Printing for less
Oct 27, 2007, 6:03 GMT
Washington - Printers are the one computer peripheral that keep costing you money long after the initial purchase.
In fact, depending upon the type of printer you buy and how much you print, you may end up spending more money on your printer than on any other single piece of equipment in your computer setup.
That's why it makes sense to pay close attention to how you might be able to control the cost of owning a printer while still getting what you need from the device. Read on for some ideas.
Q: My kids seem to want to print everything: Web pages, long lists of gaming codes, and of course school work. The trouble is that they're running through ink at an alarming rate. Short of banning them from using the printer, do you have any tips for how we can lower our printing costs?
A: The first step, as I'm sure you know, is to have a chat with your kids to decide exactly what is acceptable to print and what is not.
Beyond that, though, there's quite a lot you can do to lower overall printing costs. First, make sure you're using the right kind of printer. If your kids - or you - regularly print a lot of text- heavy pages, then you should be using a laser printer and not an inkjet printer. The cost-per-page of laser printers is significantly lower than that of inkjets, many of which are optimised for printing graphics and photos as much as for text.
Second, open the printer driver for the printer that you use, and make sure that you've activated any ink or toner saving mode that's available. Many laser printers that have a maximum resolution of, say, 600 or 1200 dpi will also be able to print out at half that resolution in the toner-saving mode. That adds up to a significant savings in toner costs and still yields quality that is more than acceptable for most jobs.
Finally, don't exchange a toner cartridge at the first sign of low ink. Many toner cartridges begin to show signs of running low on ink - streaky pages or fainter text - but can in fact go on printing for 50 or more pages. Just remove the cartridge, shake it gently from side to side, and then reinsert it.
Q: I have learned not to use third-party ink cartridges in my photo printer because they do not provide the same reliable colour that the ink from the manufacturer provides. Should I also avoid third-party ink in my laser printer?
A: There are generally two concerns that consumers have when buying ink made by a different manufacturer than the one that made the printer. First, there's concern that colour won't be the same or the same quality. Second, there's concern about the quality of the cartridge in which the ink or toner comes. A poorly made cartridge can cause ink to leak, damaging the internal components of the printer.
Both of those concerns have become less relevant over the past year, as more third-party manufacturers are adopting quality controls in their ink, toner, and cartridge manufacturing that rival those of original equipment makers. Many buyers of replacement toner, in particular, are finding good, less expensive alternatives to the toner offered by the printer maker. Since toner is generally black, there's less concern up front about colour; quality of cartridge is the only variable in question.
So how can you know if a third-party toner or ink cartridge is worth buying? Try to stick with off brands marketed by major retailers, who may offer return privileges if the product does not meet with your approval.
These days, major retailers are frequently offering on their shelves toner or ink cartridge replacements right beside those made by the maker of your printer. As always, though, ultimate responsibility for any damages that result from using ink or toner not made by or tested by your printer maker will rest with you. Use of third-party ink or toner will also void the warranty of your printer.
Q: Do you have any general tips for how to save on printing costs?
A: Yes. Remember that printing is often optional. Most of what we create on the computer these days can stay on the computer until a final hard copy is required. Get used to proofing using the monitor.
Remember, too, that printing costs involve more than printers and ink or toner. They also involve paper. So when you do print, use both sides of a page, turning paper over manually when you do not have a duplex printer, which provides the option of printing on both sides of a sheet of paper.
Finally, when printer shopping, look for printers that offer duplex printing, as well as ones that boast a low cost per page. You can find cost per page estimates by reading the printer specifications on the manufacturers' web sites.
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