back to article Ink tanks park themselves all over the lawns of Western Europe as orders flood in

Ink-tank printers flew off distributors' shelves in the first half of this year and onto the desks of work-from-home employees, providing one of the brighter spots for printer land in the first half of 2020. Sales of the devices, which are sold pre-loaded with mini reservoirs of the expensive stuff, actually declined 11.1 per …

  1. Sgt_Oddball

    Refillable cartridges too..

    Are proving difficult to aquire as I found out for the wife's semi-pro photo printer (2 cartridges? Pah! 4 cartridges? For the common folk... This one takes 6 because CMKY + grey and an extra larger black).

    Just when we were thinking on boxing it away since it otherwise only got used three or four times every couple of months.

    1. Martin Gregorie

      Re: Refillable cartridges too..

      IMO you're better off with a Laser printer - no jets to clog and no unreplaceable loops of head cleaning fabric to stop working when well covered with dried ink.

      Sure, a laser and its cartridges cost more to purchase, but the simple fact that you never find the thing clogged up if you haven't used it for a month, combined with duplex printing sharply reduces the TCO.

      I've had my current laser for almost three years and still haven't used up the half-capacity cartridge it came with, so that looks like a running cost of about a tenner a year for toner (3p/page vs 4p/page for an Epson inkjet) - and that's without allowing for wastage as inkjet cartridges clog or dry up.

      Plus the cost of my monochrome laser and an Epson Stylus are pretty much in the same ballpark.

      1. Aussie Doc

        Re: Refillable cartridges too..

        Wholeheartedly agree. Don't see these much either --->

        I run a monochrome laser and a colour one for those rare 'must have colour' moments.

        Both are extremely reliable units and have the added benefit of being able to be used for printing out my circuit boards (the monchrome) or adding pics to my woodwork creations via a hot iron.

        Never have to worry about clogs because they've not been used in <insert time frame> either.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Refillable cartridges too..

          "I run a monochrome laser and a colour one for those rare 'must have colour' moments."


          Almost every colour laser out there has a solenoid that disengages the colours when you're printing mono and the price difference between black cartridges for each type is negliigible

          Printers need to be used or they go wrong - it's not just the ink/toner that needs to be thought about.

      2. Lotaresco

        Re: Refillable cartridges too..

        "IMO you're better off with a Laser printer - no jets to clog"

        In my experience the laser toner ends up "caking" in the cartridge so the cheaper cost per page is illusory. Even more so if you compare costs vs a tank printer.

        Each technology has its place. Ink cartridges with built-in print heads for occasional users, lasers for people who don't care about decent colour output and who have print volumes great enough to use up the toner before it gets too old, ink tank for people who want decent colour output and who have more than an occasional use for printed copy. The ink tank duplex printers we are currently using as workgroup printers give lasers a run for their money. Ink jet clogging never seems to be a thing and if it does happen it's usually relatively simple maintenance to get them working again.

  2. Spanners Silver badge


    1. You probably shouldn't print that.

    2. You probably shouldn't print it in colour.

    3. You shouldn't have an inkjet printer.

    4. If you have to print, get a cheap MFP laser.

    5. If you need to see it in colour, PDF's are nice.

    6. If staff "must" print, will they bring it back to the office for shredding when the employee has read it (probably once)?

    1. Stumpy

      Re: Stop!

      Have to admit, buying a cheap 'small office' MFP laser printer was the best move I've made.

      No more messy inks to deal with, no more unclogging of print heads. Good print quality on pretty much any paper, and enough toner in the supplied packs to last me at least a couple of years (by which time it'll likely be obsolete so I'll have to buy a new one, but hey, probably still cheaper than buying a new set of four toner carts.)

      1. SotarrTheWizard

        Even so, the Printer Manufacturers will still zap you . . .

        I had the same (major brand redacted so they won't lob a sueball at me . . ) Multi-function Inkjet with photo printing capability as the home network printer for 5+ years. Output was indistinguishable from a laser, wife needed the photo printing for her freelance graphics work, and we all used the onboard scanner.

        One day a message pops up: print head is end of life, return printer for servicing . It also informed me that I could download a special utility, with my registered owner email address and the printer serial number, which would allow a generous 50 more pages to be printed. Downloaded and ran, and would get a countdown popup for every page printed.

        Called the 1-800 number. . . which, of course, was closed outside of business hours and on weekends.

        Eventually found out that the nearest service location was several hundred miles off, the price was more than I had paid for the printer in the first place, and, oh yes, the turnaround time was between 60 and 90 days. . . .

        Went out an bought a replacement printer (of a different brand) for less than they wanted for the repair.

        And then the wife, daughters, and I, took it out to the back yard, and re-enacted a certain scene from "Office Space". . .

        1. 9Rune5

          Re: Even so, the Printer Manufacturers will still zap you . . .

          I had a similar experience with a CANON! (name included, because I _want_ them to sue me as I won't mind the publicity)

          Manual clearly states that the print head can go 'bad' in case I print after ink runs out.

          But, since I wasn't printing anything grey, I assumed I could wing it. And I thought there would be some streaks or noticeable print artifacts as the ink gradually ran out.

          Not so. Just "okay, you ignored us, so until you send us off to the service spa, we're not going to talk to you nor your computer anymore". Fine... I can accept that, but how about just let me scan this here one page? "NO you heathen! Getteth away from us!"

          The sad part is that I'm somewhat of a Canon fan. I love their EOS cameras. But this... This printer scam is just too much to stomach.

          Bought a cheap lexmark color laser instead. The 3rd party replacement black toner ran me about $100, but it will print thousands of pages it says.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Even so, the Printer Manufacturers will still zap you . . .

            > Manual clearly states that the print head can go 'bad' in case I print after ink runs out.

            in more technical terms - you can get air bubbles in the line between the ink bladder and the head and they tend to be hell to flush out when you do replace the ink (I spent a week trying to sort out an HP business Inkjet when someone let this happen)

            That's no excuse for what Canon do - and thankfully there are ways to reset the ink levels - Here's one:

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Even so, the Printer Manufacturers will still zap you . . .

          > And then the wife, daughters, and I, took it out to the back yard, and re-enacted a certain scene from "Office Space". . .

          Too bad you didn't think to put it in tech mode and reset the counters.

  3. Lee D Silver badge

    Can't believe this junk still sells.

    Just buy a colour laser and have done with it.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Color laser printers don't have the color fidelity to match precise image tones.

      Imagine the chaos if you printed out fthe email about waste from HR and the logo in the footer didn't match the specific pantone value in the brand image

      1. DwarfPants

        Reading the branding guide lines you would have thought biblical floods and droughts are not a problem merely an inconvenience, relative to the colours being wrong and don't even think about cropping the white space so it fits on the statutory documents.

        Icon, real world consequences, obviously

    2. cornetman Silver badge

      The economical arguments for monochrome lasers don't really translate well for colour ones.

      If you absolutely must have colour, then an inkjet coupled with a cheap monochrome laser makes the most sense, unless you are printing a *lot* of colour stuff that needs to look professional. If you're doing that though, it IS going to be expensive.

      I suspect most people are like me though. I have a monochrome laser for the vast majority of what I need to print and a colour inkjet for the times when I need colour, such as for photos.

      These new ink tank printers make a lot more sense for most people TBH unless your printing needs are tiny, especially if the printer has reasonably priced, replaceable print heads. I just won't buy a printer that has fixed, unserviceable heads any more and I haven't bought a new inkjet printer for a long, long time.

      If you need to print a lot of monochrome stuff and have the space in the garage, do what I did and pick up a second hand office copier. If you look long and hard, you can pick up older ones for nothing on Craigslist. Even better if it has a good service history and the toner comes in bottles rather than toner units. As long as it keeps working, you just cannot beat the economics of a monochrome office copier.

      1. 9Rune5

        I'm curious about your math there.

        I bought a Lexmark CS410dn for $100 (includes 25% VAT). Replacement toner is expensive, but I rarely print color and the black third party toner I got works just fine.

        1. cornetman Silver badge

          Your mileage may vary, but I got a Konica Minolta Bizhub 200. OEM Black toner bottles are $30 US for a yield of about 18,000 pages. If you do a lot of monochrome printing, it's hard to beat that. The copier itself cost me nothing.

          With that, I also got a fast monochrome scanner that can do duplex up to 11x18" as well and two large format paper trays. Parts are pretty cheap as well.

          If you are printing a lot of colour, then colour copiers can get very expensive unless you can find something that doesn't require you to replace the imaging unit every time you add toner.

          If you print only a small amount of colour, then they can be a good deal. Not so great for printing photos of course, but it really depends on what you need.

          1. 9Rune5

            I picked a Swedish supply store at random.

            I notice they also sell toner for C200, which I assume is the colour version of the KM Bizhub 200.

            TN-214K (for the C200) costs 1044 SEK (24000 pages at 5% coverage)

            TN-210Y (for the 200) costs 568 SEK (17500 pages -- coverage ratio not mentioned)

            I _suspect_ that the C200 toner coverage estimate operates with less coverage, since more of the page will presumably be colored, hence less need for black...

            Even if that was not the case, you get 35000 pages rather than 24000. So roughly an increase in page cost of about 30%.

            Oki, a black only printer will be cheaper. But I do not believe having a separate ink-printer for colors is the way to go, unless you need to print photos. A rarely used ink printer tends to waste ink because it will end up cleaning its nozzles with every print you make. YMMV! :)

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              > TN-210Y (for the 200) costs 568 SEK (17500 pages -- coverage ratio not mentioned)

              I went through this in costing exercises a few years back. Page yield is an IEC standard @ 5% print coverage

              For obvious reasons things drop sharply if you're printing photos - but not as sharply as you might think ((at low coverage levels there's a fair amount of wasted toner and that wastage decreases with saturation/coverage)

              And FWIW: 1KG bags of toner are about US$45 in each colour on Aliexpress for just about every printer (white is around 5 times that cost - yes, you can get white toner), whilst 40 gram bottles (the average amount in most desktop printers) are about US$15 per bottle per colour

              Compare that to the price of the cartridges (OEM or 3rd party). Yes there's a bit more inside them than just toner but the other bits are worth about $20 and going from a standard to an XL toner normally brings your toner load from 40 to 60 grams (You can pickup what appear to be standard 3rd party cartridges on Aliexpress for around 1/4 their retail figure)

              TANK ink is more reasonably retail priced these days but i still find inkjets a pain in the ass to deal with and wish people would buy lasers unless they're printing every day with them

              1. 9Rune5

                Thanks Alan,

                Yesterday I printed about 360 pages. There was a little bit of red on each page... And the magenta toner that came with my printer dropped like a stone.

                I wasn't aware the wastage would be _that_ noticeable.

                I'm curious: Is the chemical composition of e.g. magenta toner similar between various OEMs? Could they put in a cheaper substance somehow to reduce the cost of production?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "If you absolutely must have colour, then an inkjet coupled with a cheap monochrome laser makes the most sense, unless you are printing a *lot* of colour stuff that needs to look professional."

        Your way is also expensive if you're printing colour rarely because inevitably the ink has dried up since the last run. So you then have the situation where an ink cartridge only lasts a few sheets and your have the inconvenience of having to go out and find somewhere to sell you a cartridge or wait a few days for an on-line purchase to be delivered when a colour laser would print it out right now.

        Just get the colour laser - which includes a black cartridge - and set the driver to only use the black cartridge for black text. You might have to replace the black cartridge more than the coloured ones but so what?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Colour lasers are good for colour documents but not for photos

          Arguably any printing that can be done with a colour laser shouldn't be in colour

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            There isn't a complete division between colour documents and colour photographs. If I want a good quality print of a photograph then a special photo-quality printer is needed but for occasional use it's far cheaper to take it to a print shop. OTOH it's perfectly satisfactory to produce written material with colour photographs included as illustrations.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "Colour lasers are good for colour documents but not for photos"

            CMYK of any kind isn't good enough for photos and inkjets are nowhere near as good as dye sublimation printers. CMYK+Photo black+grey is slightly better but you need Photo CMKcmkR to decently approach photo quality (lowercase is "light" colours and R is "red")

            If you really want to print high quality photos, take your files down to Jessops or the equivalent unless you want to shell out £700 for a decent photo printer like a Fuji ASK300 (the small cheap ones are just that - small - and hideously expensive to run. Even the £700 fuji printer will cost you 50p/print or so)

            Again, more than I ever wanted to know whilst needing to replace printers doing various tasks and finding out that we had a number of conflicting demands (some people needed tech drawings, others needed presentation posters - you can't do the latter on a printer for the former and doing the former on a printer for the latter is hideously expensive to the point that you're better off buying separate printers if you can afford the space of 2 44 inch devices. THEN there's the need to have 7 different types of media able to be loaded and even the most advanced roll printers only handling 2 rolls...

            Then there's the whole hassle of doing Overhead Projection transparencies (thankfully something nobody bothers with anymore) - where waxjets reigned suprreme, but _certain_ inkjets worked well on transparencies with special coatings - and if anyone was stupid enough to feed those transparencies to a laser, you'd destroy the fuser (it happened, regularly - until we put the media under lock and key)

        2. cornetman Silver badge

          >Your way is also expensive if you're printing colour rarely because inevitably the ink has dried up since the last run.

          That is certainly true, if by rarely you mean once every couple of weeks or so. In that respect, inkjets really suck.

          It is a difficult balance to get an economical solution that works for the printing that you do and have it also reliable. Lasers are great because they are infinitely more reliable than inkjets but if you are not careful, colour lasers can be very expensive to run.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Odd. Never had that problem.

            My previous HP photo inkjet was absolutely wonderful for about 15 years, the last five of which it was doing a print run every two or three months. Never dried out, just moaned that the ink was out of date. Really cheap ink too, as it was so old!

            Then the gears for the paper pickup broke and I couldn't figure out how to swap them.

            My new inkjet has a reasonable scanner with stupid missing features - it won't do multi-page PDF (WTF?), but again is perfectly happy to do a print run every couple of months. Sadly its ink is very expensive.

            1. cornetman Silver badge

              Re: Odd. Never had that problem.

              The Epsons that I have had in the past have been terrible for this.

              I currently have an HP OfficeJet Pro 8100 which is great, has a duplexer and is very fast. It is my main workhorse, but I do have to run it every now and again if I haven't used it for a while, even if there is no colour, to keep it healthy.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "if you are not careful, colour lasers can be very expensive to run"

            My experience with a Brother is that it has a separate black cartridge and that by default when printing black text it only uses the black cartridge so this is no more expensive to run than a monochrome laser give or take the price per page of the respective models.

            Since I got it I've printed quite a bit of colour work. I run off handouts for my wife's patchwork class with a colour photo of the current week's project on the front page.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "if you are not careful, colour lasers can be very expensive to run."

            Very few colour lasers (even the el cheapo ones) run the colours if you only print mono (some of them have a setting to switch this in/out on a per page basis instead of per job) - but if there's ONE pixel of colour on the page, it's a colour page

            The trick is to set the defaults to mono and make sure it's saved as systemwide

  4. Stuart Halliday
    IT Angle

    Ink Tank Printers?

    Is that a new term for ancient ink Printers?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      No it's a new combination government education initiative and defence spending review.

      Learning that the pen is mightier than the sword, they developed a new literature delivery vehicle to replace expensive tanks. The first deployment of the "Bennett Fighting Vehicle" is due in Afghanistan

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    How's that cheap-printer,-ransom-via-cartridges business model looking now?

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      I do wonder what changed the manufacturer's approach in the end.

      Was it the bad press that they were getting from the media's "Their ink is more expensive that fine champagne" articles or was it something to do with the change in the market whereby far fewer people were actually buying printers (go for high margin rather than high turnover).

      I might also have something to do with the massive third-party ink market eating their collective lunches.

      If I get another inkjet, it will certainly be a ink-tank style printer. If the cost of the ink is reasonable, there would be no point in not buying the manufacturer's ink. It really does tend to be the best.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        I think it is because people still buy printers, but hardly ever use them, so they are not making the money on the ink.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "I do wonder what changed the manufacturer's approach in the end."

        The rise of CISS devices as third party addons. If you can't beat 'em....

  6. Klimt's Beast Would

    It'll probably be an ink tank printer for us too in future but to be honest we don't use it much except to have a paper backup of tickets and some documents.

    I did have a wireless Samsung mono laser but when I discovered the business had been sold to HP, I sent it for recycling. My better 75.2% has a Brother inkjet that takes four cartridges (BkYCM). It used to wake up in the middle of the night to noisily 'clean the nozzles' until I left it unplugged until needed. It also refuses to print black/grayscale if any of the other cartriges have low ink levels (YCM=10 euros each, Bk=20!). It turns out that there is an easy hack to stop this by covering the cartridge transparency. Firmware updates over internet are blocked but the printer is quite old and of course hasn't had an update for a number of years.

  7. Mookster

    Ink Tampon full

    After running my ink tank epson fro 5 years, it decided that the ink tampon was full. Luckily there was a hack to reset the firmeware counter and a bucket of water for the tampon (s)

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: Ink Tampon full

      Exactly the problem I had with my ancient Epson inkjet from circa 2005 which just started flashing all LEDs yesterday. I actually started looking for a mono laser to replace it with but was struggling to find one that was small sized and available for next day delivery or picking up. So I decided to try and fix the Espon and after some internet searching I found it was wanting the waste ink sponges replacing and the counter reset.

      Downloading a free utility called SSC to reset the printer and now and now its back up and running. Ill be happy if I can get just a few months more use out of it as its 15 years old now so it the only bit of PC gear that is still getting used weekly of that vintage but the ink is so cheap. I can get none original carts for about £1 each.

      1. Mookster

        Re: Ink Tampon full

        mine is still going, a year after...

  8. Moonrunner

    Another vote for laser multifunctions. I'm running a Brother MFC-7440N, that's over a decade old and still tickin'... Toner cartridges can be found for a song (I can save even more should I bother refilling my own, but why bother?), great as a scanner, and completely bullet-proof. Bonus points for network connectivity and great Linux driver support. Actually, other than the quality, that's my main selling point for Brother printers. While they call HP's 'Linux-friendly', you only get basic printing functionality from the kernel. For network (especially scanning) use, you usually have to install a multi-megabyte BLOB, outside of the standard procedure, that doesn't work. Brother's Linux BLOB's are sub-100kB, TOTAL! You'll have to Heston this printer from me!

    My main beef with inkjets is that they're useless if you print a lot (ok that's where I give some credit to the Ink tank concept) due to expensive cartridges, or if you print infrequently as the heads get clogged.

  9. IGotOut Silver badge

    Give me a wax printer anyday...

    ...just don't move them while they are still warm.

    Messy..... very, very messy.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Give me a wax printer anyday...

      don't leave them sitting around switched on for months on end either. They accumulate dust in the wax pools which clogs the jets and the wax itself goes funny as the lighter fractions sublimate off, which causes different kinds of jet clogs)

      That's also messy, but a different kind of messy - and that vacuum plate is running at 60C - hot enough to raise blisters (ask me how I know this)

      Waxjets are like inkjets - if you're not using them regularly, then you shouldn't be using one - and to add to the fun a very low dust environment is absolutely essential for reliable operation (even paper dust is problematic)

    2. Lotaresco

      Re: Give me a wax printer anyday...

      I used to have 4xPhaser colour printers. When fresh the colour quality was unbeatable. Sadly over quite a short time the printed image begins to blur and the image colour isn't stable. Also since they run heaters 24/7 the temperature in the office could be amusing and the electricity bill was staggering. You're effectively running a 250W heater night and day. Or in our case 1kW of heating.

      The ink tank printer uses almost no electricity even when running - no heaters. The colour quality is good when used on the right sort of paper and the ink itself is very cheap.

  10. Manx Cat

    History times...

    Started with an Epson colour inkjet which cost a fortune to run, and the prints were dodgy from day 1.

    I then had an OKI LED printer for about 25 years after that - absolutely great workhorse, but had to scrap it after lines started appearing randomly.

    Now have an Samsung/HP something or other mono laser MFP that I can't get going as now on Linux as it's not directly supported, and being a newbie I'm both stupid and stuck!

    Time to RTFM again to attempt getting those drivers installed...Icon as discontented with myself

  11. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Essential links

    Everyone here SHOULD know about these ones, but just in case: and

    Important: Don't mess around with settings in tech mode unless you know what they do. Some of them don't reset to factory and can seriously frag things. Always make a note of what the settings WERE before changing anything.

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