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The Current State of Printing Things

Technology is constantly progressing. It moves at a mind-blowing pace. Consider that just seven years ago, almost no one had a smartphone. Today, you can look up the price of something in a grocery store with the same device you use to take pictures of your latte art and phone your mum. That became common sometime after the movie Wall-E was released: about the time Barrack Obama took office. iPads and other tablets didn’t start to gain popularity until a year after that.

But along the way, certain bits of technology have always walked with a limp and have hardly changed at all in the last fifteen years. If you own a printer, you know something of what I’m talking about. Printing, and especially home printing, is quite possibly the worst user experience available today. I would wager that paper jams, printhead alignment, the cost of ink, printer drivers, and the sorry excuse for graphics programs that they come with explain about 60% of male pattern baldness in first world countries. My wife and I have intentionally not owned a printer until very recently, precisely because of these headaches. As an Amish gentleman might say, we opted for a simpler lifestyle.

But alas, every now and then we still have the need to take documents off our computer screen and magically transform them into paper documents. That need has arisen for us enough times for us to warrant navigating the gruesome world of consumer printers. That said, I don’t think we did too bad and I’m not altogether displeased with our printer. Below is a list of a few printing options that we considered at least somewhat viable:

Fedex Printing

This is what we did for a while. Getting things printed at Fedex or similar shops is a bit more expensive than printing things yourself, but we weren’t printing often enough for this to be noticeable. In the end, we stopped doing this because it proved to be wildly inconvenient for our projects to have to drive to a store. But if your print jobs are few and far between, throwing away your printer and just going to Fedex for printing may be a good option. You’ll save quite a bit of space, since you’ll be able to get rid of the printer itself and no longer having to keep the Costco-sized bottles of Aspirin that printer-ownership necessitates.

Get a Good Color Printer

I’m not actually convinced these exist, but I’m told that once you pass the $500 mark, inkjet color printers become at least mildly worth owning. They fail a lot less and produce visually pleasing results. You should also find that they won’t require paying in limb-currency for ink refills. This will be important, since you probably haven’t got any extremities left after the initial purchase. If you’re a print designer or photographer who needs to print photos often, this may be your best bet.

Get a Walmart Printer (or Eight)

Let’s be honest, printers go on sale for $25 at Walmart all the time. They will inevitably make you want to perform violent acts of defenestration (after looking the term up, if needs be), but they’re cheap. When you run out of ink, go to Walmart and observe that you can buy another $25 printer for less than the cost of new ink cartridges. So do that. Rotate through printers like they’re going out of style (and hope that they actually do). Depending on how much printing you do, this could cost you between $25 and $75 a year, which isn’t all that bad when you think about it.

The Non-Option

Whatever you do, don’t fall for the lie that if you pay $200 for a printer, you’ll get something between good and terrible. I’m convinced that $200 printer are just $25 printers with screens, sound effects, and sometimes talking robots. All that happens when you buy them is you become attached to something terrible because it cost so much. Ink will still be expensive to the point of being obscene and the inoperability of the printer will leave you shouting still more obscenities. Reader, I care about you. Don’t do it.

In all your getting, don’t get a $200 inkjet printer.

Black and White Laser Printing

This is the option Sarah and I finally settled on. We bought a $100 black and white laser printer, the Brother HL–2270DW. Let’s face it, printing in color is clearly still a very difficult and expensive thing for manufacturers to do. It’s not that printer companies are 100% evil (just 98%). They’re trying to bring color printing to the everyday consumer at a low price, but this doesn’t seem feasible without cutting corners. If it is possible to make a good, affordable inkiest printer I haven’t seen anyone do it yet.

This works well because, quite honestly, I almost never need to print in color. Black and white is fine for 80% or more of my printing and it’s a lot cheaper. These laser printers black and white printers have been around a really long time and they’re a lot cheaper. They two time faster, they print more pages before needing toner (well over 2,000), and they have loads less downtime than similarly priced inkjet printer. Lastly, toner is also less expensive than ink. If we need to print things in color, you can go to Fedex. If we need to print photos, we can do it online.

This printer isn’t perfect. Setting it up was something of a pain; I had to install the Java Runtime Environment, which I thought had been outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Now that I set it up, though, it is performing quite nicely and I’ve yet to encounter a problem with it. I’d recommend it to anyone. Actually, that’s precisely why I’m writing this blog post: to recommend it.

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This article was posted on 09/22/2014 . It relates to these topics:

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