Wednesday, 14 March 2012

How-to: Choose a Home Inkjet Printer Part Two

HP DeskJet 3050A In Part One, I looked at replacing my bargain-bin inkjet printer from seven years ago with a new multi-function device. Given that specs for home inkjet printers have changed a lot in the last few years, I determined to see what I could get as a multi-function, all-in-one printer-scanner-copier with wireless connection for under £40 ($63).
At this price-point, I cut out a lot of the usual product research; a simple pit-stop at the Computer Shopper site (expertreviews.co.uk) revealed the HP DeskJet 3050A is still their best budget buy from mid-2011. It ticked all the features on my list, the right spec, reliable HP-branded kit, the right price bracket and importantly, the replacement cartridges are not too expensive. Beware of replacement ink costs; this is where they get you. The total cost of ownership has to be calculated on printer cost plus the ink over the lifetime number of pages. Inkjet ink is still more expensive by weight than Chanel No.5.

There's a lot of subsidisation going on by the manufacturers sometimes selling the printer at or below cost in the hope that you'll buy losts of their expensive consumables. Sometimes, the extra is worth paying on the kit for the cheaper ink over the lifetime. However, the cartidge market is being rationalised around fewer types, shapes and sizes, so prices seem to be rationalising - upward.

Also check that there are non-OEM, compatible cartridges available; you don't want to get locked in to a single supplier over the three or more years running the printer. OEM cartridges can actually get more expensive over the lifetime of the printer, not cheaper. Competition from the compatible cartridge manufacturers are the only thing that keeps the OEM boys honest. I'm finding some good offers on compatible cartridges from the on-line outfits.  

Shop-aholic
I set myself another challenge. Unwilling to wait for mail order on the HP3050A (best price 33.99 plus delivery), I took a tour around the local shopping district to see what's around. Be aware that even at the low end, prices vary wildly. One stationers store didn't put a price on the box but stocked it at £69. The large super market on the end of the mall had it at £67, which was surprising given the store's orange logo stood for years for lower prices. Not any more. The other supermarket at the far end only carried an Epson MFP that I simply didn't like the look of; the same one was in several retail stores. Plus the cartridge price was high and the capacity low. Is this why British retail is going down the tubes, unable to compete on price?

Thinking I'd go home via the local PC store (not a favourite) I stopped at the last large supermarket en route, straight up to their mezanine level containing home entertainment and phones; there were three 3050A's under a half-price sticker at £34.97. I picked up a multi-pack of colour and black cartridges for £26.47 at the same time. Total £61.44.

The printer is a company expense and the spare cartridges will be booked to a client account, so it's a cheap start-up, otherwise I'd consider some other models for the ink cost. Ink costs vary wildly, too. Get a multi-pack in the right place, it's significantly cheaper than singles. Look for offers and don't be shy of compatible, rather than branded cartridges.

I'll follow-up with a review of the printer soon. RC