C’mon, admit it… You’ve had a printer for over 9 months now and it’s looking a little tired and scratched. The shiny exterior has lost the sparkle and there’s even a coffee cup stain on the lid. But what’s this? You’ve just seen the latest model from Canon or Epson, or whoever and wow! It’s got like an LCD screen on it, touch controls and the cartridges are cheaper than your current model…
Usually at this point you get a sort of dream sequence of you dancing through a meadow, hand in hand with your new printer while it makes you a cup of fresh coffee and…
Yes, it’s a dream… A lousy pipe dream, and here’s a few reasons why that all singing, all dancing printer you saw may not be better after all
1. Printer Component Quality
Let’s take an Epson C84 and compare it with the later D120 as our example. Open the lids and there are some immediate differences that some careful examination should spot.
The C84 has a pretty solid steel sub-frame that provides the support for printhead rail, components and paper feed. Even the plastic casing is very rugged and able to handle quite a bit of abuse.
The D120 however has reduced the amount and thickness of steel in the same frame, even replacing some of it with plastic or very thin plate which warps and bends easily. The plastic has not escaped change either with much thinner/weaker panels and mount points. Subsequently, it’s can handle very little abuse and/or wear and tear.
Much of these changes have been brought about by the increased use of recycled materials, cost reduction and possibly a deliberate attempt to reduce the life expectancy of the printer… Whatever the reasons the result is that newer printers are much are more likely to fail. Sure recycling can be a positive but which is more efficient use of resources: A C84 working for five years or a D120 that lasts 18 months?
2. Consumables Capacity
Remember I mentioned about cartridges being cheaper on your brand new printer? Well there’s a reason for that:
Not all cartridges are created equal!
Case in point is the change Canon instigated from the iP4600 generation of printers. The cartridges are considerably smaller and as a result have a much reduced capacity. Epson did the same thing with their cartridges in the last few years and now the High Capacity cartridges in some models are actually the same capacity as earlier model printer cartridges. Standard capacity is just half the volume with a different name.
Trickery? Well not really… They released a new printer and it just happens that the standard capacity cartridge for that printer contain a considerably lower volume of ink compared to earlier printers. It’s not Epsons fault you didn’t read the small print but it is a neat trick. Oh and the printer manufacturers like to FUD the issue by claiming that ink capacity confuses the issue when it’s what is printed counts… So when the new cartridges print half the stuff your old printer did that should remove any doubts you might have had
3. Consumables choice
In case you missed the obvious by now, the key reason new printers are released so regularly is not so that the printer manufacturer can dazzle you with their new technology and features… No?… No!
The key reason for releasing a new printer model is to deal a blow to the third party consumables manufacturers, be it cheaper cartridges, CIS systems or even Ink Pad Reset tools.
A new printer means an opportunity to incorporate a new firmware that recognises the tricks used in those alternative consumable chips and refuse to work with them… Why? Because you then go to Epson for your consumables and Epson gets its money. Yes folks, the manufacturers actually want you to buy their cartridges.
Ok, ok.. so there’s also the need to make the printer look more appealing to customers wanting a new product but really the inks haven’t changed much and, feature wise, the only really useful change is the addition of networking to some models, something easily resolved with an external printserver.
4. Productive Life
Make no mistake this goes hand in hand with the build quality of the printer. Unfortunately, up until about 18 months ago, most printers were built to last. Now, they are built to throw away after a year or so. Why?
a) More people are buying alternative consumables and CIS kits so a printer that works for five years is not going to encourage those folks to buy a new printer.
b) People love shiny new things (you shallow lot)
c) Because when your printer fails they hope you’ll buy another new one and tie yourself back in to their consumables again (see all those points above).
The Epson PX700W is a classic case in point… It’s a great printer but the waste ink pads are woefully inadequate. User feedback indicates they hit “service required” far earlier than any previous Epson inkjet model. Ok, so you can get your printer serviced under warranty for the first year, but what do you do after that?
5. If It Works? Why Fix it?
Probably the most compelling reason not to toss your old printer, is the fact that, in many cases, your printer is still perfectly usable. Unfortunately you want the shiny, pretty new eye candy new toy that’s caught your eye.
What people forget is that if their printer works they’ve taken it for granted but there’s no guarantee the new one will do things the same way, consume ink at the same rate or even that it will work faster or better
But I forgot all about the environmental impact! … Erm, actually no, I didn’t… but let’s be honest do I need to explain that three dumped printers is worse than one?.
Ultimately you can’t force people to keep their old printer, and whenever a new operating system comes out there’s always the slow death of the “unsupported model” message when you try to find drivers for your trusty inkjet. (Yes, the manufacturers know what they are doing there too!)
But consider what you are signing yourself up for if you move on, even if your old beast will cost as much as a new printer to get it refurbished.
You may find you get a much better deal if you spend the money on a decent service instead of a new toy which costs more to print with and doesn’t last 6 months.