We have owned several inkjet printers over the years, and all of them frayed our nerves.
The inkjet cartridges are insanely expensive and poorly designed. The ink dries and clogs the jets, meaning that one or more colors print spottily or not at all. The printer’s head-cleaning routine may or may not solve this problem, Often, we have had to replace an entire cartridge still containing plenty of ink just because of one bad jet. Yes, you can buy less expensive refills or off-brand cartridges, but some printer manufacturers have countered by programming their machines to work less well with bargain ink.
After all this money and effort and time, your finished inkjet document will still be less than ideal. The ink will smudge with the slightest added moisture or humidity. The page alignment may be off just enough to drive you crazy, because the paper feed on many inkjet printers is not a masterpiece of precision engineering. There may be a small ink blot here or there, because this just happens sometimes in the process of spraying ink.
For these reasons and others, Amy would sometimes hide her need to print a document until late on a Sunday evening, her insides knotted and spasmodic all day, her voice halting and apprehensive in broaching the subject, as if breaking news of our financial ruin. The next few hours would be blur of vile curses and crumpled paper as inkjets were cleaned and and settings adjusted over and over again, the print head screeching endlessly back and forth into the wee hours, making infinitesimal progress.
No more. These days, we both look forward to the pleasant thrill of printing — a task which now flashes by in under a minute.
I am not an impulse buyer. I am more likely to spend months doing online research than I am to ever pull the trigger and make the purchase.
In the case of printers, there is a dizzying number of variables to consider: Inkjet or laser? Color or black and white? Multifunction printer (scanner, fax, etc.), or not? You have the printing cost per sheet and the cost of replacement cartridges plus print speed numbers and print resolution to consider.
I tried to take every factor I could think of into account, and in the end it was the PCWorld.com review that I kept coming back to:
Bottom Line: Spoil your small workgroup with this printer’s speed, great output quality, and cheap toner. … Dell’s 3130cn Color Laser Printer is a near-perfect starter printer for a small office or workgroup. It’s extremely capable on all counts, and it has room to grow.
So we ordered the Dell 3130cn Color Laser Printer and crossed our fingers.
The delivery guy huffed and puffed after bringing it up our walk. “I don’t think I’ve ever delivered a printer that big before,” he said.
This is no cutesy, pocket-sized toy. The Dell 3130cn is a 53.5-pound black cube, roughly a foot and a half high and wide and deep. It would not fit inconspicuously on a desktop. I opted to keep it on the hardwood floor in our office. It fits nicely underneath a side table, and I have placed it on four large Moving Men furniture sliders so it can be pulled out for use, then pushed back under the table. (We do not print all day, every day.)
Setup was easy enough, but the PCWorld review is right — you do want to be very careful when installing toner cartridges so that you don’t accidentally drop them on the transfer belt.
Printing is now a breeze. Amy enjoys being able to do it all by herself. The printer pauses for a second with its fan running, and then the next thing you know — presto! — there is a page or collection of pages waiting face down in the output tray. They are beautifully printed, in black and white or color, and do not smudge in humidity.
One of the biggest headaches of our inkjet days was business-sized envelopes. They had to be hand-fed, and would come out horribly misaligned or blotched with ink, or they would simply get stuck in the paper feed. I wasted more envelopes than I care to think about. The Dell 3130cn, on the other hand, has a Multipurpose Feeder (MPF) which opens via the front panel to accept one envelope or a nice stack as necessary, and prints them as easily as the pages.
Our last inkjet printer was rated at 540 pages of black text or 220 color pages of ink life. A color cartridge retailed for $20 and a black one for $25. That’s $45 for the pair — and I doubt we ever got that many pages before the cartridge went bad.
Meanwhile, our Dell printer came with a 4,000-page black cartridge and 3,000-page color cartridges. The whole thing costs just over the price of 8 inkjet refill sets.
As PCWorld points out, there are 9,000-page high-yield toner cartridges avaailable for the Dell:
The high-yield versions (all 9000 pages) offer true savings: black costs $132 or 1.5 cents per page, while each color costs $241 (2.7 cents per color), resulting in a four-color page cost of less than 10 cents.
So, to recap: This Dell color laser printer is cheaper in the long run than inkjet, with much more professional-looking results and no grueling hours of waiting.
I wish we could have done this years ago.