing it when worn out without disassembling the printer down to almost the last nut and bolt. I was disillusioned with HP when I found that on my "professional" A3 printer, the waste ink tank was full but couldn't be emptied and cleaned without breaking plastic parts. This is environmentally criminal as well as pissing off the customer.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "costs $1,200 – minus a buck"

    so $1,199?

    Are reg writers paid by the word?

  17. DJO Silver badge

    Oh really

    and in some cases it's cheaper to buy a new printer for $50 rather than replace all the damn cartridges.

    This is really bad advice as the cartridges in new machines are never more than half full, more often about 1/3rd full.

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Oh really

      "and in some cases it's cheaper to buy a new printer for $50 rather than replace all the damn cartridges.

      This is really bad advice as the cartridges in new machines are never more than half full, more often about 1/3rd full."

      Not necessarily. You ever weighed them and compared them to replacements? Some sad gits have ... and found that some are short filled but a lot are not any more. Presumably it's more expensive to reprogram and calibrate the filling machine for a 'few' cartridges rather than leave it to do its thing.

  18. thexfile

    No Real Movement Forward In Technology

    Scanner and printer technology hasn't improved in years.

  19. Andy E
    Thumb Up

    HP Officejet 7410

    I bought this printer over 10 years ago and its still going strong although it only gets used once or twice a month these days. In the early years it was being hammered for reports and presentations. Yes the ink cartridges are expensive (£25 & £26) but these days they last ages unless the kids start printing pictures for their homework. The only downside was driver support which after a nightmare with Vista was sorted out for Windows 7. It's not very well supported on OS X though which is a bit of a surprise. It was quite an expensive purchase initially but has worked consistently well. At the moment I use it for printing labels for beer bottles but it has been used for printing photo's on A4 sized paper and they do look good.

    If your prepared to pay the initial price for a good quality printer then you can expect it to last, depending on usage of course.

  20. Nifty

    The fatal flaw in this thinking - expensive printers will hit landfill as fast as cheap ones

    I had to take a an 18 month old Canon all-in-one the landfill when it failed one day.

    (After I checked the internal fuses first).

    Bought another similar Canon the next day as it was cheap enough.

    Nevertheless, annoyed about the un-repairabiliy and landfill aspects.

    If Epson were to offer a 4 year no quibble guarantee on their £300 printers, plus describe some eco credentials like they actually refurbish rather than dump returned machines, I'd be in.

  21. Tom_

    People print less

    People are losing interest in printers anyway, as interest in hats grows.

  22. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I'm using a 15+-year-old HP LaserJet 5 which I grabbed on the way to the bin 10 years ago. It's only recently started feeling its age, misfeeding and jamming if I try and print more than one page at a time with the gnashing and the grinding of cogs. I've had to tweek my printer driver to add a 2 second pause between each page so there's only ever one sheet in the mechanisms at a time.

    1. adfh

      Old HPs were wonderful

      The older HPs were fantastic. I had a LaserJet 5 too - lasted me many years until it too had feed issues.. A former job got an ex-lease HP Laserjet 8150DN with the huge paper tray addon (and the details of the previous user in the memory, LOL). With a copy of the service manual and a good reco parts company, I was able to keep it chugging along for ages (only needed to replace the fan and the fuser unit in it).

      These days, as HP has gotten so plastic fantastic, I tend to suggest Brother for low to mid range duty cycle laser, and Kyocera for mid to higher range. A mob I help who has a Brother for their main PC printer tried to replace their fax and copier with a Fuji Xerox... it lasted a fortnight before the screen broke.. Now they run a colour Kyocera multifunction without issue (still can't convince them to turn off auto-printing every inbound fax yet though), using the B&W Brother for bulk of PC printing.

  23. Chris Evans

    Warranty and head.

    Now if they include or offer an extended warranty that really would be a big step forward.

    Then there are the head/s. Ink jet heads do get blocked, especially if not used for a week or two and Epson heads weren't user replaceable (that might have changed). User replaceable heads and at a reasonable cost are what is needed.

  24. 2Nick3

    CapEx vrs OpEx

    CapEx vrs OpEx. CapEx (Capital Expenses - bigger one-time purchases) are often easier to get approved than OpEx (Operatiing Expenses - smaller recurring purchases), and can have tax implications as well. Epson seems to understand that difference and is making an offering on both sides of the equation. Smart.

  25. DropBear

    I have a theory that printer manufacturers simply try to recapture the increasingly elusive patronage of the consumer: basically nobody, absolutely nobody I know buys original ink - most people simply buy a no-name replacement (at a _small_ fraction of the original's price) or simply have their old cartridges refilled (there are countless "refill shops" around here - and yes, they mostly know how to reset the cartridge chip as well, unless you straight-up bought one of the ubiquitous self-resetting ones). What the smarter ones do though is buy an add-on CIS (continuous ink system) for their existing printer (kits abound) which basically lets you pour in large amounts of whatever dirt-cheap ink you can get your hands on without ever thinking about how much you might use or waste.

    Apparently CIS (and the other workarounds) have become sufficiently popular that manufacturers just can't pretend that everything is still fine anymore: Epson came out with a whole lineup of sub-$200 printers that now have CIS factory-built-in (L120 / L130 etc.) followed by a bunch of somewhat more expensive ones. Brother seems to do the same with DCPJ100 / DCPJ132. I suppose it's an "if you can't beat them join them" sort-of-admission of defeat...? At any rate, if I get a new one, it will surely be something like these - the only thing is, I hardly print at all these days...

  26. adfh

    So is it like other Epson printers, where printhead change is service centre issue?

    We had an Epson Color Stylus 500 years ago. We didn't use it for a couple of months (don't need to print every day). Then the print heads clogged up and we were told that it'd be 75% of the cost of the printer to fix the heads.

    Does this new "Eco" printer let a user replace the heads when they get damaged? That's been one thing that's always put me off Epson. Very nice colour prints, but if you didn't use them regularly, be prepared for the heads to f*** up.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bought one of those.

    Epson L355. Huge tank, didn't replace or refill since I bought it, over a year ago.

    Let me tell you, over here they charge extortionate prices on printers, regardless if the cart has 5ml or 70ml of ink. Of course I replaced the printer, and went with the cheap ink.

    Do you know WHY Epson did it in the first place? Because she was losing to PIRACY. People would buy the cheap printer, and MODIFY a printer cartridge with a HOSE and attach it to A GALLON OF CHEAP INK OUTSIDE THE PRINTER. The ink, being sold for $50 a pop of 5ml, was costing more than UNICORN BLOOD. People started selling 'compatible' ink exactly because the ink was so mind-blasting expensive in the first place.

    And it was WAY easier to do it on a Epson, because the printing head is NOT replaced with each cartridge of ink, and is supposed to last a couple hundred thousand prints. HP cartridges have the printing head on them, because they ARE SUCH A FUCKING FAIL, after just 5ml of ink pass through them they are gone, so HP couldn't just sell the ink, the printing head had to go along.

    So, Epson saw this, got pissed, and decided to drive the pirates out of their game, by selling a more expensive printer, with an ink SO CHEAP that the pirates won't bother selling ink or hacking their printers.

    No, really, they are now selling ink in bottles of HALF A LITER! That's a British PINT! For a fiver!

    I saw this MYSELF, because I was about to get mine converted to use A GALLON. I said "sod this" and bought the original thing instead.

    Plus it is multifunctional and works over Wi-Fi...

  28. Bryn Evans


    I print only one page a week at the most,

    mainly self reference items and the odd Business letter.

    All this on my second hand Citizen Swift200 Dot Matrix I have had since 1997 when

    I treated it to two black and one multi colour new original ribbons

    (never used colour for real)

    Last year the second black was getting faint so I got 4 clone ribbons via Amazon

    so I am a happy Dyno

    When the whole thing expires -Then maybe a cheapo laser will be the answer.

  29. Charlie335

    Electronic cartridge

    I have an old HP inkjet printer, more than 7 years old, happy with the printer quality, but very unhappy with the ink price, extremely expensive. So I may try Epson's one.

    But I saw another journalist says that they sell ET-4550 at $699 with 11,000 pages in black and 8500 in colour , replacement bottles of ink have nominal yields of 6000 pages for black is $24.99, and 8,500 pages for colour is $16.99 each, so you could spend well over $1000 on ink cartridges. It's still not cheap. Yeah so perhaps I'll wait for a while to see.

    Found an very interesting website called thesmartridge dot com by accident, they are claiming it's a game changer, the world first electronic cartridge, auto refill and much better price, if it's true, will be good.

  30. This post has been deleted by its author

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