ISSUE 603: Zisman- May 15 2001
The high-tech office
by ALAN ZISMAN
Pricey printers pay off in lower costs per page
First published in Business in Vancouver's
High Tech Office column, May 15, 2001
Colour inkjet printers are pretty much
universal in homes and
small offices. With prices starting as low as $79, that's no surprise.
But as most inkjet users have discovered, it's
not the initial cost
that proves problematic, it's the ongoing costs for the colour and
ink cartridges. It can be difficult to get cost-per-page information,
perhaps not surprisingly, in general the less expensive models turn out
to cost more per page. The reason? Most low-end printers can't handle
economy-sized ink cartridges.
Last November, PC Magazine estimated
operating costs for a range
of popular inkjet printers. Basing their figures on printing 25 black
25 colour pages per week, they came up with annual ink costs ranging
a low of $281 for a $300 Epson Stylus 980 to a high of $1,221
a low-end $100 Lexmark Z32.
Reliability of inkjet printers can also be an
issue. Several years ago,
the school where I work started purchasing inkjets for each classroom.
Now, over two-thirds of them are stacked in a closet, not working, some
within three years of purchase. Anecdotal evidence, sure. But I'm
it difficult to recommend that anyone purchase this technology for any
but the most minimal printing needs.
While most business printing remains strictly
black and white, the ability
to also add colour can be very attractive. Gradually falling prices are
slowly making colour laser printers worth investigating.
Requiring four separate toner cartridges and a
more complex paper path,
these printers are inevitably larger and more expensive than the more
monochrome laser printers. Their size and initial purchase price makes
them unlikely purchases for individual users.
But the combination of speed, lower operating
costs, and robustness
makes them a justifiable acquisition for multiple users in an office or
I've had use of a Lexmark Optra C720 colour
laser printer. A leap in
price above single-user inkjets, the base model costs $3,149, while the
C720n with built-in networking ups the price by $550. According to
it offers a cost of 2.4 cents per monochrome page at five per cent
and 12 cents per colour page for 20 per cent coverage.
By the PC Magazine standards, that would
result in an annual
ink cost of $187. Since I would expect this printer to be used by
employees, these costs are unrealistically low. But they provide a
with inkjet models, promising savings of about $100 per year per
compared to the most economical inkjet tested.
The software installation was straightforward,
even for the sometimes
tricky network installation. The printer proved to be quick and quiet,
producing smooth and at-tractive colour output, even printing digital
on plain paper.
As long as you don't need to print anything
larger than legal size,
it's a good choice, one that PC Magazine called their editors'
in a recent review of a dozen colour laser printer models. They
it had the best print quality and was among the fastest of the printers
Network management is nicely handled.
The software can even e-mail problem reports to
a designated recipient.
If you're not satisfied with the base unit, you can add options
a duplexer, a 500-sheet paper bin, and an Optraimage scanner attachment
for scanning, copying, and faxing.
The optional Imagequick print-on-demand system
makes it possible to
store forms on a network server. You can access the stored forms from
printer, printing them as needed.
While $3,500 or so may seem a lot to spend on a
printer, it compares
well to buying everyone their own low-end printer while promising
operation, lower cost per page, and more reliability.