RFI #2: Printer

As I got such valuable input from y’all in my search for a vacuum cleaner, I’m throwing out another plea for help on the choice of a printer.

I need one that can work off a wi-fi network, but I’m ignorant / agnostic on the old inkjet vs. laser printer decision.  Actually, come to think of it, I could be satisfied with a USB cable-only printer if there’s a massive price difference.

I’m not interested in the do-it-all printers because I already have a good scanner, I cannot imagine any scenario where I’d need to send an actual fax and, from memory, the costs of said printers are outrageous.

A decent / low price is important simply because I only print about a dozen or so pages a month, and full color is unimportant.  Ditto cartridge / ink costs, which are really important.  Getting a $99 printer only to run up $1,200 a year on ink is counterproductive.

Most important is that I want a printer that doesn’t spy on me and send copies of whatever I’ve printed back to the manufacturer (I’ve heard that Brother printers do this, but my info may be out of date).  It’s not that I’m getting up to mischief on my computer, it’s just that when I do print stuff out, it’s generally taxes / financial / credit / legal stuff, and I’d rather keep all that private.

The last printer I actually bought for myself was a Hewlett-Packard HP500 inkjet number back in 1992, which should give you an idea how far behind the curve I find myself.

I await any and all recommendations.


  1. I hadn’t heard that about Brother printers. If true, it’s a show-stopper.

    However, I was very happy with my 2 low-end Brother B&W lasers. On the first one, I replaced the toner cartridge once, and it cost more than the printer, which I knew up-front. When it ran out, I just bought another printer.

    I think ink cartridges dry out if you don’t use them, and get empty quick if you do. The laser/toner just sits there and seem to last a long, long time.

    I hate ink cartridges. They run out at inconvenient times, and some color printers won’t print B&W if one of the color cartridges runs out.

    1. I haven’t heard about Brother printers phoning documents home like that either.

      I’ve been quite happy with this one for about three years now:


      Laser, prints on both sides, fast, wifi. Only word of caution is that if your circuit breakers are the new, nanny-state arc-fault interrupt circuit breakers, the startup current may trip them. 2010 vintage breakers as that’s when the house was built.

  2. Inkjet printers, aside from having generally garbage quality on the low end, are sold at a pretty significant loss– the profit is in the ink carts. Laser printers, even the cheap ones, are typically much better made and the toner cartridges last a very long time with infrequent use.

    As to what to buy, pretty much every manufacturer has annoyed me, except Canon. Their entry level color laser is somewhere around $200, and that’ll probably pay for itself via the ink you won’t end up buying within a year.

  3. I USE A Samsung Xpress M2022W. Its not wireless, or not as far as I am aware. I have had it about 5 years now with a usage similar to the one you described and am on my 2nd or 3rd toner cartridge. Black and white only, single sided and cost me about £50. I think the latest version is the Samsung Xpress M2026 which looks identical and is about £40 in the UK, sorry I don’t know the US prices. Compatible toner is about £15 each and they last me well over 1000 full page prints.

    No ink to dry out, at times I’ve left it months without use, or used it to print over 1000 pages in one go and its been flawless. Desk space isn’t much more that a page of A4.

  4. The one huge advantage of lasers over inkjets is that you can let a laser printer sit without using it for weeks on end, and it will still work. Most inkjets have a bad tendency to clog up when left alone without use.

    For a few years, I ended up buying a new inkjet once a year because I just printed out tax forms with it, and after ten or eleven months, it needed a new cartridge – and it was literally cheaper to buy a cheap new printer than to buy a new cartridge!

  5. Spent my working life in IT. Canon was a customer. Hp was competitor for my company. Canon built and I suspect still do the print engines for HP. That said HP is the industry standard. Period. Wifey prints reams of stuff a month for her job. Have an HP 5535 for several years and it is a tank. If I recall I paid around 150 at BJs.

    If the printer starts to act up I – probably every 5 to 8 years – I head out to the big box stores and pick up anothe HP printer they have on sale in the mid price range.

    JUST WORD OF CAUTION. Always use genuine HP cartridges and good paper, Hammermill – 20lb.

    Laserjets are basically dead. And Everything is wireless today. Inkjet dominates the market. Everything are combo units with scanners etc built in. Ignore whatbyou wont use. HP refreshes its product line every year. So the SKUs constantly change. Only thing constant are the price points. 98 % of home printers sold are under 200 bucks. Sweet spot is 150 to 200. Also there are drivers for everything. Phones, apple and android, PCs, tablets etc.

  6. We needed a new printer for light use. Inkjet printers were dirt cheap, only a few dollars more than the cost of the ink cartridges. So we took a look at what was available from Amazon for replacement ink, and bought one that we could keep supplied with ink at a reasonable price.

  7. > The last printer I actually bought for myself was a Hewlett-Packard HP500 inkjet number back in 1992,

    I *still have* the HP Laserjet 5MP that I bought in…1996? sitting over in the corner. I just bought a new cartridge for it (they stopped making the cartridges, but I don’t print a lot so this one should last me another 10-15 years).

  8. I have been using Canon printers for over 20 years.
    I always buy one that can print 11″x17″ because I work at home quite a bit and the schematics I build in Excel need to be blown up some.
    The last one I bought (I think 3 years ago) was the ix6820 and it has been terrific. This time around I bought a discount inkjet cartridge set from Arthur imaging (12 large Black and 4 each of small black, cyan, magenta, and yellow) for cheap rather than expensive Canon ink and have had NO problems.
    As an aside, I am in the Oil Business and Canon built the color log printing software and hardware for Schlumberger, so they have probably the best color printing engine going.
    If this printer bellies-up (the last one did after 7 or 8 years) I will replace with another Canon.

  9. The only reason to get an inkjet today is to print photos on photo paper. For anything else, there is no cost savings (and huge increases in headaches) for going with inkjet over laser.

    Decide if you need color. If you do, it’s going to be a few hundred dollars for a decently rated color laser. If you don’t, then get an $100 laser printer off Amazon on Prime. You’ll get duple printing, wireless, and wired networking connections for pretty much the same price as USB only.

    The prices on laser printers are at the point where, when I have to set up a remote work location for a team for even a couple of days, we just buy a printer on Amazon, have it shipped directly to the remote office, and throw it away when we come back (actually, give it to someone on the location) because it is cheaper than paying fedex to 2nd day a machine from our office and back.

  10. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest the Dell B3460dn. Both ethernet port and USB. Wi-Fi if you add a dongle, although I have never set one up that way.

    Uses large capacity consumables. Almost 100% reliable.

    I have a dozen of them deployed in an office environment and over a hundred of the previous model.

  11. If you’re just looking at black-and-white printing, you really can’t beat a laser printer. Prices of black-and-white printers are comparable to color inkjets. The toner cartridges are reasonably priced on a cost/page metric.

    However, if you’re only printing a few pages a month at most, and go several weeks to several months between printing pages, an ink-jet is much more expensive. The reason is because the ink will dry and clog the print heads, requiring you to run very ink-consuming print-head cleaning cycle that wastes tons of ink (basically, the printer uses good ink still in the cartridge to blast the dried out ink off of the print heads/ink nozzles). Running a cleaning cycle every time you want to print a page will double or triple your cost per page to print because of all of the wasted ink.

    As for what to buy? Pretty much whatever happens to be on sale on Amazon/WalMart/Office Depot/Newegg that week from a big manufacturer (e.g., HP, Samsung, Brother, Epson, Canon). They will all connect to your computer via USB.

    If you don’t want to wade through all of the printer options, I will say I have never gone wrong with a recommendation from the Wirecutter.


  12. A laser printer is what I chose for much the same use case, a Brother DCP-9020CDW. Inkjets are too prone to clogging if only used occasionally. And while you may already have a scanner, do get a printer with a scanner so you can easily photocopy documents.

    I’ve not heard of printers sending copies of what they’ve printed to HQ, but laser printers do fingerprint their printouts with near-invisible dot patterns.

  13. I used to buy HP’s but the last one lasted less than a year, and used ink like there was a hole in the bottom. Next was a Canon which worked fine for over a year until its thirst for ink became unquenchable, it used an entire new ink cartridge doing self cleanings in 2 days. Now using an Epson 7620 everything printer. Works great, ink usage is reasonable, it was cheap on sale at under $150, and has worked for nearly 3 years. Only downside is its large footprint.

  14. Tell you what – my office printer is an HP LaserJet purchased in either 1994 or 1995. It just works. I also print grayscale graphics with it and it does that acceptably. The print cartridges are more expensive on a per item basis than ink jet, but last far longer, don’t suffer from drying out, or worse gumming up the print head, and they are built (or used to be), to higher quality than the disposable razor-grade ink jets. One thing to do is remove almost all the HP software after installation – I don’t know whether its nosy, but they usually make it start on boot and I at least never use the stuff. My wife uses a similar LaserJet of about the same vintage. Figure a cost of $150-$200, but you may never need to buy another one.

    I can’t remember what it is, but we got a cast off printer because the people pitching it didn’t want to, or know how to, find a driver for it. Found an old driver (W2K, XP?) that I could sneak onto Win7. Same thing with the mid 90’s vintage LaserJet – they hadn’t planned the obsolescence and maybe still don’t.

  15. With a tear in my eye, I finally ditched my HP Laser Jet III around 2005 (whopping 300 DPI max resolution) as the fuser circuit quit and even after tearing it open and checking that board down to the component level (and replacing several caps as it was manufactured around 1985 or so) it would not revive.

    That done, I picked up a Dell 1320 C which has been running flawlessly since but now has developed a fade on the right side of each page. This means that it has run without issue near 13 years. As near as I can figure, whatever presses the selenium rollers against the transfer film has worn out on one side. To replace with this same model is prohibitive because they are scarce and merchants are asking way more than it is worth.

    So, now I like Kim, am hunting for a replacement. If B&W is all you want, definitely a professional (0ffice rated) Canon, Brother or HP would do (I think Brother makes the Dells). The last one listed below seems to be a newer version of my old Dell 1320C at about the same price point. One of the below is monochrome.

    As I am looking for color/B&W printer (none of the multi function crap), some of the candidates are:






    There is a lot more out there, so shop brand, functions and price point (also look at the replacement cost of toner cartridges).

  16. I have sworn off HP printers, unless I’m going to spend north of $5k and get an office quality model. The HP drivers are shit, and to reinstall frequently requires a complete purge of all things HP on the computer before starting over.

    For home, I have had really nice results with either the Brother color laser, https://www.amazon.com/Brother-MFC-9330CDW-Printing-Wireless-Networking/dp/B00C6MNQ92/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1530309797&sr=8-3&keywords=brother+color+laser+printer+all+in+one. I also buy third-party toner carts from Amazon for this one. They work fine.

    and the Epson ecotank https://www.amazon.com/Epson-Expression-EcoTank-Wireless-Supertank/dp/B074V4TTY2/ref=sr_1_4?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1530309834&sr=1-4&keywords=epson+ecotank except the scanning to pdf function on the epson is not great…especially wirelessly. But the ink should last without refilling longer than the printer will.

  17. I have had an worked with and on samples of about every printer technology known to man. HP laser JET 4 was the cats meow. I know of a few that have 20 years on them.

    What we are using now is a Brother HL-L2380DW. works good and is wireless, wired and usb enabled. Was around 200 as I recall.

    I would not buy an inkjet of any kind.

  18. The utility printer in my Ham Shack is an HP M203 laser I picked up earlier this year for $120.00. Does wireless and USB. Black and white only as that’s what most of my printer output requires. Wife has a color laser (also an HP) on the home network for the few color jobs.

    It replaced an HP laserJet (1010) about 15 years old that simply quit talking to the computer over USB one day. I never used up the “starter” cartridge that came with it.

    For me the default answer to printer is “HP”, and you have to convince me to go with another brand (which can be done, but I’m lazy and usually go with the HP)

  19. Don’t by ink jets. Bad investment.

    Get an HP, with wireless and wired connectivity. Color or b&w laser jet. The low end ones may outlive you. The high end ones might outlive your children.

  20. Our current printer is an HP Laserjet 1102w.
    We have used it for years and years and gone through a number of toner cartridges.
    Recently the little rubber roller that feeds the paper from the tray has lost its “rubberyness” because of time and use, and I replaced it with a part via Ebay as HP no longer makes the printer, nor the part.

    HP no longer makes this model, and when our printer eventually fails we will replace it with HP’s current low end equivalent.

    For our occasional color printing we bought an HP color laser printing and used it for several years before we needed to replace one of the color toner cartridges. We chose an aftermarket brand, and the aftermarket toner has worked perfectly.

    As another commenter said, the laser printer will cheerfully sit idle for long periods of time and then wake up and print with no problems. The toner does not dry out, or clog.

  21. Get an Epson EcoTank printer. No cartridges, you refill the tanks from bottles. It’s cheaper than any other printer in ink costs, although you will pay a fair price for it up front, since Epson knows they won’t be bending you over on the cartridges.

  22. As you state you do not need color do not even consider an inkjet printer. Period. Not ever.

    Get a monochrome laser. If you print a lot look for one that will do both sides (duplex) , if you’re a bit lazy look for one that will hold a full ream of paper, if you use Apple products (iPhone, iPad) look for one that will print from them via wireless (AirPrint enabled).

    If you’re on a budget you can easily get one off Amazon for under a hundred dollars (minus some of the goodies above, but a solid basic device). The goodies, depending on other features will drive the cost to between $125-350 unless you go full blown office which I doubt is your intent.

    For a single user, unless you’re printing out your novels and all their revisions you can probably get a year of service out of the supplied toner cartridge.

  23. I work in enterprise IT Ops, and I don’t believe that Brother is sending back an exact copy of what you print – their liability would be essentially unlimited. They ARE checking to see if you’re using Official Brother Toner Cartridges. But all they can do to you is deny warranty requests. HP tried playing hardball with end users on toner and it cost them the consumer market. HP never got it back, and HP consumer lasers have been neglected ever since.
    Inkjet printer heads need regular use or they clog, and consumer grade inkjets aren’t designed to be fixed. Avoid.
    My recommendation is a Brother HL-L2300D ($65 at Amazon) if you can stick to USB, or the HL-L2340DW ($90) if you have to have the WiFi. If the Brothers don’t work for you, there’s a couple of Samsung models – the SL-M2835DW and SL-M2020W – but the overall ratings aren’t great, so proceed with caution.

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