Laser printers: Fast, quiet and cheap
By PETER SVENSSON
NEW YORK -- Cheap color inkjets have grabbed most of the consumer market for printers, but that doesn't mean they are always the best choice, especially for heavy users.
Sure, inkjets are cheap, but that's because manufacturers subsidize the cost of printers and make their money back on ink cartridges.
Meanwhile, the cheapest of those trusty office standbys, laser printers, have come down in price to around $200, low enough to give a lot of inkjets a run for the money, at least if you can live with black-and-white output.
I looked at Samsung's new ML1430 and Hewlett-Packard's LaserJet 1000, which came out late last year, and found they match what we expect from more expensive office printers: They are fast, quiet and cheap, and they have crisp text output.
Parents looking to upgrade the home printer or get one for the kid's dorm room could do worse than either of these machines, but be prepared for a hard sell: Color, after all, is more fun.
The $199 Samsung, in particular, is a sturdy, well-designed machine that takes up only about a square foot of desk space.
HP's LaserJet is considerably larger and has a protruding paper magazine with plastic details that look destined to break at the slightest provocation. Also, it has no power switch -- it's turned off by unplugging the cord. Luckily, it's very quiet when not in use.
The LaserJet will connect only through a USB port, present in computers sold in the last three years, and only to computers running Windows 98, 2000 or XP.
The Samsung, on the other hand, can use either USB or older parallel printing ports. It also works with older flavors of Windows, as well as Macintosh and Linux computers.
The LaserJet is more expensive at $250, but that's a bit misleading, because it includes a printing cable, while the Samsung does not. It also comes with a full 2,500-page toner cartridge, while the Samsung comes with a 1,000-page cartridge in the box.
Replacement cartridges for both printers are rated at 2,500 pages and cost about $70 (but prices range as low as $54), meaning a page costs about 2.8 cents to print.
In other words, these low-cost printers don't have the same mileage as office lasers, some of which have 10,000-page cartridges, but inkjets cartridges usually only last for 450 to 600 pages of text and cost more than 4 cents a page to use.
Both laser printers can be set to conserve toner, but only the Samsung is worth using that way. It saves by making letters somewhat thinner, while the LaserJet simply cuts down on toner overall, making printouts look very faded. Samsung's Toner Save stretches a full cartridge to 3,500 pages, or 2 cents a page.
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