Printing, obsolescence and WiFi

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Wingsley, Mar 9, 2018.

  1. Wingsley macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2014
    #1
    I operate in a small family business office. I am a family member, and we have been in construction since 1984. I manage the office and serve as IT.

    Over a decade ago, a local corporation downsized, eliminating some personnel and also liquidating some equipment. They eliminated some nice office equipment. We acquired some of it, including an HP LaserJet 4100N. The network card was pulled out of it, so I went to the HP IT Resource Forum and inquired about the card and how to order one. I found the Ethernet card on eBay, ordered it, and installed it with no problems. The printer is a great late-90s workgroup machine. Definitely overkill for us, but it still runs inexpensively. (NOTE: HP's ITRF was closed down years ago; I'm bummed out.)

    I am concerned, though, as to how long this machine will last. When we acquired it a decade ago, it had over three-quarters of a million pages on its config readout. I understand these things are built to last, but it isn't getting any younger. I'm concerned that someday it may be obsoleted by software incompatibility. It's a greyscale printer with no duplexing, no color and it occasionally paper-jams. It's paper feed options are limited.

    If we ever had to replace it, either because of obsolescence or it just wore out, I'd like to know what kind of landscape is out there insofar as newer printers.

    We also have an Epson inkjet (Stylus Photo R200), at least 13 years old, that very seldom is used. Occasionally (rarely) we use the Epson to print hardcopy photos onto card stock, as well as printable DVDs. I'm concerned the ink dries out before it sees use. We also bought 2 Dymo LabelWriter 320 label printers about 10-13 years ago; one is currently hooked up to our Airport Extreme base station and used occasionally for hardcopy snail-mail envelope labels. We buy rolls of large mailing labels off eBay for the Dymos. The Dymo software does still work with Apple's Contacts and MacOS Sierra.

    In the event we moved on to newer equipment, I might settle for another greyscale laser, but I was wondering about color lasers. Do any of them do good photos? What about newsletters with photos and graphics?

    Our current arrangement is low-cost and requires negligible maintenance (except for replenishing ink cartridges in the Epson; the R200's ink is not the newer non-fading kind, either). We love the setup, but if we ever have to replace the Airport, we are concerned about loosing USB connectivity. There's also the obsolescence issue with the Epson and the Dymos. We love the idea of getting every last print job that we can out of this old equipment. But we are concerned (especially me) about it either wearing out or not being compatible in the future.

    I have no idea what newer HPs are like, other than having modern ports, WiFi and greater specs. (And much higher price tags!) I am not ruling out used and/or refurbished equipment. I was wondering about color lasers and how practical they are.
     
  2. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2014
    #2
    I run a color laser (a $400 Canon) in a very low volume home office. If you need anything short of photo quality, I think a color laser is the way to go. Depending on your volumes, you might want to upgrade to something like a Xerox Phaser for longevity and color quality. There are a number of brands available (including Brother, who make excellent monochrome laser printers, I have no experience with their color units) and I'd definitely recommend color lasers over inkjets.

    If you only occasionally need color, another option that might possibly be cheaper to run would be a monochrome volume printer (Brother or whatever) and take your color printing to a shop. Or, keep around a new inkjet and pay the ink penalty ($$$).

    I'm not 100% sure what your concern with the Airport is. If you just need a router or access point with wifi and USB, they're a dime a dozen.
     
  3. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2012
    Location:
    Between the coasts
    #3
    My rule of thumb for color laser printers is that they're fine for color brochures, promotional mailings, etc., but for hanging a photo on the wall you'll still want an inkjet (but then, I'm a photographer).

    You didn't mention how much use you get from the laser, how many active users on the network, how important speed may be, the size of the print jobs, etc. However, considering the capacity of the 4100N, you're on the small office side of the spectrum. If it's handling your needs without bottlenecks you probably won't have to spend more than $500 for a color laser as a replacement/upgrade.

    Overall, regardless of whether it's a laser or an inkjet, there's an inevitable trade-off on purchase cost vs. operating cost. Basically, the more you pay up front, the lower the cost of consumables. If you go through a lot of consumables, then spend the money on a workgroup printer. If not, a small office printer will probably do you. The math isn't too hard, just look at the spec sheets for the replacement cartridges.
     
  4. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    #4
    I'd second others here: quality-wise, colour lasers are good for anything short of printing a photo for display, and certainly good enough for newsletters with graphics and (small) photos... Inkjet printers, especially with high-quality paper are hard to beat quality wise, but as you say, if you use one infrequently it means endless faffing around cleaning the heads and wasting ink.

    For occasional home/personal use - I'd definitely say that a cheap colour laser would be the way to go for non-photographers. If its going to be pounding out monochrome business letters and invoices all day, not so sure.

    Economy wise - basically remember that the printer market (for all types of printer) is based on the Gillette razor blade business model, so the cost of a few years' worth of consumables can easily dwarf the price of the printer - the cheaper the printer, the more expensive the cartridges. I'd expect cheap colour laser printers to be more expensive, long-term, even for black and white printing, and wouldn't rule out getting two laser printers - one colour, one monochrome workhorse.

    Built in WiFi and/or Ethernet is pretty common in home/small business printers these days.

    Printer makers dropping support for "old" models under newer operating systems can be an issue - especially with the cheapest printers that do most of the processing on the Mac side. Postscript printers are possibly less prone to this as they work better with generic drivers. Sticking to monochrome may also help here. Witness your HP 4000 still going strong (I had a HP 2000-something, non-postscript, colour printer that was never quite the same again after an OS upgrade left it using generic drivers - the slightly later, Postscript capable version I had at work fared better).
     
  5. MRrainer macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2008
    Location:
    Zurich, Switzerland
    #5
    Hey, I also once bought a 4100N for my parents. Absolute beast. Would still work, but it was too big and they wanted something that could be placed on a small stand or directly next to the desktop. Now they're struggling with cheap ink-jet printers.

    If you don't need color, gray-scale is still good. I wouldn't waste any money on a color-printer when you don't really print lots of colorful charts and presentations.

    As for models - I have no idea.
    I'd probably go for higher-end Brother printers or again a refurbished higher-end HP.

    Printers aren't made to last anymore, as they were back in the LaserJet 3+4 days.

    What's your page-output per day and per month? That's really the number I'd be looking at.

    Each and every printer these days is specced according to the above two numbers. Which means it will break shortly before warranty has run out given any of these being met or exceeded.

    I would venture into https://www.reddit.com/r/printers/ and the sysadmin reddit to ask about specific models.

    At work, we also have HP printers - but I can't tell you the exact specs right now. Especially the one where all the invoices are printed on each quarter.
     

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4 March 9, 2018