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 www.staticice.com.au) 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

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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

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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

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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:

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…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.

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#Apple vs #Dell

So I picked up the iMac (a mentioned here) and took it home, plugged it in, started configuring it. Horror of horrors I notice a dead pixel on the screen (at 11pm) and do some googling about the dead pixel policy, unable to find anything conclusive I have a fit-full night worrying about if we’re going to have to live with a dead pixel on this $3000 iMac.

I go to call in the morning but at 8:50 Applecare isn’t open yet, so I kill time by calling Dell to check on the progress of the refund for the dead Laptop they sold me. 1 hour and 15 minutes later (I shit you not) they finally tell me that the refund has been approved by tech support but it will be another TWO TO THREE WEEKS before I will hear from Customer Care about the next step. Just shoot me.

So I call Apple and immediately get on to an Applecare guy who apologises profusely and  informs me that the iMac is essentially D.O.A. and had I purchased from the Applestore they would send me out a replacement, since I didn’t I should talk to the retailer. That took 5 minutes. Another 5 minutes later, after talking to a very helpful guy at Myer Canberra Centre and the replacement has been organised, all I need to do it take in the dead one and sign some form.

Today I picked up a shiny new iMac after 10 minutes on the phone and some time in-store.

In stark contrast to 14 (yes FOURTEEN) hours on the phone to Dell, and a total of more than 6 weeks elapsed time by the time the issue is resolved (if ever!).

Apple sent me a customer satisfaction survey this morning and I couldn’t find options with enough accolades for their service and support

The contrast in experiences is Apple and Oranges (pun intended, more like “Apples” and “Steaming Piles of Dog Shit”) and I now understand how people can be so fanatical about Apple computers, consider me one of them from now on.

EDIT: Steve sent me this link this morning, further illustrating the real measurable difference between Dell and Apple customer support:

http://www.laptopmag.com/mobile-life/tech-support-showdown-2009.aspx?page=1

#Dell Update, they still suck, still.

Since the last update another Unisys engineer has been on-site and replaced the motherboard (again) and the entire LCD and the issue as described here still exists.

Another long story short but 3+ hours on the phone and (I have it well documented this time) speaking to ten separate people from Dell and I think we finally have a solution which should be a full refund within the next day or so (still waiting, after 3 days to actually get confirmation of this).

In addition to this, Dell Customer Care (that’s the oxymoron of the century) sent me one final email explaining that there was no way in hell I would be getting a refund based on receiving the wrong laptop, like so:

Thank you for contacting Dell Customer Service.

Apologised for the late response

We have checked again from the online order and 17” Widescreen WUXGA CCFL(1920×1200) TFT Display with TrueLife(TM) w/o WebCam has been selected

We do have models that comes with and without webcam as an option.

Therefore, if you still want to return, $174 will be incurred.

As for technical issue side, I believe you have already spoken to technical support and have already provided you with a solution.

To which, full of (controlled?) venom  I replied:

Thanks for your late reply. If you actually read the case you would know that tech support have tried and failed to rectify the technical issues with this laptop and after a total of 14 hours on the phone, two new motherboards and one new LCD screen the problem is still there and I am in the process of having them approve a full refund.

Had you just approved my original request to return the laptop and waive the fee you would have saved Dell the cost of two new motherboards, one LCD screen, the time and materials of two local Unisys engineers and 14 hours of phone support, not to mention the time it would have save me.

The end result of all this is a lot of bad feelings from me towards Dell which will no doubt end up costing you way more than $1241 because I personally will never buy another Dell and I will never recommend Dell again and I will take every opportunity I can from now on to warn anyone I come in contact with to never touch anything from Dell ever again.

In fact, as my first step towards this goal I purchased an iMac on the weekend and I am confident that I will be able to recommend Apple to all my friends, family and work colleagues from now on.

So, thanks for nothing, really.

On all accounts I should really be genuinely thanking Dell for driving me towards Apple, I’m picking up the iMac today so we’ll see.