I Bought a Printer

For the first time in 12 years, I own a printer again. My last printer was purchased alongside my first Mac–a StyleWriter (back when Apple still made printers). And just yesterday, I parted with a whopping $39.99 for a new one.
Forty dollars. This amazes me. What also amazes me is the speed. For forty bucks I expected this thing to take 5 minutes to warm up, but it seems rather fast. This little thing surely is the bottom of the line as far as printers go–but I just needed something to print envelopes, invoices and Journey lyrics.
For an extra $100 I could’ve splurged for the printer/scanner/fax/copier/coffee maker. But I don’t need those things. It was hard enough just coming to terms with the fact that I needed a printer.
I’ve been meaning to buy one for quite awhile. But there was always the thought of extra wires, one more thing to plug in, cartridges that’ll need refilling, paper jams, etc. that perpetually turned me off on the idea. There was always something about printers that annoyed me. But the need won, and I’m now getting used to the idea of being able to transfer bits to paper.
Geting by without a printer for so long hasn’t been all that difficult. In the past, there was always the office printer to take advantage of. But recent trips to Kinko’s to print out a single sheet of 8 1/2″ x 11″ was starting to seem ridiculous. Occasionally, they wouldn’t even bother charging me for such a small job (a plus).
I should mention, that for $40, you get a printer with no way to connect it to your computer. The box didn’t even mention the lack of a USB cable, or even list the required cable in the “system requirements”. So back to the store I went, paying $17 for a 3-foot USB cable. The cable cost almost half as much as the printer. What an age we live in.


  1. jblanch says:

    im sorry, but all printers suck. seperate drivers for EACH one, they all care about speed, and the ones that have good quality need stuipd special paper. i have yet to own a printer that hasn’t had a paper jam 1 out of every 4 prints.
    it needs some serious attention, but at least yours looks cool

  2. I tend to agree with you, that’s why it took me 12 years to buy another :-)

  3. Will says:

    It’s too bad you hadn’t looked at the website’s product page before picking up your printer … says front and center, “Printer cable not included.” I’m not picking on you, though; I made the same mistake with my HP photo printer!

  4. eric says:

    Prepare to get stung the first time you need a replacement cartridge, too… it’ll probably come close to the whole printer’s cost. Good luck with that!.
    Speaking of buying electronics, Dan, how’s the Powerbook treating you? I’m looking at an upgrade from my old G3 iBook, so it’d be nice to hear a ‘long-term wrap-up’ sort of deal from someone who’s had one a while and knows how it performs on the road.

  5. neil says:

    Just wait until you need to buy replacement ink catridge(s) for your printer. You’ll understand in a very deep and maddening way why the initial outlay was so cheap…

  6. Adam says:

    I always buy discount off-brand ink cartridges online instead of paying full price for name-brand ink. There are lots of web sites that sell cheap ink, many with free shipping. Especially if all you’re doing is printing the occasional envelope, letter, etc., there’s no sense spending any more than you have to.

  7. Gary says:

    12 years?! Wow, I don’t think I could get by without the ability to hold a printed sheet with a cup of coffee to read things over.
    I hate those combo printers. When I went to buy my HP the sales guy tried to sell me a ‘better‘ one that had a 4inch square screen and a slot for my digital cameras memory card. He took great joy in telling me I could use this to check my digital photos to see what they looked like…
    …I blinked twice and told him that’s what I use Photoshop for…then told him to give me the HP. Dontcha just love sales guys? :)

  8. It’s all about the ink/toner cartridges. The quick/casual home consumer will almost always buy a printer based on shelf price. They won’t look at the cost per page, and probably not even the print speed. They buy on price.
    So it makes perfect sense for printer manufacturers to cut low on the shelf price of the printer (even under cost?) to “get the customer”, because the hard part is now over — they have a customer that will buy the toner/ink cartridges over and over (at least for the period of the warranty).

  9. My next printer will most likely be a Canon – I have to say that HP – in my honest opinion – is really doing horrible business (from a consumer standpoint) with keeping cartridge prices so high.
    As many have pointed out, happy hunting when it comes to cartridges – with Canon – I can replace everything for spare scratch.

  10. Fazal Majid says:

    Laser printers are much less expensive to run than inkjets, and entry-level models are now available for $150. For photos, prints made on a digital minilab such as your local Costco or Walgreens will be cheaper, have better image quality and last longer.

  11. My only dislike with having a printer is my eagerness to print everything possible, especially when I swap the old ink. I print blog entries, 20 page PDFs, web pages, etc. And when I’m done, I have no ink, no paper, and I’ve probably already lost my printouts. Dan, don’t fall into this twisted trap.
    Erhurm.. Anyway. I use a Lexmark X5150 All-In-One. I like it, but I should have opted for something a bit smaller. The thing is huge.

  12. Sorry, messed up that link .

  13. Adam Kalsey says:

    Not that it helps when you’re standing in the middle of the store and realize you need a cable, but a company called Cyberguys has inexpensive quality cables. A 3ft USB cable runs $1.63.

  14. Thalwil says:

    Same here! Had my old DeskWriter for 11 years before we parted company! No, it wasn’t broken and still worked fine but I just wanted something smaller with colour. Got myself a portable Canon i70. Great little thing for a road warrior, just the right add-on for a 12″ ‘book. Only gripe: no Bluetooth and expensive ink. Otherwise great. Canon products always seem to work well with Mac and they almost look as great, too (IXUS anyone?).

  15. Louis says:

    You’re a smart guy, Dan, but that webpage you linked said “no printer cable included.” I’m going to turn a blind eye and assume you didn’t see that page until after you bought the printer.
    On a side-note, I’m really looking forward to receiving your new book some time this week.

  16. mark says:

    never every buy anything other than an Epson printer… you have been warned :)

  17. Jim Amos says:

    If you look carefully at my header image you’ll see that I also own a printer. Shamefully, I opted to pay more for an unsightly lazer device. So far I’ve yet to figure out what to use it for, aside from printing out long sheets of html and ‘marking it up’ with an old fashioned ball-point pen.

  18. Simon Cox says:

    I didn’t really want a printer myself but my better half demanded one, so she can look at the nice shopping pictures probably, but what I did do was purchase a print server (actually a HP one) and its not much bigger than an ipod. This means that I can plug any USB printer in the back in the future and all my network, Macs and PCs can print to it. Works a treat but its not cheap and needs another power supply point!

  19. Chris says:

    “never every buy anything other than an Epson printer you have been warned”
    Very true
    I paid

  20. Neil T. says:

    I wouldn’t recommend Epson, personally. Their drivers leave something to be desired. The ink is pricy but as has been said you can get unbranded ink quite cheaply, especially if you buy in bulk.
    My printer didn’t come witha USB cable either but I got a 5-metre cable for a few dollars. If you need Bluetooth it’s not too hard or expensive to add it to an existing printer.

  21. First – i have to admit i havent read all the posts. They are to many.
    I have 3 things to say about ing – printers.
    1 – They are cheap.
    2 – The inc lasts for a short time.
    3 – you have to buy inc for 2* times the price that the printer+inc costed you to start with.
    If you have 5 kids at home that really really really wants to print pink elephants on a paper – buy inc printer.
    In all other cases, buy the non-color laser alternative. This way you wont be tricked into the biggest g.d d.mn scam (spelling?) in the semi-computer world…
    Björn | Webbdesigner | Sweden

  22. Dan Martin says:

    I see printer manufacters in the same light as drug dealers. They both push the initial product and cheap to almost free prices to get you on the “come back.” The prices for replacement cartridges are most often more than the printer itself.
    The only alternative is like you said…use the office printer, or Kinkos.
    I just pray for a company that will come up with a more cost effective solution to printing. That is about as likely as Detroit putting out a car that uses no gas and lasts forever.

  23. jina says:

    I have one of those printer/scanner/copier/coffee machine/alien communicator thingies, but the thing broke within a year. I am sure I can get it fixed, but the point is, it shouldn’t have broken in only a year. My theory is they spent too much time making it do “everything” that they didn’t spend enough time making sure it can do even just one thing.

  24. Louis – It was purely an impulse buy. I did no reasearch prior to buying–although I wish I had. The box is much less informative :-)

  25. Damon says:

    “It’s all about the ink/toner cartridges. The quick/casual home consumer will almost always buy a printer based on shelf price.”
    Ouch, someone just called you a quick/casual home consumer ;-) Just goes to show we’re all expert in some fields, dummy in others…

  26. Karl Bedingfield says:

    I brought a black and white Samsung Laaer printer (ml-1210), it came with 2 toner cartidges. Two years down the line and I have only just changed over to the second cartridge.
    Not bad for £50.00 and the sharpness is very nice.
    I have no need for colour printers and I really do feel that the printer companies have a lovely monopoly on the replacement cartridges, well they do here in ‘ol Blighty.
    They are really clamping down on the third party guys who make cheap cartridges.

  27. compuwhiz7 says:

    In my house, we have four different working printers, one for each occupant. It gets extremely annoying (not to mention noisy) when they break down.
    Soon, though, we hope to have a central server, and will then be able to share a single printer.
    I don’t much like printers, so I can understand your hesitation.

  28. two words (sorta)
    Samsung ML-1750

  29. Darrel says:

    We recently had a local ‘computer recylce’ day where you could haul in your computer trash and they’d recycle it for free.
    I hauled 4 Ink Jet printers out there. There was a time at Target where you could buy a new printer for less than the replacement cartridge. We did that a few times before I just couldn’t bring myself to the amount of waste I was making by tossing an entire printer out every few months.

  30. A facinating example of pricing is this:
    A lexmark printer costing 250 sek , or around $25. In this case it is Alot cheaper to accually buy a new lexmark, instead of inc cart…

  31. I don’t use my printer for that many things, but it has been a lifesaver for one thing: printing maps and directions (especially important in Boston for a non-native like me!) But then, maybe you’re a native and know your way around?

  32. Dante says:

    Dan, the US dollar’s value is rapidly declining. $40 is not that much really. In any case getting a printer is a good move :)

  33. Ed Knittel says:

    Last year when my fiance purchased her 15″ PowerBook, Apple was running a Back to School promotion when you got a FREE HP 5500 printer ($99 value) and if you bought an iPod you got $200 off the total price. So it seemed like a great deal – and it has been. The printer is indispensible if for one reason only – maps and directions. It also proved very great just 2 weeks ago when we bought 2 boxes of those Avery print-your-own-cards as graduation party invitations. I designed a cover to the card, the inside text, and even a little “footer” on the back of the card. Afterwards we pinted labels for the return address as well as for each invitee. It was fun, they came out looking amazing compared to what you get in the store and they are 100% unique.
    Oh, and for when the lady is printing her photos we turn to her Epson 2200. For 7 ink cartridges at $11 each it gets a little stupid replacing the innk. Luckily, they last a long time. But for 13″ x 22″ prints on nice photo paper, nothing beats its quality.

  34. patrick says:

    beware of PC LOAD LETTER
    and yes, going sans printer is wonderful

  35. Keller says:

    I went through exactly the same thing as well. I usually just print things at work but realized that there are those once in a blue moon occasions that I need to print from home. I bought the cheapest ink jet they had and it’s good enough for me.
    A word of advice when buying ink jets that do not have a cord; I noticed (right before going back to the store) that my scanner used the same USB cord that the printer does. I just swap it back and forth accordingly. So, make sure you don’t unknowingly have a cord laying aroud first before you shell out for another. I’m not saying it will fit, some won’t, but check anyway.

  36. Roy Dovaston says:

    It does seem crazy that in todays day and age we cannot have a usb cable provided as standard!
    Roy D

  37. Colin C says:

    You can always check dollar stores for usb cables, i got a 3ft USB cable for $4cad.

  38. DaveMo says:

    As someone who has worked at an HP printer cartridge plant, and R&D facility, where they design and build the ink and printer cartridges, so I have a little knowledge on this subject.
    Every one above is right, you WILL pay nearly the cost of the printer for new replacement cartridges
    If you ask the average consumer on the street, “What does HP make?”, they’ll reply something like, “Oh, aren’t they the computer and printer company?”. But they’d be only half right. HP is the computer and printer INK company. It’s ALL about selling the ink for these contraptions.
    The dirty little secret is that they take a loss on the cost of the actual printer but make up for it big time when you come back to buy printer cartridges and other “consumables” for the thing. I.E., Paper, or cables in your case. Clever, yes?
    However, I wouldn’t recommend buying cheap off brand or refurbished printer cartridges for the thing either(unless they’re HP certified), as the ink formulations are quite precise and proprietary and designed to work with the printer cartridge’s print-head architechture. I know this. I worked closely with the folks that designed this stuff. If it’s not HP ink you’re not going to get the same results and may damage the cartridge or printer. (But at $50 for a new printer, that may not be and issue for some.)
    I don’t work there now, and I don’t own their stock, so I don’t say this as a shill for HP products. This is an industry practice and is the same for all the other printer brands. It’s just that I happen to know these things first hand from being on the inside at one time.
    The bottom line is, don’t sweat it. As long as you treat it nice it’ll probably give you long reliable service, (until the cartridge becomes obsolete, like mine). You got a reasonable value and that’s what counts.

  39. zedzdead says:

    A plethora of sites exist to refil your cartridges, such is the extortionate prices charged by the printer manuacturers, that it might be worth considering buying up all the unused ones, networking them and charging a price per print to their original owners (at probably less than the price per print than if they’d used the bonafide refills)!….
    Nice book btw, expect a re-vamp on zedzdead!

  40. Ross Harvey says:

    40 comments for a post on printing, yet only 17 regarding the 3 Pixel bug :-)
    We want Web standards, how about Printer standards? Would be quite nice to be able to plug in a USB/Firewire printer and just go, without all the bloatware that is ‘needed’ for installation.

  41. Brian Tully says:

    i recently had to buy several ink cartridges for my Epson Stylus Color C80 and the first thing that struck me was how for another $20 I could get a brand spankin new C84 (on sale for $79.99). I must have stood there in Staples for at least an hour trying to justify the purchase of a new printer. Eventually the environmentalist in me won and I couldn’t justify throwing out a printer in “perfect working condition.” So i bought the ink cartridges which came out to about $58 and brought them home to install them.
    after the installation of the new cartridges I go to print out a page only to see that it looks like ASS. I spend the next hour or so going through Epson’s utilities to clean the ink nozzles and align the print heads, etc., and the quality still looks like crap.
    In the end I wound up going back to Staples the next day and bought the C84 for $80. I could have saved $60 if I had made that decision the previous day.
    The C84 is working great. In true Office Space fashion I took the C80 out to a field with a baseball bat put it out of its misery.
    I’m feeling much better now. Really, I am.
    Lesson learned is that if you buy a reasonably cheap printer and have used it for over 6 months, don’t replace the cartridges, replace the printer – as the nozzles and alignment tend to screw up your print quality over time and no amount of cleaning/realigning will make it “new” again.

  42. Joerg Schaum says:

    When I recently purchased my Canon Pixus, I got the USB cable for free. Yeah, and when we bought my wife’s Canon Pixus last year, that USB cable was free too.
    Of course I have a lot of spare USB cables, but I find that’s a really good service.

  43. Phil Sherry says:

    And there I was the other day, considering buying a Stylewriter for my Mac SE!

  44. Phil Balchin says:

    I have three things to say about printers.
    First, Inkjets are great if you use them regularly. I found with my epson that the ink can dry on the print heads, which takes ages to clean off and the print out can still look like it belongs in the little boys room.
    Second, As many people have pointed out, the printers are cheap as chips, refill but the cartridges cost a bomb, even more the printer usually. Solution, buy a new printer! Ok, so its a bit un-eco freindly, but what do the manufacturers expect! you could always give the old one away, sell it on ebay. One nearly new printer, perfect working order, only be used once!
    And last of all, I have a HP Mono laser 4L. These babies are the workhorse of any office. I’ll bet moeny that any company with plenty of computers has at least one of these tucked away somewhere! It just works.

  45. Ishai Parasol says:

    45 comments about ink… wow !
    “What an age we live in…” :)

  46. Jimmy says:

    I buy my daughter the $35 Lexmarks. she goes 10 or 12 months and then needs another cartridge. I toss the old printer and just buy a new one. Sounds stupid, but I hate dealing with old printers and it costs me the same as the black and color come with the thing in the first place.

  47. Mike says:

    The worldwide ink industry had sales of $14 billion last yearSFGate
    An SFGate article from last week gives some interesting insight on ink. It’s everywhere! Who knew?

  48. Joe Briefcase says:

    I have that exact printer…. or technically I have the 3320, which I take it is the model from a year or two back. I’ve had it for well over a year, and I too paid $39ish for it.
    My experience has been the printer is fine. I’ve never had a significant problem with it. Occasioally a page gets twisted in the output, but it’s usually because clutter on my desk interfered.
    My big fear was cartridges. I lived off of the color cartridge that came with it until just a month ago when I bought new cartridges for both color and black and white and I was able to get them for about $14 each. Not that bad considering it will probably be next year before I replace them again.
    So, I’d like to join in all the complaining, but really for someone who doesn’t use it for a workhorse, this printer is fine.

  49. Lea says:

    If you just want non-fancy, basic printing, some people have recommended to me to buy the cheapest printer I could find, and when the ink runs out–buy the same printer again. Forget replacing the ink cartridges. Unless you invest in a really really nice printer that’s pricier, it may actually be cost-efficient and provide you better quality in the long run to just replace the cheap printer entirely instead of buying a replacement cartridge on a worn, cheap printer. At least with a new printer, you’re guaranteed clean heads.

  50. Techno-Guy says:

    Working for the Bigbrother I am very pleased to see, that the strategy of the HP-Salesdepartment was successfull ;).
    Spending overpriced 17$ on the cable (which is about 16,60$ too much) and getting the new printerdesign with ink-cartridges of only one third the size of the more recent ones. HP: 1, Dan: 0.
    (ok ok, its only ~60$ and therefore some sort of a non brainer – but at least 51 ppl here were concerned about that issue – so am I)

  51. Dante says:

    After many years of black and white printers, a colour printer was as big as sliced bread when I got my first. I still have it. No quirks and minimal cables. It’s a HP Deskjet 950C.

  52. nick says:

    I just have a dead EPSON sitting on my desk at home to make me feel like I have a printer. The thing is, it died over a year ago and just haven’t had the need to replace it… though now that I think about it, I could sure use the desk space.

  53. DaveMo says:

    Ah Geez, I just know I’m gonna get flamed on this one, but here goes.
    As much as I know about the marketing aspect of printers and printer cartridges, I know even more about how they are designed, engineered and manufactured, particularly the HP ink cartridges, as I spent years working both in the R&D and on the production lines making the damn things. Believe it or not, HP spends a lot of resources in assuring that their printer products perform at a very high standard of quality for the user. Their leadership in the market depends on it.
    The new, smaller cartridges are more efficient for several reasons. When the older cartridges reached the end of their life and stopped printing from one of the color chambers, there was still quite a lot of ink left in them. The new, smaller cartridges last as long and waste less ink due to better ink storage technology inside and smaller drop sizes. They’re significantly lighter so they have less mass to move as they zip across the page. This makes them faster and more accurate in placing their microscopic drops on the page, giving a better, more detailed image.
    Now, you might say, “why if they use less materials (ink, foam, plastic, etc.,) aren’t they cheaper?” A very good question! Part of the answer may be that they also spend a lot of money and resources to design and build whole new production lines to make them and then equip several manufacturing facilities with them in Singapore, Dublin and Puerto Rico among others. But the other important part is, that’s what the market is willing to pay for the damn things! The last I heard they were actually considering making ones filled with less ink because market research showed that users thought they were lasting too long! Go figure.
    Anyway, like I said before, the printer itself should serve you well for quite a while. The mechanical technology has not changed significantly in years, so don’t go tossing it out unless it’s giving you problems. Yes, it’ll cost you as much to buy new ink cartridges as buying a new printer, but they should last you a while unless you do a lot of color printing, but even then, you’re probably getting a decent price per page value. Again, I would caution against using refilled or non HP certified cartridges or ink to avoid possible damage to the printer and assuring good, consistent quality, even though you’ll pay more in the short run.
    Who knows though, perhaps this “disposable printer” concept will catch on and we can continue to strain our over burdened land-fills with even more “disposable” junk.

  54. monkeyinabox says:

    I actually bought a printer about 6 years ago, when I graduated college and thought I would need one. At school we had lasers that made it pointless to print at home. I just put my stuff on a disk and printed it there.
    Shortly after buying the printer (Epson inkjet) I landed a job, where we have laser printers. Once again, no need for one at home. Once you get spoiled on lasers, you can’t settle for anything less and personally I’ve never been thrilled with consumer level laser printers and I don’t have either the space or cash to buy a good one.

  55. Alex Foley says:

    I find it funny that everyone here is blaming HP for the high-priced accessories (the cable and the ink cartridges). In fact, it’s the retailer. I spent a year working at Circuit City, where we received a nice employee discount which gave us products at the price the company paid for them. Now unfortunately this discount has been modified and now isn’t quite at-cost, but what it made me realize is that Circuit City made its money from accessories. Monster Cables, ethernet cords, batteries, whatever. They’re all marked up to at least 200% of what the company has to pay for the product. I could get that same USB cable for $8, the cartridge for $18. Blame the retailers. But I thank the lord that I work at Circuit City. My HP Photo Printer needs a new cartridge as I speak…and I’ll be buying a name-brand one for cheaper than those ones on the internet.

  56. Tracy says:

    I have read all these comments about ink cartridges and did not see this tip.
    Use the “draft” or “quick print” settings if you are just printing for personal use. I use it all the time and I don’t remember when I last replaced my cartridges.

  57. Will Emerson says:

    Great Thread! Check out think4inc.com. They offer bulk tanks that attach to Epson (and other printers) and have large tanks that you reload from bottles you buy very cheaply. They use the same ink Epson does. Other bulk systems have not worked very well but this one does. Pennies a page for great results.

  58. Lee J. Mensinger says:

    Yesterday I asked EPSON for information on how to clean heads on a C84 printer..
    So far now answer.
    I do seem to believe there is no way. Perhaps you have better info than I do???
    Lee M.

  59. mike says:

    Wow, you paid $17 for a 3′ USB cable?!?!?!?!? where did you buy this from? never go there again! i got a 6′ cable from a local electronics shop for probably about 1/3 that price.