N.B.: I had so much fun writing this post. Graphs! Functions! Intersections! Analysis! Reporting my findings in a quasi-scientific manner without fear of a grade!

As many of you know, I work in printing and am surrounded by printers and printer-related problems for about 40h a week! Does this make me an expert on printers? No. However, I have noticed that a lot of students have printers (why!?) and, almost always, these printers are inkjet.

So, I decided to get my thoughts together and write a post so that I can direct people here instead of exasperatingly saying things like “Do you know how much inkjet printers cost?!”

Yes, I get it, you can buy an inkjet printer for $10 at Wal-Mart. The point is, you will to buy another one in 2 months because the ink cartridges are $40 because as this Consumerist article “reports”, inkjet printers require all three colours and a black & white cartridge before it even considers printing. Also, and this may just be my experience, I just don’t print often enough to use the ink up before it dries. When I was in Cegep, I had a little desktop printer and half the times I went to print it would go “teeheehee, I’m out of pink ink!” and I would rage and go buy, yet another, magenta cartidge.

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THE PRINTERS

I began my analysis by finding two printers at Staples that had similar specifications and are available in store. In other words, these are printers that you can go and buy right now! They’re both all-in-ones and are both wireless. The only difference is that the laser printer cannot print colour because colour lasers are, for the most part, not available in retail stores (but I have one at work! Ha! :D)This 20lb printer is the Brother MFC-J625DW. It can print a beautiful 35 pages per minute. It is available for the low, low (albeit random) price of $129.81. Ink costs $14.39 for the black and $10.79 for each of the cyan, magenta and yellow and can print 300 sheets.

This 26lb printer is the Brother MFC-7460DN. It can print a beautiful 35 pages per minute. It is available for the relatively higher price of $269.99. Wondering why I said “relatively” higher price? There are three options of ink cartridges for this printer:

1- A cartridge that prints 1 200 sheets for $46.72
2- A cartridge that prints 2 600 sheets for $65.33 (obviously a better deal than 1 and therefore the one I will use in my analysis)
3- A cartridge that prints 12 000 sheets for $107.99 (not sold at retail locations and therefore excluded from my analysis)

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THE ANALYSIS (GRAPHS)

The first step in my analysis was to create equations for fixed and variable costs of each of the printers. The inkjet printer has a fixed cost of $129.81 (the cost of the printer) and variable costs of $46.76/300 sheets (the four ink cartridges). This creates the equation y=0.155867x + 129.81 where x is the cost per page.

The laser printer has a fixed cost of $269.99 (the cost of the printer) and variable costs of $65.33/2 600 sheets (the ink cartridge). This creates an equation of y=0.025127x + 269.99

Already, just by looking at the equations (who says that algebra isn’t useful?), we can already tell that the cost per page to print on a laser printer is significantly cheaper than on an inkjet ($0.03/page vs ($0.16/page). However, let’s extend our analysis to see at what point will the laser printer “pay for” its higher initial cost.

It’s a bit squishy and hard to read but (take my word for it…), the point at which the laser printer becomes cheaper than an inkjet printer overall is after 1073 pages. In other words, after you would have purchased three sets of ink cartridges for you inkjet printer, your laser printer’s original cartridge will still be printing and you’ll be saving money.

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THE VERDICT

Laser printers FTW!

Limitations of this analysis are, of course, the fact that this laser printer cannot print in colour. If you do a lot of colour printing, it might be worthwhile to buy both and use the colour inkjet printer specifically for printing colour and the laser printer for printing text. Also, I assumed that all four inkjet cartridges would need to be replaced at the same time (which, any inkjet printer own knows, is not the case. At all).

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