The Cheapskate is coming to the rescue with a three-point plan.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Cheapskate's Buying Guide 2011

Buying a printer? The real cost is ink

December 4, 2011

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard

'Tis almost the season to be jolly, so you'd better get your gift list together while the geese are getting fat. To help select the best tech toys, here is the third installment of my Cheapskate's Buying Guide. This week: Printers and scanners.

It's no secret that printers are cheap and ink is expensive. Studies have shown that a typical ink jet printer can run up ink costs of a couple of thousand dollars if it's used regularly over a three-year period.

But the Cheapskate is coming to the rescue with a three-point plan.

First, don't buy an ink jet printer at all if you mostly do black-and-white printing. Just get a cheap laser printer. Laser printers cost far less to use than ink jets and last longer. My choice is the Samsung ML-1865w. NewEgg (a top-rated discounter) has it for $63.99. Go to this shortened address: http://tinyurl.com/7p2rn2a.

Second, if you need color, be sure to get a color ink jet printer designed to use less ink than the competition. I'm impressed with Kodak's printers, which use Kodak ink that costs half of what Epson or HP ink sells for. They're all-in-one designs (with a printer-scanner-copier) and have a gorgeous, long-lasting photo print quality. Get the ESP C310 from Amazon at this shortened address: tinyurl.com/d2bbyag.

Third, if you have an iPad or an iPhone and need to print wirelessly, get a printer that saves on ink AND has Air Print capability. My recommendation is the Canon MG5320, an all-in-one printer-scanner-copier. Amazon sells it for $99.99. Get it using this shortened address: tinyurl.com/75hkcle.

What about color laser printers? I vote no. They're still too expensive compared to ink jets and don't have the same spectacular photo-print quality. But they're becoming very popular. For offices that print a great deal of color documents -- not photos -- a color laser printer might make sense. My choice in that case is the Samsung CLP-325W. New Egg has it for $189.99. Use this shortened address: http://tinyurl.com/78tt9yd.

Scanners come in three flavors -- simple flatbed scanners for scanning photos and documents, fancier flatbed scanners that can scan slides as well as photos and documents, and dedicated slide-and-negative scanners.

If you need a simple flatbed scanner, remember that the all-in-one ink jets recommended above are scanners as well. I have two all-in-ones and their scanners perform well. They're also great for quick copies of documents.

My experience tells me most people who do scanning want slide capability at some point. My recommended scanner is that category is the Epson V500 scanner, which handles photos, documents and slides easily. Epson has it discounted for $149.99 at this shortened address: http://tinyurl.com/5vha9vq.

If you need a dedicated slide and negative scanner, my recommendation for a simple, inexpensive model is the Primefilm Imagebox 9MP, an unusual scanner that dispenses with the need for a PC or Mac. Scans are saved to a memory card and can be easily copied to a computer or iPad. Amazon is selling it for $99.99. Use this shortened address: http://tinyurl.com/83wxqsv.

The Primefilm scanner I've been using for years is fancier and requires a computer. That lets me tweak results instantly. The current version is called the Primefilm 7250u. Amazon's price is $259.95. Get it at this shortened address: http://tinyurl.com/7jmb46r.

Next: Accessories.