When is a “cheap” printer too cheap?

I've used dozens of computer printers over the years. With early computers (Apple II, IBM PC's, etc.) I used dot matrix and daisy wheel printers. Expensive, ugly, noisy, slow, text only (OK graphics were available, but really primitive). This was circa 1978.

Next came the first generation of inkjet and laser printers. Still expensive, ugly, quieter, faster, text and graphics and for the most part black printing only. My first Apple brand laser printer was over $5,000.00. This time frame occurred around 1987.

The second generation of ink-jet and laser printers brought speed and color printing but were still expensive. These “marvels” of printing technology required dedicated cables, stubborn software, constantly jamming paper mechanisms and on and on. All of this printing technology came about around 1996 as desktop publishing became all the rage.

Since 1996 to present day (2014) we've seen major strides in reducing the price of printer hardware to where a “decent” inkjet printers can be had for around $70. If I want to have an “All-In-One” (AIO) solution that adds e-printing (wireless printing from smart phones, computers and tablets), scanning, copying, and in some cases faxing (remember that technology?) I have to pay the “big bucks” beginning at about $99. and up.

If you've hung in there with me and are still reading this article you are probably asking what all of this weighty tome of printer history has to do with the articles headline that refers to cheap printing – please read on, we are coming to that next…

There are well over a dozen different brands of inkjet printers. The popular ones are from HP, Canon and Brother. I have extensive experience with HP, and some experience with Canon and Brother.

Recently I was tempted (and succumbed to temptation) to buy a brand new, factory sealed, Canon Pixma, Model MG3520, from an estate sale reseller. The model is still in production, is an AIO, and includes wireless printing, copying and scanning and lists for just $99.99 and is often found at Amazon and other online and big box stores for about $60.00 – $70.00 plus tax and shipping. My estate sale guy want $35.00 plus tax and no shipping, I negotiated to $30.00. What a bargain! Or was it?

I'm used to HP AIO's (All-In-One's) that are a snap to setup – with or without a computer. All HP AIO's that start at $99 list (about $75 street) and above have little color LCD screens that make setup quick and easy. Just follow the on-screen prompts and your ready to print in less than 10 minutes.

The “bargain” Canon Pixma printer was (and continues to be) a nightmare. There is no LCD screen on the printer – and effective setup can only be done using a USB cable (an extra $20) and a PC (not a smartphone or tablet). After downloading the appropriate software for the printer (from the Canon site) and the operating system (Windows or Mac), extracting it, installing it and configuring it you can begin to use the device for printing, copying and scanning. After downloading the Canon “app” from Apple's app store I could use the features of the printer from my iPhone and iPad. The print quality is just “fair.”

Although I have nothing to “sell” you – I can tell you this… that the old adage about all cars being the same -i.e. goes-down-the-road, and that the engines, transmissions, tires are all the same may hold true for cars, but not for inkjet computer printers.

In value priced cars I like Ford's better than Chevy's. In value priced inkjet printers I like HP's better than Canon's.

'Nuff said!



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