Magazinecheapest laser printer cartridgesTo determine whether intermittent use would cause such a shortll, we devised a new test, in which we printed 30 pages, in batches of two or three pages, once or twice every day or two (skipping weekends) for three weeks. And we shut off the printer between sessions, as we believe many consumers do.
No matter which printer you own or buy, you cant directly control how often a printer maintenance cycle occurs. Weve found that such cycles occur automatically based on a frequency the printer manucturer sets. But you can reduce the number of such cycles, and ink consumption, in several ways.
Heres how dramatically the differing cost of ink for cleaning and maintenance can affect printing costs. These two printers have about the same price and high level of performance, yet one is frugal in ink used for cleaning and maintenance, and the other is profligate. The table shows the annual ink costs for each to print 380 pages of text and color graphics and 65 photos, intermittentlythe way many people print. The figures show how ink used for maintenance accounts for all of the $120 gap in annual ink costs between the two.
The results, based on tests of dozens of current all-in-one inkjets representing the leading brands, confirmed our suspicions: In intermittent use, plenty of models delivered half or less of their ink to the page, and a few managed no more than 20 to 30 percent.
True, most models wound up using the majority of their ink to actually print, though only a few came within striking distance of using it all. (Our intermittent tests included text and graphics, but not photos because weve found that most people print those relatively infrequently).
Manucturers say its par for printers to consume ink in ways that dont wind up on the page. For example, HP referred us to its website, which said, Some ink . . . must be used to maintain the health of the print head; some ink is residual; and some ink evaporates. [edited 7/2/2013]
For some time, weve been hearing from readers that they were getting a lot less mileage out of their printers inkjet cartridges than they expectedless than even our rigorous printer tests showed they should get. The ink usage tests we have conducted in recent years, which are similar to the standard industry tests that printer manucturers rely on to measure ink usage, consist of printing pages continuously in big batches.
Also, dont change cartridges unless you must. Whenever you exchange an ink cartridge that still has plenty of ink left for, say, a less-costly off-brand one for less critical work, you trigger an ink-consuming initialization cycle.
Heres more about our tests and what you can do, and what we think printer manucturers should be doing, to keep ink consumption (and ink bills) to a minimum.
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We also found that you dont need to sacrifice performance in order to save on ink. Several models that were fine performers were also among the stingiest with ink used for maintenance.
Consider buying a laser printer as a second printer for black-and-white, since laser printers dont use maintenance ink, and they print excellent text.
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That figure will depend not only on the ink the printer uses for maintenance but what it actually puts on the pageand, of course, what the manucturer charges for ink in the first place. Ink costs per ounce vary dramatically: from the $75-per-ounce figure down to about $13 per ounce.
Youll save by choosing a model thats relatively frugal in the ink costs shown for continuous use and in how much ink it spends on maintenance. Fortunately, some models fill that bill and perform at least decently, including theBrother DCP-J140W, $80, along with two Epsons: theXP-800, $180, andXP-600, $100.
And as with ink usage for maintenance, theres as much variation within brand, according to the cartridge used, as from one manucturer to another. (For example, HPs 60XL cartridge, used in such models as theEnvy 120, contains ½ ounce of black ink and costs $32, which works out to $64 per ounce. But its 950XL cartridge, used in such models as the Officejet Pro 251dw, contains 2.5 ounces and costs $37, which works out to less than half as much per ounce.)
But when we contacted them, manucturers were mum on just how much ink consumers should expect to be consumed in such ways, though they did volunteer that the ink spent in cleaning may actually end up in a reservoir inside the printer that one manucturer calls a diaper and other manucturers call a spittoon.
Based on our tests, in which maintenance cycles were initiated in some printers by simply turning the printer off and then on again, one way to minimize ink used in such printers could be to have them keep track of time even when shut off, and initiate such cycles according to need rather than each time they are powered on.
Until manucturers take such steps, we thinkits ir to consider at least some of the ink manucturers charge so much for to be wasted. Thats because some of their models use so much of it in maintenanceand other models that each manucturer makes clearly demonstrate that such usage neednt be so excessive.
Worried about the cost and environmental impact of the extra energy consumed? Inkjets left on consume very little power when not in use, so your ink savings should considerably outweigh the energy cost.
As you may see from the Ratings, weve found little correlation between ink costs and quality, nor between quality and the amount of ink used for maintenance.
The ct that our readers were able to print r fewer pages than we did in our tests suggested that, for some consumers, those tests were not appropriate. One reason for this shortll, our engineers believed, was that those readers were printing intermittently, perhaps a handful of pages a few times per week, rather than continuously.
We accept that maintaining optimal printer performance may require that ink be consumed, and that not all printers can be as miserly as the most frugal we found in our tests. But we also believe that if manucturers can make some printers that are frugal, they can better apply the design lessons from those models to make more, if not all, of their models use ink efficiently, no matter how often theyre used.
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For less-critical work, print in Draft mode, which will reduce the amount of ink used in printing (though not the ink used in maintenance). And dont print lots of large photographs, especially in high-quality mode, since they use the most ink.
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If you know you print more or less than that amount, adjust the calculations accordingly. And the more intermittently you printwith pages printed here and there through the monththe more youll want to choose a newer model that has undergone our ink-maintenance tests. Note the scores for that attribute on newer models. Well include that score for other new inkjet models as we test them.
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In our tests so r, only Brother printers were consistently frugal with ink when used intermittently. Other brands varied widely depending on the brand line. For example, with HP, the Envy series of printers used relatively little ink for maintenance, while the Photosmart series used a lot more.
But exclusive new tests in our labs show that some, even a lot, of that precious ink probably never even makes it onto printed pages. Instead, its used to clean print heads and for other maintenance chores, typically when the printer is preparing to print after sitting idle for some time.
First, you can leave the power on. Leaving the printer on all the time avoids triggering a maintenance cycle each time you use the printer. When we did that with some of the most ink-hogging models, it did noticeably reduce ink consumption. Canon told us that if the printer is switched off then it may do a longer clean.
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Tests in Consumer Reports lab, done in cooperation with International Consumer Research and Testing, an independent consumer testing and research organization, confirm that some printers use much more ink than others in those ritualsand the extra cost of using those models can add up to $100 or more a year.
The Ratings show how much it would cost in ink to continuously print a 40-page mix of black text, color graphics, and photos, a typical monthly usage. (We present that figure because we have it for all printers, new and old, while we have the intermittent-printing costs only for newer models.)
If youre shopping for a new printer, ink cost is just one of many ctors to consider when your choice. In ct, we dont ctor such costs into the overall score in ourprinter Ratings, which we use to rank models, because printer usage varies widely. Instead, we rank models on such key ctors as print quality, speed, and convenience.
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Its enough that printer ink might be the most expensive liquid you buy. Even the cheapest ink, at about $13 an ounce, costs more than, say, fine Champagne, while the priciest, at about $75 an ounce, is more costly than, say, Chanel No. 5 perfume. Check our graphic, The Case of the Disappearing Ink, to see just how expensive printer ink can be.
If you dont print a lot of pages, focus on the top performers and consider ink cost only as a tie-breaker among closely ranked models. If you print a lot, check the Ratings to estimate your monthly ink cost.
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