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It’s 2020. Why Printers Are Great

Brad Samuel
11/17/2020
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This month, Wired Magazine had an article called It’s 2020. Why Do Printers Still Suck?

The article included the usual complains about printers, like paper jams and overpriced ink. But I think the author gave away the real problem when he says, “Manufacturers tempt you with unbelievably cheap deals on printers and then nail you on expensive ink.”

That line made me think that the problem isn’t printers, it’s the way some printers are bought and sold. The fact is that properly maintained printers (what we call preventative maintenance) aren’t just more reliable, but they are actually nice to have around. And with the right toner delivery, you’re not gouged for ink or toner you might never use.

THE PROBLEM MIGHT BE YOU…

There is some amazing technology in your printer, like printheads, the ink, and the mapping software. You may take your printer for granted, but that box can cover a piece of paper in millions of dots of precisely located, color-matched ink in a few seconds.

If you work from home and only need to print the occasional memo, email or document, then a cheap inkjet printer might be all you need. But cheap printers are not a good solution for anyone trying to print or scan a lot of documents. And if you are in sales or marketing, a cheap printer is not going to give you the high-impact images you need to impress anyone.

For example, consider the case of Batteries Plus Bulbs, one of the fastest growing retailers in the country. Before working with GFC, Batteries Plus Bulbs bought inexpensive printers for printing invoices and shipping documents in its warehouse. However, these machines broke down a lot and needed to be replaced over and over.

We installed more robust Lexmark printers that could be maintained and monitored through GFC’s imageCARE Managed Print Service. Batteries Plus Bulbs is now saving over $25,000 per year on toner, supplies and repair and has seen greatly improved productivity. With Just-in-Time service, GFC tracks usage and new toner is delivered on time and to the right place. “GFC delivered new Lexmark printers, which are durable workhorses,” says Jason Thelen, Infrastructure Architect for Batteries Plus Bulbs. “We’ve had no issues in months, employee satisfaction is better, and we have lower overhead for the whole warehouse environment.”

THE TRUTH ABOUT INK AND TONER

One of the perennial complaints about printers is that buying and supplying ink and toner can be a never-ending struggle. Unfortunately, you should not expect a good experience if you use knockoff ink cartridges. Part of the magic of modern print technology is that ink must have the right physical properties to work with the printheads. Knockoff ink might not have those properties, and, as a result, may not work very well. Also, most inkjet printers designed for home use have the printhead built into the cartridge itself. You might be buying bad ink and an inferior printhead.

However, knockoff toner cartridges are not as problematic. Toner is just an electrostatically charged powder (part polymer, part carbon), and the cartridge itself is just a simple plastic container. Whenever possible, we recommend manufacturer-approved ink or toner, which lasts longer and provides a higher quality print.

The ultimate reason many people think that "printers suck" is because they simply don’t take care of them. If you aren’t careful, your print drivers will be out of date or maybe even disappear whenever you update your computer’s operating system. Unfortunately, the cryptic interface on many printers makes it almost impossible to troubleshoot problems without the help of customer support. If printers are at all important to your business success, professional service and support is essential to keeping the software current. As we’ve discussed before, out-of-date printers can also pose a security risk.

The bottom line is that as with any other technology, you get what you pay for. GFC has been a printer dealership since 1956 and we’ve seen many manufacturers come and go. But we’ve seen that when properly maintained, many of our high-volume, heavy-use printers can last decades with little trouble or interruption. In fact, we’ve retired some machines only because the manufacturer stopped supplying replacement toner or parts.

If you are looking for a quality printer for your home office, we recommend consulting individual printer reviews at Computer Shopper and Consumer Reports (subscription required for the latter). If you’re curious what a fully service and supported Managed Print service might look like Contact GFC for a free assessment.

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