Dodge Retort: PC Printer & “quality” should not be uttered in the same breath


By John Dodge

A couple of months ago, I questioned why notebook touchpads were so bad and my sentiments struck a chord with readers who for the most part agreed that they can make mousing around a very jumpy proposition. Upward of 40 readers commented.

Dell A920 at the ready to crumple the next sheet of paper
Next on my -hit list are PC printers. My experience with them is terrible. Paper feeds are unreliable and they always seems to send you that annoying “ink is low” message right after you’ve installed a new (and expensive) cartridge.

They fail when you’re in a hurry to print out an important document.

Yesterday, I wanted to print a letter and I spent the better part of 90 minutes shuttling between my Canon PIXMA 310 and a Dell (nee Lexmark) A920. The PIXMA 310 said it was low on ink and printed faded characters. I went downstairs and tried the Dell A920 – after five crumpled copies given its crooked paper feed and the obligatory `ink is low so you’d better run out to Staples and buy more cartridges at $35 a whack,’ it quit.

Efforts to revive the A920 by cleaning out the print queue and switching it on and off failed. I went back upstairs to the home office and inexplicably the PIXMA 310 printed a fine-looking copy the second time.

Sure, printers are dirt cheap, but you get what you pay for. When laser printers and before that dot matrix printers cost several hundred dollars 20 years ago, I remember them as far more reliable. Back then, printing was one of the few things a PC did well.

I can recall four other inkjet printers in my household from the last 10 years: three HPs and another Canon. The Canon PIXMA 310 I use have now is the best of the sorry lot. The Dell A920 came free with a desktop PC we bought years ago. It’s worth what we paid for it.

Actually, the A920 is not as bad as…

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15 thoughts on “Dodge Retort: PC Printer & “quality” should not be uttered in the same breath”

  1. I just had to give up my 14+years old HP 722C printer, because I upgraded to Windows 7. It always worked, no matter what, it worked and it still prints out great emails, documents/graphics. The only bad thing about it, it doesn’t print “borderless”. It’s my husband’s printer now.
    It has even spewed out a couple of little pieces of the ‘paper catcher’..(a long time ago) a spring and another small piece. It still works though… You don’t need those little pieces/parts to print the document or picture.

    My husband had an Epson. It printed well, when it worked and when you didn’t have to fiddle with it, and when the ink wasn’t all dried up. His Epson went through twice or 3 times as much ink as my HP 722C printer.
    And I print out xmas card with it and invitation. It’s a great little printer…. I hope my new HP serves as well as this one. Am I asking too much?

  2. I have an Epson SCX3900. About three years old. Light on ink with separate ink tanks. Prints great text and prints colour photo’s as good as a camera shop.
    And only 80 Aussie dollars.

  3. I have owned numerous HP inkjet printers and have disposed of most of them and any I still own are not used. Why, Print quality and expensive cartridges. I owned one Canon and the print head was defective, never trusted Canon again. I did own a few Lexmarks, expenxive ink cartridges and print quality not good.
    I presently own three Epson printers and use remanufactured cartridges. I bought them on line. I do own one color lazer printer, a Minolta Magicolor 2400w, but rarely use it because I don’t want to run out of ink (funny). Epson is the best.

  4. It’s evident that laser printers are worth it. For me the HP ones can last for years (knock on wood). Our office printers are on 24/7 (sorry about the energy) and on Monday am we take the top sheet out of the tray because it is dusty. Some printers have been on for years and print thousands of copies a month.

    At home, I used an IBM for 6 years to produce articles for paste-up in a monthly tabloid. Only problem was the IBM language translator which converted it to PCL. Then I got a Lexmark and kept it for less than a year. I’m back with an HP1012 which is now 5 years old/third cartridge. Only problem is HP which is usually environmentally conscious is not producing a Win7 driver so I guess I’ll have to throw the whole printer out (or continue with XP) even though it has years left in it.

    Laser wins for everyday use. Leave the inkjets for doing photos which the color lasers can’t touch.

  5. I’ve own a Canon 6 cartridge photo quality printer going on 6 years now. Never have had a problem like the previous HP and Lexmark I owned. Love the idea of having the heads part of the cartridge. One thing I never do is turn off the printer. Very seldom have a clog problem even when going weeks without printing. My main complaint is that I mostly, 99.99% of the time print on draft mode but still manage to go through the other cartridges including photo cyan and photo magenta. Try to explain that…

  6. Inkjet printers are the biggest scam since that 1980 era disk camera with negatives the size of fingernail.

    HP makes 75 percent of corporate profits from printer cartridges although this segment is only 25 percent of the pie. Not a shocking stat in light of the fact consumers pay $9,000 to 10,000 per gallon.

    If you don’t own a good quality, vintage printer with easy to refill cartridges, and aren’t buying inexpensive refill kits to refill your cartridges, you are probably getting shafted.

    My cherished HP 845C is 9 years old. It never jams and the humongous ink cartridges hold FORTY ml of ink. 40ml of black ink is substantial, not to mention the fact it can be refilled in a few minutes.

    If anyone doubts the magnitude of this consumer scam just google: most expensive commodities “printer ink”

    If I was tempted to change models it would be a Canon Pixma with the see through ink tanks. eBay vendors offer chip resetters and ink refill kits.

  7. I bought a Canon Pixma 4300 4 years ago from PC World and took out a 3 year warranty for £15 after haggling the price down. The printer started giving poor CQ after 2 years and PC world replaced with a Pixma 4500 and also gave the full 3 years warranty again. Last week the Pixma 4500 was printing badly and PC world replaced with a Pixma 4700 and another 3 year warranty.

    I can see that I might never have to buy another printer ever, as long as PC World is around.

    The Canons prior to the print heads blocking have been great.

  8. The 6L was the best printer ever – wife got it the divorce. Only I really should have fought for!

    Small foot print, did three or four reams of paper before cartridge needed changing (the timing belts on my Toyota are changed more often). Good clean copy. Wish I could buy another, No bells or whistles – just a great printer.

  9. Like you said, you get what you pay for. I never buy those cheap sub $100 printers. Guess what? My paper doesn’t jam, my ink lasts an acceptable amount of time, my prints always look good.

  10. I bought a Brother DCP-110c, printer /scanner/copier about 5 years ago and it has never skipped a beat.
    The latest version is often on “special’ for well below NZ$100, and normal price is not much above NZ$100. Several friends and family have bought one on my recommendation and experience, and all are delighted with the choice.
    Most printers I have had over the past 15 years or so have either performed poorly, died in about 12 months, or both.

  11. I can agree that todays printers leave much to be desired, but I haven’t experienced as much trouble as you have.
    Current printer, HP5650 prints great pictures and uses large amounts of ink, as a backup I have an HP455C, which cost me 400+ bucks in 1996. It still is the most reliable and prints as well as it did new!
    Good article!

  12. Don’t buy (or allow yourself to be given) a crappy printer of the type bundled with your latest PC purchase. Buy an office printer secondhand (do you really need colour?). I’ve has an HP Laserjet 6L for many years – not a moments trouble and cartridges are cheap on auction sites.

  13. Never have a problem with Low Ink, just get another printer out. Don’t buy ink, cheaper to get a remanufactured printer which comes with a new set of print cartridges, use em up, sell the printer on Ebay. Cost of printer plus cartridges plus free delivery is cheaper than going out to buy new cartridges.

  14. I really agree with you on the printers, Non seem to last a year. I have 5 sitting around doing nothing. There fax don’t work on VOI unless they are expensive digital printers. I find HP makes the worse. Your right on the ink, I put in a cartridge and its still showing low link.

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