[buug] printers [Was: Best XP emulator?]

Ian Zimmerman itz at buug.org
Wed Mar 18 21:19:39 PDT 2009

Rick> You know, a person of limited means should favour either a
Rick> well-chosen used middle-of-the road laser printer _or_ a new,
Rick> low-end, but equally well chosen, laser printer.  I'd do that
Rick> _regardless_ of OS.

Rick> I would eschew inkjet printers entirely, with one small exception,
Rick> noted below.  Why?  Because the overwhelming majority of them, and
Rick> possibly all of them without exception for all I know, are sucker
Rick> bets.  They do not save you money.  They merely seem like they
Rick> would, on account of low initial acquisition cost.  The subsequent
Rick> cost of ink cartridges, even if you use offbrand ones, kills your
Rick> budget.

Rick> Here's an example of a reasonably well-chosen laser: Brother model
Rick> HL-2140.  You can find it new for about $80.  It's USB, 23 PPM
Rick> print engine, 2400x600 DPI resolution, B&W, 8MB RAM built-in.
Rick> Perfectly good on any OS.

Fine sentiments, and I mostly agree, but a few things ought to be

First, an anecdote: we have a Brother model similar to this in the
office and gives us much trouble.  Mostly we prefer to wait for the HP
even if it's printing page 1 of someone else's 100 page document :)

For black & white quality and reliability at moderate price nothing
beats a gently used HP laser.  Yet I've just let one go and got an
inkjet, hoping that the "cruddy" adjective won't apply.  It's
multifunction --- one box houses a printer, a scanner and a copier ---
and with my currently limited quarters I can't justify 2 or 3 relatively
bulky boxes when 1 will do the job.  The inkjet is USB where the laser
was still parallel; this wasn't a showstopper with good old lpr because
I could just connect it with a centronix-to-USB adapter cable, but cups
detected the USB attributes of the adapter, not the printer, and refused
to go along.  The computer doesn't even have a parallel port.

I could get another laser like the Brother for much less than a new HP
laser, and of course that would address at least the USB part.  But it
turns out that pretty much _all_ non-HP lasers require
manufacturer-maintained, cruddy drivers (not just PPD files: see the
openprinting entry for the model you recommended), while for HPs (lasers
and inkjets) there's the hplip project which is part of the open
community, even if staffed by HP folks.

And then there are the power considerations.  Lasers are notorious power
hogs, to the point that it's recommended (with good reason, as I found)
not to plug them into the same circuit as your other equipment.  I looked
up the specs for the old HP laser, it said it drew over 200W while printing.
Meanwhile the inkjet spec says average 20W when printing.

Ian Zimmerman <itz at buug.org>
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