My 2024 Printer Buying Guide

Printers are one of those devices that are incredibly aggravating and expensive.. But we all need one at one time or another. In my latest video I run through the current choices in the market to help you better understand what might meet your needs!

Personally, I’ve found laser printers to be more economical for my infrequent printing needs. They are reliable, even after sitting idle for months, as they don’t suffer from the clogging issues common in inkjet printers. Although color laser printers often carry a steeper cost per page vs. ink jet printers, they are more efficient and usually cost less on a per page basis.

However, for those who print color photos or other documents frequently, inkjet printers, especially the newer tank models, might be more appealing. These tank printers, while more expensive on the hardware side vs. a cartridge printer, offer a lower cost of ownership in the long run, particularly for high-volume printing. The ink for these printers is significantly cheaper, but it’s important to be aware of some hidden maintenance costs, like replacing ink-absorbing sponges or print heads.

I also explored ink and toner subscriptions, where manufacturers like HP, Canon, and Brother offer plans that deliver ink as needed for a monthly fee on a per-page basis. These plans are particularly cost-effective for low-volume printing, as they offer a lower per-page cost compared to buying cartridges individually. However, it’s important to remember that these printers need a constant internet connection, and the cartridges stop working if the subscription is canceled.

I also spoke about my experiences with generic ink and toner replacements. While they can be cost-effective, printer manufacturers often try to prevent their use through authenticity checks. I’ve personally used a generic toner cartridge in my Lexmark printer with success, but it’s a gamble. Consumer Reports suggests caution, as the quality and reliability of generic cartridges can vary greatly. It’s important to carefully research the cartridge manufacturer before buying.

The good news with all of the choices we have today is that it costs a lot less to print now than it did a few years ago. Tanks and subscriptions give users more options to save money and the price of laser printers are now pretty close to what you’d pay for an ink jet model.

HP Smart Tank 5101 Printer Review

My latest printer review takes a look at the HP Smart Tank 5101, HP’s answer to similar tank-based printers from Epson, Canon and Brother. Tank printers promise a a much lower cost of ownership compared to traditional cartridge-based printers.

The printer, which I received from HP, came with a full set of four ink bottles, estimated to last for about 7,000 to 8,000 pages. The cost of replacing all the ink is around $66, significantly less than the the cost for cartridges printing at that volume.

Setting up the HP Smart Tank 5101 was straightforward, especially when using HP’s smartphone app. This app simplifies connecting the printer to Wi-Fi, allowing for easy printing from various devices. Loading the ink was a clean and simple process, involving placing the bottle on the corresponding color tank and letting it drain. The printer also features replaceable print heads, but there’s no clear information on their lifespan or replacement cost.

That is one of the unmentioned components of tank printer ownership : the ink bottles are not the only consumable. Epson printers for example have a sponge that collects excess ink that needs to be replaced by their service provider after a length of time. It’s not clear what other hidden costs might be present with this printer.

The 5101 is fairly compact, with a flatbed scanner but no document feeder, limiting its scanning capabilities to standard paper sizes. It can handle about 100 pages of 20 lb stock in its rear paper tray and doesn’t support automatic duplex printing. The print speed is sufficient for a home printer, coming in at 12 pages per minute in black and white and five pages per minute in color. These speeds are from the lower quality “normal” mode – the “best” setting is a little bit slower but looks much better.

In terms of print quality, the HP Smart Tank 5101 performs well for its price point. Text documents printed in normal quality are clear and legible, while color documents show a noticeable improvement in quality when printed in the best setting. The printer can handle borderless photo printing up to 8.5×11 inches, but the output quality isn’t on par with dedicated photo printers.

Scanning functionality is another aspect I explored. The printer appears as a scanner on network-connected devices, and the HP Smart app allows for scanning documents directly to a phone. However, the app limits the scanning resolution to 300 DPI, while the scanner itself can go up to 1200 DPI. For high-resolution scans, using computer applications is advisable.

Printing from mobile devices is seamless, both from HP’s app and directly from other applications. I tested both an iPhone and Android phone in my review and both detected the printer automatically.

The printer also offers a basic copying function, with decent quality for color copies.

The HP Smart Tank 5101 is a solid choice for home users who print regularly. Its low cost per page, ease of use, and decent print quality make it a practical option for everyday printing tasks. However, for those who print infrequently, a laser printer might be a better choice due to the potential for ink clogs in inkjet printers. Overall, the HP Smart Tank 5101 offers a cost-effective and user-friendly solution for home printing needs.

Disclosure: HP normally sends me printers on loan but due to difficulties in shipping tank printers back they asked that I hang onto it. This printer will be donated to my local school system. This was not a sponsored review nor did anyone review or approve the review before it was uploaded.

Epson ET-2400 Low Cost EcoTank Printer Review

My latest video is a review of the Epson Ecotank ET-2400 all-in-one printer/scanner/copier. You can find it here at Best Buy on sale right now for only $179 (affiliate link).

Tank printers are often best for people who do a high volume of color printing and want to reduce their cost-per-page versus traditional cartridges. Epson says this printer can deliver 4,500 black and white pages on a single bottle of ink, or 7,500 color pages. The full set of bottles cost around $60 to replace and the printer has a set of windows in the front to indicate how much ink is left in tank.

In the past a tank printer like this would usually cost a lot more – generally in the hundreds of dollars. The reason is that Epson had to build profit into the price of the unit vs. subsidizing the entry cost in anticipation of ink cartridge purchases over the lifespan of the product.

But like other tank printers I’ve looked at in the past you don’t get much for features here. It can’t do automatic duplexing, it has minimal paper capacity (only 100 sheets), it lacks an auto document feeder, and the print engine is pretty bare bones and loud. It prints about 10 pagers per minute in standard quality but only does 5-7 per minute or so in the higher quality mode.

It’s not marketed as a photo printer but it can print photos with an acceptable level of quality. It will do 4×6 borderless prints but nothing larger than that.

All in at its current price point I think it’s a good deal especially as the cost per print is very low. But if you print at a low volume I think a laser printer is still the best option.

One thing I need to look into after hearing from viewers is the waste ink sponge consumable on the printer that apparently cannot be replaced by the user. Epson has a support page about this issue and it seems as though the user has to send the entire printer in for this service which to me looks a bit like overkill.