In general, I’m not a fan of having an inkjet printer here at home. We don’t do a lot of printing, and the cartridges tend to dry out with disuse.
I used to have this problem a lot with an HP and a few Epson inkjet printers. With the HP, it was merely wasteful of the ink (and its cost), but with the Epsons, it would ruin the entire printer: while the HP design put the print heads on each cartridge so you got new heads whenever you changed them, the Epsons always had permanent print heads, and they would eventually reach a permanently clogged state in which no amount of ink-wasting “cleaning” cycles could unclog them.
In 2006, I read a tip somewhere (in that era, probably here) that Epson printers and their ink cartridges would actually last much longer than anyone else’s inkjets with a simple habit change: turn them off when not in use, rather than leaving them on and ready for print jobs all the time. Want to print something? Turn the printer on, print it, then immediately turn it off. Apparently, Epsons kept their heads primed and ready to go when powered on, and if you didn’t print very often, this would eventually “bake” the ink into the perma-clogs in the head.
We print almost everything here on a cheap color laser1 now, but we still need to make the occasional last-minute photo birthday card. The laser’s fine for documents and boarding passes, but for home photo printing, nothing beats a good inkjet, in good condition, on good paper. And in the world of inkjet photo quality, nothing beats an Epson, as long as its heads aren’t baked.2
So I bought a Stylus Photo R260 back in December 2006 for just $72 after reading that Epson power-off tip, and I still have it. It gets called into service three or four times a year to print a full-page photo or two, and it still works great. Amazon tells me I only bought two sets of refill cartridges — one in 2008 and one in 2010 — and most colors from the 2010 set are still in my closet, unopened.
It’s by far the longest-running printer I’ve ever owned, although it has also had the lightest workload. I don’t know how much longer it will last, but if I still occasionally need to print a photo when it finally breaks, I’ll buy another Epson inkjet. I hope they’re still designed this way.
The HP CP1525nw: it’s a decent color laser with AirPrint, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet that was only about $230 new. A color laser. I remember when those were thousands of dollars and as big as a dishwasher. (Fair warning, though: I told Gruber to buy this printer and it gave him trouble, so I don’t know if his was a lemon or if mine is unusually unmemorable.)
I also respect Epson because, in the early 2000s, they resisted the trend of shipping printers without cables so the retailers could sell gold-plated ripoffs for $30. HP, Canon, Brother, and Lexmark (remember Lexmark?) all started to ship without cables, but Epson still gave you one.
As a Staples employee at the time, I was given a training pamphlet that prepared me for customers who asked, “Why isn’t there a cable in the box?”
The pamphlet instructed me to use “Response Mode ‘UNDERSTAND’”, and to reply, “I know it can seem strange not to have a cable but manufacturers determine whether or not to include a cable and not Staples.” Commas were apparently left to use at my discretion.
(Of course I scanned it and kept it all these years.) ↩︎