Printers and Cartridges costing you a fortune?

Freelance writer Mike Antoniak writes about affordability in color laser printers, and more good news about standardization in those little ink cartridges that quickly cost more than the price of the printers.  With the introduction by Hewlett Packard of the first color laser model to break the $500 price point, a color laser printer is finally an affordable option for many.  If you can justify the added expense, you can now get an entry-level color laser printer for $500, roughly half of what it would have cost two years ago. Visit the vendors' Web site for detailed specs and ordering information.
  • Hewlett Packard: At $499, the new HP Color LaserJet 2550L sets a new threshold among entry-level color laser printers. For the home/small office, HP has also added two new inkjet models, the HP Office jet 4215 printer/fax/scanner/copier, at $149, and the HP PSC 1315 printer/scanner/copier, at $99. 
  • Dell: Its latest entries include a new multifunction inkjet printer and three new monochrome laser models, at $129 Photo All-in-One 922; the Dell Laser Printer 1700, $199, a network-ready version, the 1700n, is available for $100 more. The company also adds a multifunction laser unit with the new 1600n for $399. Designed for work groups, this combination printer/scanner/fax/copier is rated at 22 ppm at 1,200 dpi.
  • Lexmark: The company has just announced a family of five upgradeable monochrome laser printers targeting the needs of home and small offices. Users will have an option of 2,500-page or 6,000-page toner cartridges. At $199, is the basic model, E 232, and for $100 more, you can get the E232t with its 550-sheet paper tray. The E330, for $399, offers a faster print speed of 27 ppm and its own 200MHz processor for processing print files. Step-up models include the E332n, network ready for $499, and the E332tn, for $599.
  • IBM: The company's newest entry-level laser printer is the Infoprint Color 1334, available for $1,113 on Big Blue's Web site, with maximum print speeds of 30 ppm black and 8 ppm color at 1200 dpi. IBM has also added an entry-level monochrome laser printer—the InfoPrint 1412 delivering 27 ppm at 1,200 dpi. Both units are network ready.
The real expense of owning any desktop printer is determined by the cost of its consumables—the ink or toner cartridge required for printing. Each manufacturer has its own formula for determining cartridge life and cites the numbers that make its printers look best.  Fortunately, that's about to change. Working with printer makers Canon, Epson, Hewlett Packard, and Lexmark, the International Organization for Standardization has just established the first industry-wide standards for determining printer cartridge yield. The initial methodology outlines how tests should be conducted as well as how results should be interpreted for monochrome laser cartridges. The companies will continue to work with the ISO to develop standards for measuring the life cycle of color toner cartridges and monochrome and color inkjet cartridges. Those standards are expected to be announced in 2005.

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