Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cheap All-In-One Printers: Don't Believe the Hype

The other day I saw an ad from Staples, touting their line of HP All-In-One printers, designed to rival small color laser printers in terms of price and printing quality. The basic message was, "Don't buy a laser printer- buy an Officejet. It's cheaper per page, and lower electricity cost, than laser!". They also had a deal where you could get a $50 discount for bringing in your old printer for recycling (certain printers).

Since I am the manager of several bands, and part of that role is advertising, I realized that we have a need for a good quality color printer. I had a hulking office laser printer that recently died, so I decided to load it into the car and see if there was a deal for me at Staples.

I arrived and had a look at these printers- such as the HP Officejet 6500 Wireless All-in-One Printer, Eco Easy Edition, the HP Officejet J4680 All-in-One Printer, HP Officejet Pro 8500 All-in-One Printer, and a few others. I will say that prices were very low, ranging from under $100 to around $230. They seemed equipped with a fair amount of features, including wireless connectivity, duplex printing, card reader, etc.

However, as I touched and interacted with the printers, the one thing that was screaming out at me the entire time was the old "you get what you pay for". The printer enclosures seemed like cheap, flimsy plastic. Several of the demo printers there were open and wouldn't even close properly. The entire thing seemed like a printer that would last about 1 or 2 years if you were lucky. I read a few reviews which confirmed my suspicion. Stay away from these feature-filled cheapos, because you'll end up spending more money on them in the end, then you would have if you had purchased several separate devices of higher quality. As for electricity cost, the actual amount of electricity a laser printer uses these days is pretty negligable, even if it is several times more than an ink jet.

After looking through all of the printers, I walked out of there with an HP Color Laserjet 2025dn, a beefy color laser with duplexing for about $300. The very campaign that was trying to convince me that an Officejet is a better choice than a laser, had convinced me that a cheap AIO ink jet printer is no replacement for a solid laser printer.