My printer broke.
Well, by “broke”, I mean it warned me that I needed a part replacement.
It’s popped up before, but like after all replacement warnings in the past, I’ve just pulled the offending parts out, emptied them (ignoring, like everyone does, all the warnings), wiped, shook and wound bits on them, then put them back in and cadged another month or two out of them before the warning appeared again.
But this time, there was no fooling the Brother and it simply refused to believe the old OPC belt was a new OPC belt:
And whatever an OPC belt is, yeesh:
“That’s nearly the price of a new printer,” thought me and everyone else in the world whoever had to replace a printer part. Most of the time it’s ink.
It annoyed me for two reasons. One, it’s not until you don’t have a printer that you realise how much you still need a printer.
Especially if you’re a parent, and need actual real school forms stuck on the fridge to remind you what day it is. Colouring in sheets, origami, emergency grid paper, recipes to shove in a clear sheet folder, only to forget about and print the same recipe out again every three months later. The list goes on.
Bank statements, because you went paperless and your accountant never did.
The other reason it annoyed me was because this:
Was the only printer which had actually served me well for – wait for it – 11 years. It was my very reluctant first big printer purchase and, as it turns out, it taught me a valuable lesson. We paid around $500 for it, because we were setting up a home office and thought 18 pages per minute sounded exactly like how wildly successful we were going to be.
I tried to get rid of it, several times, when the first ink bill came in at $1150 for four genuine Brother cartridges. But then the $100 printer I bought instead ran out of ink, and the cartridges for that cost more than $150 a set, and buying another new one for less than that got me free ink cartridges as well.
Because of that, this is the current state of other printers right now in my house.
HP desktop, circa 2013:
Brother desktop, circa 2017:
And they’re just the recent ones we haven’t thrown out yet. Sound familiar?
I’m not proud of that kind of waste, and neither should be the printer industry. But through it all, the $500, 15kg block of yellowing plastic waited patiently for the next new shiny thing to run out of ink, and for me to return to it. Especially after I realised the cheap knockoff cartridges for it worked just as well, at a third of the price.
And even after 11 years, because I’d paid a bit extra for a better machine, it was still matching the pages-per-minute performance of modern printers.
Now it’s time to say goodbye, and while $480 for an OPC belt could buy me three junky desktop MFCs over the next three years, I refused to fall for it this time around.
It could, however, nearly get me this – my first foray into ink bottles:
Epson’s ET-4750 is $699. Fortunately for me, mine was a review unit, but after just two weeks with it, it’s loomed as the second great example in my life of why – when it comes to printers – you’re far, far better off just spending the extra money at the outset.
Let’s compare it to that crappy desktop Brother. Its price: $200. Print speed: 18-20ppm. Resolution: 1200 x 600. Cartridge price: $30 (colour), $46 (black).
Pages printed from those four cartridges: 2200
For $136. That’s 6 cents a page.
First of all, I could buy the OPC belt and four cartridges of ink for my 11-year-old Brother and print 29,800 pages at close enough to that speed for 2.58 cents per page. That includes the $452 replacement cost of the OPC belt.
And I’m not chucking something on the tip every other year.
As for the new Epson, the $700 starter pack will get you enough ink for 11,200 pages. Here’s how neat that looks:
Compared to cartridges needed to match that page count:
Even at $700 – pricey for a printer, yes – that works out to about 6.25 cents a page. You’re already matching the cost of just refilling the junky desktop MFC.
Epson reckons that will last the average user two years, but when you do run out, here’s the clincher – $70 will get you the four CMYK bottles with enough ink for another 25,500 pages.
That’s less than 0.3 cents per page.
After 20 years of being ripped off mercilessly at the cartridge shop, that’s one of the biggest shifts in technology costs in a lifetime. From 6 cents a page to 0.3 cents a page. Virtually overnight.
And it will connect automatically with your phone or tablet, as it should in 2018.
And some people, will always find a way for it to still get messy, no matter how fervent “non-drip” promises the ink bottle people will make. Gah:
What’s interesting/annoying is that shift has come at a time where people aren’t paying too much attention to printers. But when they do, they invariably fill your Facebook feed with complaints about how much of a pain in the a..e the free MFC they got with their PC is to set up, how quickly the prepackaged ink ran out, and how much it cost to replace.
I may or may not buy the new Epson. I will, however, definitely be paying two or three times more than than bottom end offers to ensure I get another printer that lasts me 11 years.
It’s taken me one great printer and at least four rubbish ones to learn that in technology, as in life, you’re always better off sticking to the maxim – buy well, buy once.