Buyers Guide – What’s the Least Expensive Inkjet Printer? by Bob Stephens
In our business, customers are constantly asking for printer
recommendations for machines that use inexpensive printer
So we have decided to put together another in depth study, on
which new inkjet printer provides the best bang for your buck,
based on your printing habits.
This year’s printer review produced a short list of economical
printers in comparison to our last evaluation. If the existing
trend continues (and it likely will), the options for low cost
printers which use inexpensive supplies and have problem free
performance may be limited. As we’ve observed the trend we’re
seeing is that in general, the newer the printer, the smaller
the cartridge and the more expensive the ink per milliliter.
(This information is current as of January 2011)
Most new printers create superior images typically described in
DPI (dots per inch) from 6000 x 1200 to 4800 x 1200. This means
that resolution is not a good point of analysis between brands
and models since they all produce high quality images (for
This is not a review on photo printers per se, if you are
looking for a printer that will be utilized for printing full
size pictures exclusively, this is not an article that will help
Here’s how we reached our conclusions on finding the least
expensive inkjet printer model to own?
First, we selected printers best suited for printing text/color
with an occasional photo thrown into the mix. Printers can be
multifunction or standard, but we were predominantly concerned
with the printer and supply costs.
Next, we eliminated printer models, that cost over $200 or any
printer models that have well known problems. For this reason
most of the Dell and Epson NX series printers were not considered.
A printer must be available as “new” from Amazon.com and have
at least 10 user ratings to qualify for review consideration.
Once that list was created, the printers were evaluated in the
1. Cost for cartridges- The cost for both black and color
cartridges on cost per ml (cost based on ASAP inkjets retail
2. Cost of printer- The average retail price you would expect
3. Ratings from users- Star rating 0 – 5 stars from Amazon.com
(5 being the best rating)
4. Cartridge reliability- Our own assessment of the most
reliable aftermarket cartridges available
LEAST EXPENSIVE PRINTER CARTRIDGES
This is the cost of the ink only. This does not consider
printer rating, printer cost or other costs of operation (such
as replacement printheads). If you are a very high volume user
of ink, this is an important section for you.
“Page yield” information cannot be relied on because you will
most likely not get the same page yield from an inkjet cartridge
as the manufacturer claims. Manufacturer listed page yield
information does not account for variances in coverage area,
font type, font size, spacing, printing frequency, or
environmental conditions etc. Page yields between different
manufacturers also cannot be compared fairly, because they do
not use the same benchmarks. In other words, page yield cannot
be replicated or verified on inkjet printers.
This is why we choose to focus on the cost per ml (milliliter)
of ink in each cartridge to determine value (cost per volume of
ink contained in the cartridge). Milliliter volume is absolute,
equal, and verifiable.
Judging only on cost for ink, the lowest price BLACK text
printing with an aftermarket cartridge is the HP 940XL series
black high capacity cartridge. This cartridge was rated first
with a super low cost per ml of.22 cents! The HP 920XL series
black was second with.42 cent per ml cost. The Brother LC-61
black compatible was third at.46 cents per ml.
Most EXPENSIVE after market cartridge, black ink – Canon PG-
210XL $1.33 per ml
For color printing, these cartridges ranked at the top. The
Kodak 1810829 (Kodak 10 color) came in first with.20 cents per
ml, which is simply amazing, for color! The Brother LC-61
series cyan, magenta and yellow was in second place with.39
cents per ml. The 3rd place goes to the Canon CLI-221 series
cartridges at 1.00 per ml.
Most EXPENSIVE after market cartridge, color ink – Canon CL-
211XL $1.69 per ml
COST OF PRINTER
Printers had to have an average retail price of $200 or less.
Because printer life has decreased to roughly 4 years or so, we
felt an investment of more than this could mean a poor ROI
(unless you are printing very large volumes, then you can make a
case for spending more).
The least expensive printer that made the list was the Canon
PIXMA iP2702 for $40.00 (but it also uses the most expensive
RATINGS FROM OWNERS
We wanted to present unbiased quality information on what
people thought of each of the printer model reviewed. To do
this, we gleaned the star ratings listed from printer owners on
Amazon.com to determine their level of satisfaction.
Although many printer manufacturers had machines with 3.5 to
4.5 star ratings, some brands ranked better than others, as to
As a whole, it was evident that Canon printer owners were
happier than any other group, with the purchase of their
machines. Although the average price for a new Canon printer
was more than HP, Brother or Kodak, some people swear by them
and are willing to plunk down the extra money.
The Canon printers are among the most reliable and durable
printers on the market and their quality puts them at #1 for
ratings alone. The printer supplies costs vary dramatically
from model to model, so be aware of this before buying.
Out of the 72 printers surveyed, 7 of the top 10 printers were
Canon printers receiving a 4.5 out of 5 star rating.
The most reviewed and highest rated printer was the Canon Pixma
MP 560 receiving 532 reviews. This printer, uses the PGI-220
and CLI-221 cartridges, which are rated right around the middle
in terms of cartridge cost.
In second place was Brother showing strong customer support for
most of their printer models currently available. Brother has
been around for years but have never had a huge presence in
In terms of reliability, it was close. After much
contemplation and debate we have concluded that the Brother LC-
61 series cartridge has edged out the competition in
performance. While the Kodak 10 series and Canon PGI-220-CLI-
221 series both have excellent records of problem free use and
good to excellent economy, the Brother LC-61 beat all three in
one category; simplicity.
The LC-61 ink cartridges do not use a microchip to communicate
with the printer like the Kodak or Canon cartridges. With no
electronics and a simple sponge reservoir, there is very little
that can go wrong with this ink cartridge. It is no more than a
plastic box of ink; simple, economical and reliable.
BEST INKJET PRINTER FINAL SUMMARY
Considering all of the information: cost of supplies, (cost of
printer, ratings for printer owners and ratings of the
cartridges) these printers do well in some categories but maybe
not in all.
Best high volume inkjet printer:
* HP OfficeJet Pro 8000 4 stars (about $100)
* HP OfficeJet Pro 6000 3.5 stars (about $70)
The HP 920XL and HP 940XL series cartridges are cheap, big and
mostly reliable. The problem is that this type of printer tends
to go through printheads which can be about $100 per set. If
you print 1000 pages or more per month, this is a great printer
for you since the cost will be offset by the low cost per ml in
Best low volume inkjet printer:
* Canon PIXMA iP2702 4.5 Stars (about $40.00)
This was a tough question to answer since this printer uses the
most expensive cartridges. However, if you need a printer that
will not be used very often, such as for a vacation home, a
backup, or for grandma’s house (if she does not print much),
this is a low cost unit that is rated well. Again, this would
be a good choice for very low volumes of printing.
Best overall printer to own
* Brother MFC-295CN multi function 3.5 stars (about $75)
* Brother MFC-J265 w multi function 3.5 stars (about $75)
Although the Brother printers do not tend to print envelopes or
heavy photo paper very well due to the bottom feeding paper
tray, the value for the dollar cannot be beat considering all
factors, for the average user over a period of 4 years.
These machines use the same printhead technology and deliver
inexpensive, quality printing in both black and color. They use
the LC-61 series cartridges and have an excellent track record
using the higher capacity compatible cartridges from ASAP
Best overall printer Runners up
In runner up for great all around printing would be one of the
following Canon printers that use the PGI-220 and CLI-221
* Canon PIXMA MP620 4 stars (about $100)
* Canon PIXMA MP990 4 stars (about $100)
* Canon PIXMA MP560 4.5 stars (about $100)
These Canon machines are very well built and other than a
little higher average cost for the printer and supplies, are
We don’t sell printers at ASAP inkjets but we do try to help
people make good decisions when looking to buy one.
If you are in need of a new printer now, or have been on the
fence about getting a new one, you may want to act sooner since
printer models do not stay around for long.
About the Author
ASAP Inkjets sells inkjet cartridges and laser toner at up to 80%
below retail store prices. You buy printer ink anyway, why not
get it from a company who saves you money & takes care of
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