In the past MFC Bubble Jet printers have been popular in home offices and small businesses. While colour laser printers have always been more economical per page printed, the high purchase and re-stock (toner) prices have limited them to big business.
There are now a range of Colour Laser MFC’s starting at $300 that make laser printing feasible for the home office or small business.
The entry level MFC Colour Laser Printers generally offer:
- A4 colour laser printing
- Copy / Scan and Fax functions
- Wired and Wireless networking
- E and air-print so you can print straight from your i-phone or mobile tablet (handy for printing photos or web pages).
With cheaper per page costs the kids can print great looking colour assignments, plain paper photos and posters. A small business could also save by printing their own marketing material or letterhead with a much more professional look than a bubble jet printer can offer.
Comparing Bubble Jets and Laser Printers
Bubble Jet printers are notorious ink hogs – being a liquid ink the heads are inclined to clog up if they aren’t used regularly and most printers carry out regular ‘head cleaning’ to avoid this, which also chews through your ink.
Each new bubble jet printer model tends to use a different cartridge type, and the price for older model cartridges increases steadily to encourage users to buy a new printer. After a few years it becomes cheaper to buy a new printer than to re-stock your old one. Non-genuine ink cartridges are cheaper to buy, but we’ve seen them clog so many of our clients’ printers that we’d never use them again in our own office. Buying a new bubble jet printer isn’t too painful, but buying one a few weeks after you have just spent money on all new (now useless) ink cartridges is a sharp lesson.
Laser toner is a dry powder ink, so it doesn’t dry or clog up when used infrequently. Toner cartridges are much simpler than bubble jet cartridges, and we haven’t seen any problems using non-genuine toners. Manufacturers also tend to use the same cartridge type for each new model, making toner prices more stable.
With a laser printer being a bigger investment you are more likely to replace the parts than the whole unit. For example with the Brother9330CDW the drum is rated to last around 15,000 pages, so for a typical home office printing 10 pages per day (3,650 pages per year) you’d expect to have to replace the drums after about 4 years at a cost of $180 or you’ll start losing print quality. Replacement belts are said to last 50,000 pages (closer to 13 years) and cost around $150.
I compared the print costs per page between the Brother Laser and a Canon PIXMA MX726 – a bubble jet multifunction with similar features.
|Pages||Re-Stock Cost||Cost / page||Printing 10 pages per day you’d re-stock after|
|Brother MFC 9330CDWBuy Price $387||2,200||$173.00||$0.08||220 days(just over 7 months)|
|Canon PIXMA MX726Buy Price $140||700||$98.42||$0.14||70 days(just over 2 months)|
|Pages||Re-Stock Cost||Cost / page||Printing 10 pages per day|
|Brother MFC 9330CDW||2,200||$173.00||$0.08||Re-stock after 220 days(just over 7 months)Cost at 1 year = purchase price + 10 pages per day @ 8c per page x 365 = $674|
|Buy Price $387|
|Canon PIXMA MX726||700||$98.42||$0.14||Re-Stock after 70 days(just over 2 months)Cost at 1 year = purchase price + 10 pages per day @ 14c per page x 365 = $653|
|Buy Price $140|
To compare I used non-genuine toner but genuine ink cartridges – in our experience that’s the best restock options for the two printers. Prices are for colour pages – black is cheaper for both printers. Canon have estimated their per page costs at around 13.5 cents, but I’ve taken their high yield colour cartridge specs against the price I can re-stock the printer at. Canon also make their estimates using a fresh ink cartridge and printing continuously until it runs out, so if you add in periodic head cleans the ink costs would actually go up. The PIXMA is also a recent model, so cartridge prices are likely to increase sharply once the next version of the printer is released.
One area where bubble jets do outstrip lasers is in photo printing. With a good quality paper you can get excellent photos from a bubble jet, but lasers struggle with photo quality. The Brother laser we have actually rated poorly for photo printing compared to some of the other brands on the market, but I have used it to print photos on plain paper. The results are well and truly good enough to go up on the wall at school, and I felt they were comparable to the photos printed on plain paper using our old bubble jet, but they were definitely not good enough to frame. You could improve the lasers performance by playing with the print settings, using glossy laser photo paper, or choosing a model that specialises in photo quality – but if you want high quality photos then bubble jets do win out. We tend to use an online photo lab for any pictures we want to frame, and we also have a dedicated photo printer, so for us the laser gives us cheap every day printing, reasonable plain paper photo printouts and we just use an alternative for the odd high quality photo.
Bubble Jets do tend to be smaller than laser printers, especially if you get a model with a pass-through scanner like the Canon PIXMA. Models with flat bed scanners take up more space, but give you the flexibility to scan photos, books and artwork. The most flexible option is the flat bed scanner with document feeder which allows you to scan photos on the flat surface but still feed multiple page documents through automatically. The laser MFC’s tend to be a little larger than a bubble jet with a flat bed scanner.
Things to Consider when Shopping
If you are considering a colour laser for Christmas here are a few things to think about when comparing brands and models:
- Look at the re-stock prices for both genuine and non-genuine toners
- Check the number of pages each cartridge prints – for example when comparing the HPLaserJet MFCM177FW (costing $300) to the Brother9330CDW ($387) the cost to re-stock all cartridges in the HP was $144 – but they only print 1,000 pages. The Brother cost $173 to re-stock all cartridges but the colour units print 2,200 pages.
- Think about which other features are important to you – would you prefer to have high resolution flat bed scanning, do you want a document feeder, do you need Duplex (double sided) printing, A3 print capability, fax capability.
The Brother we purchased was on sale at the time we were buying, which influenced our decision but we’ve been very happy with it’s performance. I find it intuitive to use and (unlike our old bubble-jet MFC) fast to respond when I want to use it.
For Toner and Ink Hot Toner are our regular suppliers – we’ve used them for years and have been very happy with the service, quality and aftercare from their Regents Park office. You can order online, supplies can be picked up or will be delivered free, usually the next day (orders over $50). They have branches around Sydney and Australia. http://www.hottoner.com.au/
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