Printers

A Canon i-Sensys MF633cdw colour laser printer with scanner suitable for family use. (Photo: Canon)

Conclusion: A printer is no longer the necessity it once was. Frequency of use is part of the equation in determining what type of printer (if any) to buy. Often alternative sources can provide all of the printing resources needed. At other times, it may be prudent to invest in a colour laser printer with scanner.

Before rushing out to buy a printer there are several questions that should be asked, and answered.

  1. Who in the household needs to use a printer?
  2. What do each of these people want to use the printer for?
  3. What will their monthly production/ consumption be of premium colour print, regular colour prints and black and white prints?
  4. How much will each person need to scan objects?
  5. What alternative printing and scanning sources are available? at what price?

Unlike most of the products discussed until now, the answers to the above questions will show that most families will probably not need their own printer!

Ink in an ink jet printer will dry out, if not used at least once a week. Thus, most people with low usage requirements and an alternative printing source, will find that owning a printer is an unnecessary expense. While ink tanks attempt to make printing cheaper, they are only a solution if one is printing a large number of sheets regularly. Ink jet printers have a problem with drying out, regardless of how the ink is provided. Using an ink jet printer at home – say, once a month – will be frustrating and potentially expensive, as one has to cope with, and repurchase, dried out ink cartridges.

Laser printer toner cassettes do not dry out. They can be used minimally without problems. This is one reason why the author of this weblog post has purchased a laser printer, and disposed of the previous ink-jet printer. The laser printer is used mostly at the end of the month to make a paper copy of accounting documents, ingrained from long-forgotten accounting courses, that required people to keep a paper trail of transactions. Other people may not feel this need. Laser printers are more expensive to purchase than ink jet printers.

While many product reviewers are keen to emphasize the existence of monochrome (read: black & white) printers, these may be offering false economy. An inability to print a document in colour, may make the entire printing process irrelevant. A colour printer, can always print in black & white. Standard printing size is 8.5 inches by 11 inches in North America, and A4 in Europe. There is no need for most households to deviate from this. If there is, time should be spent sourcing where appropriate printers can be found, and used.

There are essentially three types of printing: Premium colour printing on glossy paper, for photographs and renditions of artwork, regular colour printing and black & white printing.

There are many brands of printers available. In my working life I have been subjected to too many HP printers that have had a number of technical issues, such as jambing. In my personal life, Epson has provided the most toxic experience, with its incessant requests to change ink cartridges to those that are Epson branded. In Norway, vendor lock in of this sort is illegal. I have used unofficial inks with Canon ink jet printers without problem. Currently, we are on our first set of original toner cassettes on our Canon i-sensyn MF633cdw printer, so this situation has not been tested, although unoriginal replacements have been purchased.

Many printers are classed as multi-function machines, a misnomer, as they usually add just a scanner. However, this ability to scan documents may tip the scale towards printer ownership. Once a document is scanned, it can be sent as an email attachment. Some printers can even offer faxing as an option. In the circles I frequent, faxes are cult items in the same category as telex machines. Both are irrelevant technologies. However, this is not the situation in all parts of the world, where faxes are still used.

A household printer should be connected to the household computer network of handheld devices, laptops, desktops and other computers. Normally, there is absolutely no need to have more than one printer in a house. There are several ways you can go about installing a network printer. However, two are most common. It can be part of the Wi-Fi network using an infrastructure controlled by your router, or it can be wired using Ethernet. Many printers are also able to read memory sticks, using a USB Type-A port. Not many printers are equipped with USB-C, yet.

There are several alternatives to owning a printer/ scanner. If one attends school or works for a living, there may be formal or informal arrangements for printing/ scanning documents. Some may require payment, others may not. A public library may provide an inexpensive service for patrons. Some office supply stores may also provide this service, charging for each page printed. Then there is FWB, a friend with benefits, which in some contexts may refer to something completely different, but here refers to a friend willing to let you use her/ his printer/ scanner. This may be precisely the benefit you need from a friend.

Another approach is that you become that FWB, and offer a printing service to people you know. This is not a money making proposition, but could be a way of reducing costs provided you are prepared to charge people for the services you provide. Collecting money is easy with an apps developed for this purpose: Venmo provides smart phone apps for payments in the US, Fooi does the same in Canada, and there is Vipps in Norway. Note: There may be more appropriate payment services that I am unaware of. If so, please let me know.

Below are links to spread sheets showing the calculations in LibreOffice format and Microsoft Office format, respectively, that can be downloaded and modified to suit your needs.

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