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Are High-End Ink Jet Printers Worth Your Money?

Cost Per Page

As always, calculating cost per page is very tricky. This is even more true with printers that use several colors, because the different colors won't always be used in the same way depending on the test photo used to test cartridge life. However, the results we arrived at, while only an indirect reflection of reality, clearly show the general tendency as regards total cost of use for each model. And the differences are great enough to make an unequivocal judgment.

Cost of Printing an A4 Text Page

  • black only,
  • standard quality,
  • ink coverage rate 5%

It might not seem like it, but a difference of five cents between the most economical and least economical printers when printing text is fairly astonishing. The Pixma IP8500 performed best in this area by far, thanks to the long life of its black cartridge and above all its low price. The Photosmart 8450's black cartridge has more or less the same life, but it costs almost three times as much. And the tests were run with a high-capacity black cartridge in the Photosmart, or the difference would have been even greater. The Stylus Photo R800 was acceptable in this area, but no more.

Cost Of Printing Mixed Text/Image

  • standard quality,
  • ink coverage rate 25%

We made the same observations here as for text: If we mix graphics and color photos for an overall coverage rate of 25%, the Photosmart 8450 becomes even more costly. At the other end of the scale, the Pixma IP8500 is just as economical, since its color cartridges are just as reasonably priced as the black.

Cost of Printing 10x15 and A4 Prints

  • high quality,
  • ink coverage rate 100%

For this table, unlike the two preceding ones, we counted the cost of the paper. This is because, while it can be considered negligible in standard mode, paper becomes the highest fixed cost in making quality photo prints. Obviously, adding the price of paper tends to level off the differences, since it represents an incompressible cost. But in spite of that, the Canon Pixma IP8500 still stood out. It resulted in a savings of approximately 60 cents per A4 photo compared to the Photosmart 8450 - which is a vital point for printers like these that are intended for producing a large volume of photos. Between these two, the Stylus Photo R800's cost was reasonable, but it was still more expensive to operate than the Pixma IP8500.

Indication of Cost of Use Over Three Years

Here's where the comparison hurts most. Again, the choice we've made is arbitrary, but it establishes a basis for comparing the printers. In calculating cost of use over three years (which will correspond more or less to your printer's life expectancy), we added up the purchase cost and the cost of printing at a fairly heavy annual rate of use - 500 A4 pages of text, 150 A4 mixed color/text pages, 200 4x6" photos, and 40 A4 photos.

After looking at the preceding graphs, it won't come as a surprise that the Pixma IP8500 was the printer that cost the least to use. We can thank the manufacturers of compatible ink cartridges for this. By introducing competition into the market, they've brought down the price of cartridges, and the result is immediately apparent. The best proof of that is the exorbitant cost of use of the Photosmart 8450. To protect themselves against compatible inks, HP continues to use multi-color cartridges to be able to charge whatever price it wants. And that's why the user of a Photosmart 8450 will have to invest almost as much in ink and paper each year as the printer cost at the time of purchase.