Deciding on a laser printer (low cost in use)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by macstatic, Nov 29, 2013.

  1. macstatic, Nov 29, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2013

    macstatic macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2005
    I have an Epson XP-850 multi-function inkjet which eats ink for breakfast so to keep operating costs down I'm considering a laser printer for everyday use (I'll keep the Epson inkjet for the occasional photo printout and for photo-scanning). I'm looking for the following features:

    - high quality, long lasting printer (I'm prepared to go beyond the cheapest printers available if that means better quality)
    - low operation cost
    - ethernet (cabled) network connection and USB
    - (preferrably) two-sided printing
    - (obviously) supporting OSX
    - preferrably a compact size

    Other features which I'm considering but aren't essential:

    - scanning feature (for receipts or other documents)
    - color printing (for web page printouts, text documents etc.)
    - automatic document feeder (great for scanning many documents)

    Scanning would mean a multi-function laser, but would that make for a less quality printer than just a laser printer?
    If I go for color, would that mean a much higher operating cost? And like with inkjet printers; will the laser printer refuse to work unless all color toners are available? In that case, a black/white laser might be less of hassle and cheaper to use.

    Things I've read in various threads worth considering:
    - HP laser printers should be avoided: they have chipped toners which expire by date (regardless of how much it's used!)
    - Brother should also be avoided because of their lousy support if it breaks down (though their OSX printer drivers are good)
    - color lasers are better at printing on ANY paper as opposed to color inkjets which needs specific (expensive) paper for decent color printouts of text/charts etc (not photos).

    I've heard good things about Oki laser printers, and I suppose Epson and Canon are good too.
    Which specific printers do you suggest I look into?
  2. themumu macrumors 6502a


    Feb 13, 2011
    You never specified how much you intend to print. If it's not much (a few pages a week, as opposed to tens or hundreds a day), I doubt a high end printer will be worthwhile, as even a low end Brother b/w printer I bought 6 years ago produced excellent quality printouts.

    As for colour, while I cannot vouch for all models and makes, my Xerox colour laser does indeed refuse to print at all if any one of the cartridges runs empty. Also, this higher end Xerox works in such a way that after a while of complaining about low toner, it will stop printing all together, with the last printed page looking as perfect as the first, while the cheap Brother printer would start degrading the print quality when the toner is low enough.

    Other than that, I suppose you can just look for professionally written printer round ups, as I doubt many forum members will have first hand experiences with more than a couple current models.
  3. wickedpapercut macrumors member


    Jul 17, 2005
    I've had a Brother HL-2040 laser printer for several years and it's worked flawlessly. I've found that cheap toner cartridges are best avoided, but the printer itself has been great.
  4. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Yeah, "chipped" toner cartridges can be a pain, but all the troubles I've had with toner cartridges over the years involved refills. Instead of "chipped," you might get a scratched drum (presuming toner and drum are a single unit).

    You'll find that there's a direct trade-off between consumables costs and initial cost of the printer. You have to go a bit up the ladder to find lower-cost consumables, and you may just not need that much printer - size/footprint and copies-per-month capacity seem to relate directly to toner capacity. When I ran the numbers, we simply weren't printing enough on a monthly basis to make the "cheaper" consumables pay off. Our total cost per print (hardware + consumables) was about the same in either case.

    Is color more expensive than black-only? It's little different than an ink jet - if you print a lot of black-only and very little color, no big difference. We tend to do fewer ink/toner-hungry graphics when we print black-only, so the more often we're tempted to add color (because it's there), the more likely we burn through those cartridges.

    The last time I ran the numbers (about 2 years back), I ended up going from a huge, departmental-sized Lexmark color unit that cost over $1,800 down to a very compact $400 HP (actually, I got a deal, so it was even less - but don't ask for the model number - it's not around anymore). In the time that elapsed between the purchases, that "cheap" HP was printing at nearly the same high speed as the behemoth, at equal or better quality. The only thing the HP lacks is high-capacity paper trays (250-sheet tray vs. 2 500-sheet trays). Both had auto-duplex and bypass feeders. Paper path on the HP was much cleaner, so far fewer jams and they're easier to resolve. Toner and drum replacement, also easier (and less prone to accidental drum damage). Oh, and I could have fit two HPs into the same footprint occupied by the Lexmark, and the HP occupies 1/4 the air space. The Lexmark was close to 80 lbs. shipping weight, the HP about 15.

    Yeah, the HP does quit printing color before every last grain of toner is used, but it can be forced to print black-only (I had one ink jet that wouldn't allow that). You may not want to stock spare C,M & Y cartridges, but it always pays to have a K in reserve.

    You'll find that there are often multi-function and printer-only versions within the same series, with no difference in tech specs. At the lower end of the price spectrum, it's hard to get an automatic document feeder without a scanner. In for a penny...

    That big Lexmark was built to take more punishment, and it lasted far longer than I expect the HP will last. In the end, what took the Lexmark down was the main logic board. A replacement (parts + labor) would have cost us as more than the whole damn HP. The HP can be shipped out for repair, the Lexmark required a house call.
  5. windowpain macrumors 6502a

    Apr 19, 2008
    I have the 2140 (essentially the same) and it has been fantastic.
    Used the toner that came with it for the first 3 years, and bought a discount replacement (yeah, yeah,I know...but I got lucky.) Works out at about a cent a copy including paper!

    I know laser jet printers have their uses, but anyone doing most of their printing in black and white would be crazy not to pick up a cheap laser printer (like the brother models.)

    I went from worry every few months whether it would actually print without needing a refill, to a dependable cost-effective long lasting printer.

    A color printer would be physically bigger (due to the extra toner cartridges) but I would take a look at the HL-3045CN brother. Seems to do everything you need.

    If you are doing only occasional scanning, I would use Scanner Pro on iOS.
    If you are doing a little more, look at the Scan Snap S1100. A cheap good A4 scanner, ideal for receipts etc.
    If you want high high quality, look at a flatbed scanner.. I don't have the space for one so use the S1100.
  6. SilverOath macrumors member

    Apr 25, 2013
    I would not discount the HP printers.

    If you want to be thrifty I would buy a mid-sized color laser on CL -- and use it till it runs out of ink. HP 4600, 4650, 4700 are great printers -- and the toners lasts for ~10,000 pages. You can re-manufactured toners for ~30, and they're almost always fine. Right now I got one for ~100 and it came with about half ink, and I just bought another for 60 that had full ink, and I junked the printer and kept the ink/transfer kit/fuser for when mine needs replacements. However, this is not a 'compact' options -- but it is one of the cheapest options I know w/ great quality, speed, and double sided printing.

    The alternative would be to pick up a HP 1600/2600/2605 -- using the same technique. It's slower, small foot print, and generally reliable. Small COLOR laser printers tend to be a little more finicky regarding jams/feeding, but usually just requires you to take paper out, open/close, and wipe down paper grabbers occasionally. I see a lot of these printers on CL -- pick one up for 50, and keep an eye out/offer 50 for the printers when you see people post them... and again just salvage supplies. I

    I've never seen a TONER that will not run because its expired. INK yes... but not toner.. but I haven't dabbled much in the newest plastic crap printers that all manufacturers make.
  7. Sun Baked, Nov 30, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2013

    Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Only advice I have is, look at toner cartridge first, see how many pages you want them to last 1k, 2.5k, 5k, 10k, or 15k.

    See if you are willing to pay that much to get a low cost per page on your cartridge.

    Check out the refillability options for those cartridges.

    See where you can get them, always checking the Staples, Best Buy, Office Max, etc. to see if you can get them at a couple places.

    Then shop for the printers that use those cartridges.

    Usually a low cost printer will get you cheap cartridge with low page life, and high per page costs.

    Might need to get a $400 or more printer, to get you into the 5k-10k cartridges.

    And you will likely spend as much per cartridge as a cheap $80-125 printer. But your cost per page will drop. And refills will really make it cheap per page.


    This method works for cheap Black and White printers that suck down cases of paper per month or every other month. And the cost for printing a case or more of paper may be about the same as 1000 sheets on the $100 printers.
  8. mvmanolov macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2013
    i have the HL-2170W, and have been using it for about 5 years now, no complaints what so ever..

    I say go with brother :D and wait for a good sale, staples more often than not has fantastic $100 off sales :D
  9. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    I usually recommend Brother B&W laser printers due to low cost of operation. I don't know anyone's brother printer that broke down.
  10. macstatic thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2005
    I don't print much. Perhaps 5 pages a week now and then.
    But with my inkjet it cleans the cartridges for a couple of minutes every time I print (despite the printer being in standy mode all the time which should be more ink-saving than turning it on/off, or so I've read). After perhaps only 20 pages of text/simple graphics (no photos) on regular paper the cartridges are now half-empty! No wonder it becomes expensive :eek:

    So, with a laser toner you basically pay a lot to buy them but in return you only end up paying for what you actually print (no waste because of cleaning) and there's no "time limit" or "expiration" built into them (except for HP, or so I hear)?

    I've looked into toner/sheet cost but from what I hear every manufacturer defines "one page" differently, so that's not much help.

    I think I'll be going for a multi-function laser of some kind. Seems many people are happy with Brother printers, likewise HP (but the "expiration date" toners scare me as that's similar to my ink cartridges emptying regardless of how much I print).
  11. themumu macrumors 6502a


    Feb 13, 2011
    I think in your case any cheap laser printer with a decent warranty would be fine. Make sure to test it thoroughly within the return period, and then if it runs fine during warranty period, it will likely run for many many more years.
  12. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Here's another recommendation for a Brother laser.

    Try to get one that has an ethernet connection (as well as USB and perhaps wireless).

    With ethernet, just plug it into your router or ethernet switch, and it's readily available to any computer on the network...
  13. jnpy!$4g3cwk macrumors 65816


    Feb 11, 2010
    +1 for Brother. Definitely the cheapest per page, OS X drivers work well. If you print a lot of pages get one that uses the larger TN-580 toner cartridges. One advantage, or disadvantage, for some people is that cheaper, floppier paper works better-- the "high-quality", harder-finish photo-capable paper sometimes misfeeds.
  14. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    I just got an HP 200 color pro, printer only. So much better than evil ink jets for my use which is normal printing, casual photo printing. I send the good photos out to actual professional labs. Better and cheaper by far for my volume.
  15. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Color laser printers costs much more than B&W ones though.
  16. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    Does anyone know if HP laser printers still use toner that have expiration dates? I remember reading a long time ago about people having to replace perfectly fine toner cartridges because they "expired".

    Thanks in advance.
  17. macstatic, Apr 9, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014

    macstatic thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2005
    I'm the OP and have put off buying the laser printer until now (my ink cartridges are running out!)...

    I'm considering this black/white all-in-one for our daily needs (we scan a lot but only print a few (perhaps 10 at the most) pages a week. For photos I can have them done elsewhere. No need to waste expensive ink for the occasional photo print:
    Brother MFC-7460DN or DCP-7065DN (without fax). PCMag review.

    This one also seems nice (LED though, not laser):
    Oki MB-451 or MB-441 (without fax). PCMag review

    They have the following features I need:

    • Print, copy, scan (fax might come in handy but not essential)
    • Two-sided (duplex) printing
    • Automatic document feeder (ADF)
    • Ethernet and USB connections
    • Mac compatible

    Other things to consider:
    • Low running cost (I've also read that laser printers with separate toners/drums are cheaper in use. I don't know what kind of setup the above printers have).
    • Low noise
    • Scan directly from the front panel buttons
    • Create a single PDF from scanning multiple documents in the ADF

    Does anyone here have any experience with the above (including running costs)?
    And do they work satisfactory on a Mac?
  18. wickedpapercut macrumors member


    Jul 17, 2005
    I like to throw in my $.02 opinion on multi-function devices. Here's the short version - I'll never buy another multi-function printer.

    Twice I've had very nice printer/scanner/fax devices that became completely useless when one of the parts broke. Both times something went wrong with the printer and the error-code advised taking it for service. That's fine since I have another printer... until I realized that the entire device was in an error condition and I couldn't use the other functions that should still work. I couldn't scan, couldn't fax, nothing. It became a brick because one of the multi-functions died.

    Since then I've gone to separate components -- still have the old Brother HL-2040 laser printer that's been working for 5+ years without a hitch, got a Canon flat-bed scanner, and a Canon color inkjet printer. If my scanning needs were greater, I'd consider one of the Fuji scanners with the document feeders. The downside is that the multiple devices take up more space and clutter things with power and usb cords, but I know that when any one device fails, the others will continue to function.

    As for a laser printer, you can't go wrong with a B&W Brother laser printer. Dirt-cheap for basic B&W printing. Toner cartridges are affordable. If you have any problems with the printer, toss it and buy a new one for slightly more than the cost of a new toner cartridge.

    Good luck in your decision making.
  19. macstatic thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2005
    I tend to agree with you, however free space is at a premium here :(
    Since I've only had a need for fax once during the past 5 years I can probably do without and save some $$$ by getting the Brother DCP-7065DN.
    Seems experience with Brother printers is very positive here so it might be a better choice than the Oki printers (at least for Mac users).
  20. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    It's not small, but I've been using the same Xerox Phaser for about nine years.

    It's very reliable and I get 10,000 pages with one cartridge.

    I've tried small "personal" lasers, but I have found that workgroup lasers are much better. Faster, parts are easily replaceable, consumables are all separate, and as you can see, cost per page is low.

    I do a lot of color prints, so with a workgroup printer I can have a lot of RAM. I upgraded mine to 1GB of RAM, means no need to spend time compressing files before printing.

    The only issue of course is initial costs are very high.

    Just food for thought.
  21. kaltsasa macrumors 6502a

    Jan 9, 2002
    Kellogg IA
    I have a brother Hl-3170cdw. It has good software support for OS X and Windows. I've never had an issue with it so I've never had to deal with Brother's tech support. I don't print very much on this at home. I also have a brother HL-2280DW at the game shop I run that sees heavy use, this printer works very well and has a replaceable drum which is usually integrated into the cartridge on these lower cost laser printers (this keeps the price of toner lower).


    Second this. I have had a brother HL-2280DW in use at a game shop I run, we probably print 1-2000 pages a month on it. It's been very solid. Newegg seems to run deals on the brother line once or twice a year.
  22. jmiddel macrumors regular

    Mar 3, 2010
    Land of Enchantment
    We've been using Brother printers for a decade and love them. Cheap, great cartridge replacements from Amazon at less than half the original ones.
  23. smithrh macrumors 68020


    Feb 28, 2009
    Here's another thumbs-up for Brother, specifically a laser printer from Brother.

    Much rather deal with a company that has a solid product with so-so support as compared to the other players in the field dicking around with obscene prices on ink and chipped ink cartridges.

    I suspect I'll never need support from Brother in any case.

    One downside to the model I have (MFC-7860DW) is that it won't sleep if connected via Ethernet/WiFi, which did negate one of the reasons why I bought it, I was looking to stick it in a closet some distance away from my home office. It hasn't turned out to be that much of a problem though.
  24. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    I too use a workgroup laser printer. You can get these used for dirt cheap. They are built like tanks so you don't have to worry about it dying on you. Plus you can get refurbished toner for $15 to $20 and have it last 10,000 pages.

    I got my HP Laserjet 4050n several years ago from some company for $50. I put a new toner in it and haven't changed it since.

    I'd definitely look into it at least. Those cheap personal laser printers have to sacrifice build quality to get the price down and the toner cost is comparatively ridiculous comparatively.
  25. blesscheese macrumors 6502a


    Apr 3, 2010
    Central CA
    I decided a while ago that when my current inkjet dies, that I would get a Brother Laser printer. The reviews for them are always good, and they always seem to have their driver updates wired.

    Re: HP, my experiences with a free hand-me-down from my in-laws (and my experiences at my workplace) have convinced me to never, ever, buy an HP printer. (but damn, they made great calculators back in the day). The expiring ink issue was a real PIA with HP, and their drivers on the PC make it really hard to use ink-saving pre-sets. Just my $0.02.

    I've also been impressed by Canon printers in the past, but you probably don't need more choices at this point.

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37 November 29, 2013