Stuff about printers

Kristie does a lot of printing for the business and our old $50 Samsung laser printer (ML-1740) is about to give up the ghost after several years of faithful service, if I had to guess I’d say it’s output well over 30,000 pages of newsletters, hands out and what-knot. This large number is mostly due to the fact that printing stuff yourself is convenience and if you pick the right printer/toner, most likely cheaper than going to Officeworks. My crude calculations put our cost per page for the old 1740 at about 2c, if we use refills rather than genuine toner carts (double that for genuine carts).

With an eye to replace the 1740 with a similar model I discovered that the 1740 is no longer in production but it’s impossible to find a mono laser with similar specs and toner capacity, the nearest thing being the 1640 which only has a 1,500 page toner for the same price as the 1740’s 3,000 page toner, lame.

So, it becomes apparent as I research that the laser printer market has become more and more aimed at small consumers, there are lots of printers for under $100 with tiny capacity toners which would do the average home user just fine, but if you’re looking for print one to two thousand copies a quarter, forget about them.

I started looking at the mid ranged models, the Brother 5340D stood out as a contender until I realised that it had a changable print drum, and the replacement cost of the drum is almost more than the cost of the original printer, combine that with the cost of the toner cart and you would actually be better off throwing the old printer in the bin and buying a new one when it came around to replacing the drum at 25k pages, not very environmentally friendly.

Which brings me to the SOHO class printers which tend to range in price from $800 to $1200 and have some awesome features like upgradable memory, network connectivity, web based management, automatic duplexing, more RAM and faster processors than your old pentium II and very high yield toners. All features which don’t initially sound like they’re worth the money but in the end they work out to be just icing on the cake. It may seem obvious but it’s not until you do the sums that you realise that the cost per page actually ends up being significantly cheaper when you pay $1000 for a printer with a 20k page yield toner capacity than a $100 printer with a 1,500 yield.

So I knocked up the following charts to help my own understanding, all things equal, the toner and printer prices below are the cheapest I could find (on for genuine toner carts, the refills/OEM version are usually about 40% cheaper but for an apples to apples comparison I stuck with the genuine versions.

Printing 25,000 pages


The reason the Samsung models don’t have a drum replacement cost is that their toner carts incorporate the drum mechanism so when you replace the cart you also replace the drum, strangely this isn’t really reflected in the cost of the toner carts, so kudos to Samsung for further driving the costs and environmental impact down.

As you can see, if you print below 25,000 pages on the printer over the entire lifetime the cheaper units do end up being more economical by 30-50% which makes the decision for low usage home users pretty easy, in fact if you stopped at 24,999 and didn’t bother replacing the drum in the Brother model the gap is even larger.

However, crank up the usage and you can see that the cheaper printers with user replaceable drums are not such a good idea, see below:

Printing 50,000 pages


50,000 pages is pretty close to the breakeven point for the larger, more expensive network enabled office printers so if you print 50,000 pages over the life of the printer, keep in mind that both the 4050 and 4551 models are rated to a 200,000 per month so their lifetimes should go in to the millions.

Printing 100,000 pages


The more you print beyond the break even point the more sense the higher end printers make on a purely cost per page basis and you’re also benefiting from the added features you get from spending more on the initial printer.

Let’s get a little silly with 1,000,000 pages printed:


…and the owner of the Brother model just spend $10,000 on drum replacements, you could have bought yourself an awesome motorbike and driven yourself to Officeworks to get them to do the hard work for you. Your $300 printer doesn’t seem like such a great idea now huh?

So the end result of all this and the fact that the government is still offering small business an additional 50% tax deduction on depreciating assets worth over $1000 the choice is pretty clear, nice one Samsung.