This Old Laserjet

I’ve gone quite a long time without a proper printer at home, and it’s been a minor inconvenience but I’ve managed pretty well. I could always copy traffic directions or Googled up food recipes over to my PDA, and the 25 or so yearly hard copy pages (most of which were needed around April 15, oddly enough), could always be farmed out. If printing out those pages weren’t feasible at work, well, the library does ‘em for fifteen cents a page and the office supply store will do color copies at a buck each. In an emergency, a Kinkos nearby will rent you a PC by the minute, 24/7, although b/w pages were a steep 50 cents each.

Still, it’s nice to have a printer, and I’d have bit the bullet long ago for an inexpensive ink jet, but I’ve been extremely unhappy about the standard mischief the printer manufacture play nowadays, such as:

The whole razor and blades business model

Including ink cartridges that were only partly full

The use-it-or-lose-it limitations on the ink technology itself, (let the cartridges sit idle too long and it self-destructs as the ink dries and clogs the nozzles.)

DMCA lawsuits to prevent refilling the cartridges or offering generic cartridges that would fit and work in the name brand printer.

Chips embedded in the cartridges, used to “expire” a cartridge after a date, even if there is plenty of ink still remaining.

Inkjets that won’t print, unless there’s a color cartridge in place, even if you’re only printing using black ink

So anyway, enough bellyaching, here’s what I bought myself:

HP laserjet 5m for $40

It’s a $40 used HP laserjet 5m. It came with an ethernet port, a partly used toner cartridge, and a letter size paper tray. I brought some blank paper to the used computer place and powered up the printer using a standard PC cord. I then used the menu keys to execute a self-test, and found that the pickup rollers for the paper tray worked fine and the printer printed OK.

Taking it home, I found that all the manuals were available still from HP on their website, which was good, because it didn’t automatically grab a IP address via DHCP. It uses an older system known as BOOTP, which is suppose to be backwards compatible, but didn’t seem to work. I assigned it a static address of 10.10.10.10.

Cost breakdown: Printer itself $40. Average quality 20# paper is about $3 for 500 sheets, with the really cheap stuff being about a buck less. Setting the printer to idle down after 15 minutes, I found via my Kill-A-Watt that the printer used about 19 watts when sleeping. Total usage for 241 hours (~10 days) of straight use was 5.10 KWH, which works out to about a half of a kilowatt-hour a day (~ 7 cents) if I just keep it on all the time. However, since it’s right near my desk, and it’s attached through the network, I just power up and down the printer from the switch as needed.

HP brand name EX cartridges run about $105 and claim to last 8800 sheets. A realistic guess would be 7000 impressions which works out to about a penny and a half a each. The paper I’m using is about a half a cent a sheet.

The best part is that the Canon EX cartridge used in this printer seems to be designed to be refilled up to 3 times by [PDF, page 34] merely removing a cap and pouring in new toner. While there’s a thousand people selling toner, it just makes sense to find a reputable supplier, rather than to ruin a EX cartridge on el-cheapo toner.

I know on the older SX type cartridges, refillers use to drill a hole, and then dump the new toner in. If the refillers were not careful, the plastic chips leftover from the drilled hole would ruin the cartridge. You are suppose to vacuum out all the old toner (and any stray plastic chips) with a special vac before dumping in a new batch of toner. HP was likely a different company ten years ago when one of these babies cost over a kilobuck each new. Instead of putting in computer chips solely designed to shorten the life of the cartridge or pensioning Congress to pass laws protecting their business model they seem to improve the design of the printer itself.

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