Green printing?

This week my trusty old Canon IP4000 inkjet stopped working. Changing the cartridges and running deep cleaning cycles make no difference. The print quality has been slowly falling off for some time now, so my suspicion was that the print head had finally died. I suspect the printer must be something like four or five years old now, so it’s not perhaps not unexpected.

What was unexpected was the cost of a replacement print head; the cheapest I could find was nearly £70. Add in another set of cartridges at £30, and it becomes significantly less expensive to just buy the new replacement model printer from Canon (the IP4850) at about £75 delivered. Which is just completely ridiculous.

In addition I’ve always been frustrated that the inkjet cartridges always seem to run out at an alarming rate. The manufacturers quote the capacity in pages of 5% coverage (340 pages, apparently), which may be representative of average business use, but decidedly unrealistic when you have three children printing lots of full-colour diagrams as part of their homework. I doubt that I got more than a hundred pages before one or another of the colour cartridges started running dry. Keeping the printer supplied involved the frequent advance purchase & stockpiling of cartridges.

Of course, printing technology has moved on in the intervening years, so I decided to do a proper examination of the options available against my expected printing requirements over the next few years. This is heavily influenced by the needs of my daughters who are entering the stage where they will be doing a lot more homework as part of their GCSE and A levels, and my need to produce the occasional “customer ready” document at home.

My requirements; Linux support, excellent black and white performance, automatic duplex (saves so much paper!), the ability to print colour diagrams, and a volume of approximately 200 pages per month. Long term cost of ownership is more of a factor than the purchase price, and we have no requirement for photographic printing, as we print photographs via a bureau.

To my surprise, the latest generation of SOHO colour laser printers compete very favourably with inkjets on total cost of ownership. There is no doubt that they are still more expensive, but to compensate for that, you get better print quality, faster throughput, and the convenience of much longer between (more expensive) toner cartridge changes.

In the end I narrowed the choice down to either the Canon IP4850 inkjet, or a Lexmark C543dn laser printer. Both had excellent reviews and represented the best fit for my expected needs for their respective technologies. However, finding a supplier offering the Lexmark with a 50% discount pretty much decided the issue; £150 delivered, with full capacity toner cartridges installed is hard to beat.

I took my old Canon IP4000 down to the recycling centre yesterday. It felt really wrong to be “throwing away” something that with a little maintenance is basically capable of continuing to provide good service. But economically it just didn’t make sense. I felt very un-green.

Meanwhile the Lexmark is installed on my home network and working beautifully. I spent some time fiddling with the printer settings to reduce the toner intensity levels and the timeout period before the printer drops into its lowest power-saving mode, both of which ought to help me save money. It does mean a twenty second delay before the first page is printed while the printer warms back up, but once running it churns out paper at 20 pages a minute, so overall it’s a lot faster than the old inkjet we were used to.

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