Guest Colomn: The real cost of Inkjet printers

Guest Colomn: The real cost of Inkjet printers

By Richard Heller

Over the past few years, the price on an inkjet printer has dropped from $300 to as low as $30. Over the same time, the speed and the quality of the printing has increased. You may be asking yourself, “How can they do this?” The answer is simple, they can’t.

I was in an office supply store recently when the customer in front of me was buying an ink cartridge. The salesman suggested that rather than spend $34 on one cartridge, he spend $54 on a cartridge that held twice as much ink and would save him $14 over buying two cartridges. He spent the $54 for the bigger cartridge.

But what exactly did the customer get for his money? The regular cartridge held 19 milliliters of ink while the jumbo held 38 milliliters. To say this in ounces would be approximately 5/8 ounce and 1 ¼ ounce of ink, respectively. To put this in real dollars would mean that one cup (8 ounces) of ink would fill 12 ½ standard cartridges at a total cost of $423.

As you can see, this is where the money is being made. Most black cartridges print less than 500 sheets of paper, while a color cartridge being used for photos may only yield 30 copies before it runs out of ink. With each cartridge costing $35, it doesn’t take long to find out that it will cost a lot to run your printer.

So the question becomes, “What can I do to lower the cost?” The first thing to consider is a printer that uses separate ink tanks for each color; when you run out of one color you can replace just what you need. The other thing that you can do is to look for remanufactured cartridges.

If you don’t mind getting a little dirty, you can buy a kit for around $25 and refill the cartridges yourself. Each kit will allow three or four refills, bringing the charge down to $6 or so. This is the reason that the manufactures don’t want you to reuse the cartridge; they want your money. Some of the manufacturers are placing a chip inside the cartridge with an expiration date to prevent an “old” cartridge from being used even if it is brand new.

If you need to do a lot of black printing, you should consider purchasing a laser printer. They will cost more ($200+) to start with, but the per page cost is much lower than an inkjet. If you need to do a lot of color printing, a color laser can now be purchased for $800.

As if the cost of ink wasn’t enough, HP has gone totally wacky over the price of memory for its color laser printer. They offer 64 MB for $526, 128MB for $699, and 256MB for $1,019. This is the same 100 MHz Sync DRAM that goes in your desktop PC. A recent ad had the 256MB RAM for $28 before a $15 mail-in rebate, which means that HP will make $1,000 on each 256MB-memory upgrade it sells. And that is why printers are so inexpensive.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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