Buyer's Guide: 11 Color Inkjet Printers

Don't Forget The Consumables

In fact, some low-end color inkjet printers are available for under $30, with numerous offerings in the $40-$50 range. This has produced a strange consumption philosophy among some buyers that shares apocryphal roots with the old "had to sell my new car because the ash tray filled up" story. With inkjet cartridge refills often in the $18-$35 range themselves (and even more for higher-end color inkjets), it's not hard to understand why some users might decide to junk a $30-$50 printer instead of replacing the cartridges for somewhere between 50% and 100% of that cost. For the record, we deplore this approach from an environmental impact perspective, but we have no trouble understanding why some folks are inclined to treat cheapo inkjet printers as the ultimate disposable computer peripheral.

Having now removed our tongues from our cheeks, however, it is important to observe that over time the cost of consumable (paper and cartridges) will normally eclipse the buy-in cost for the printer itself. Most printer vendors advertise maximum duty cycles as a way to rate how hard you should ask a printer to work over the course of one month. Interestingly, this same number also provides a pretty good measure of how many pages of output you can expect to get from a single cartridge refill. That said, this is a very fuzzy number because the density of ink and color on any one printed page is likely to be different from that on another page. You'll learn how many printed pages you can get from a single refill over time, and this is a cost consideration that you should keep a careful eye on.

Different print applications also call for different paper. You can expect a color inkjet printer to run much more slowly and require much more expensive paper when printing digital photographs, than when printing monochrome text documents, or even medium-resolution documents with color content. It's also important to keep an eye on your consumption and outlays to cover paper, and to make sure the paper you've chosen provides the kind of print or image quality you want (this explains why we recommend buying printer paper by the ream until you find what you like, and doing likewise with small packages of photo print paper, before buying anything in too much bulk).

Keep Things Tidy And Clean

One optional purchase that at least some printer users find helpful is a printer stand. These office furniture items offer a handy place to park your printer (generally on top) and include drawers and/or shelves where you can keep paper, envelopes, cartridges and so forth. You can spend as little as $20-$30 on a plastic tabletop model, or over $150 for free-standing cabinets or racks. Either way, they provide a great way to keep your printer and its supplies organized and available (the casters or wheels on freestanding models also make the whole thing easy to move around when rear access or outright relocation is called for).

By design, inkjets use a heating element to melt solid ink into liquid form and spray it onto the paper to lay down text, color and images. These little droplets tend to go astray from time to time and inkjet printers can get a little messy. You can purchase special cleaning kits for these printers that include supplies and information to help you keep your printer clean and working properly. We strongly urge the purchase and use of such things, because they will keep your print output looking good over time, and will reduce wear and tear on your printer.

  • lucyrssll
    Stinkyink now offer ink cartridges for the HP Deskjet 9800 ink. Oh and it's free delivery too!
  • Hi Tom,

    Do you think you will do an updated review for printer of 2011?

    Thanks, Pete @ Canon Ink Cartridges