Why inkjet printers are the worst junk

Somehow, over the past few decades, it has become so firmly established in people's minds and on the market that supposedly cheap inkjet printers are used in private households and laser printers that are supposedly expensive in companies. But several points lead me to the conclusion that inkjet printers have no place in private households (or anywhere else).

From the cost model to the functionalities to user-unfriendly design and planned obsolescence, there is a lot there. In the following I will go into the various points and also give you some of my own experiences along the way. Please leave your experiences as a comment.

Inkjet printers are the worst junk: intentionally faulty technology, planned obsolescence and expensive ink cartridges. It is better to buy an LED or laser printer that is made for long-term use with sometimes more, sometimes fewer pages.
Inkjet printers are the worst junk: intentionally faulty technology, planned obsolescence and expensive ink cartridges. It is better to buy an LED or laser printer that is made for long-term use with sometimes more, sometimes fewer pages.

Overview: What are the disadvantages of an inkjet printer?

  • High cost of ink and ink cartridges, especially for proprietary offerings
  • Printing of certain colors is often prohibited when other colors are exhausted
  • If used rarely, the ink dries out and the nozzles clog, which entails time-consuming cleaning
  • It is not uncommon for there to be planned obsolescence, i.e. a desired operational breakdown after a certain time, number of pages printed or amount of ink used
  • Since the target group consists of inexperienced private individuals, there is a lot of botch on the market

My experiences with inkjet and laser printers

As a child of the 1990s and teenager of the 2000s, I grew up with various computers and their technical developments. A discarded company computer with Windows 3.11 was my first experimental tool. This was followed by a computer with Windows 95 and later Windows 98 and, as the last tower model with a fixed place in the living room, a device with Windows XP. Various inkjet printers were used on this.

The most common reason for a new purchase was dried up nozzles or empty color cartridges, which even prevented the printing of black and white documents. Unfortunately, a lot of electronic waste was produced in our household, which could never be balanced with actually printed pages.

Then, when I needed a reliable printer for high school, I put some savings into a clunky laser printer. That was in 2009. The printer came with a toner cartridge, so you could print right away. I only had to buy the second cartridge after a few years and after several hundred pages had been printed.

I was already out and about with the Windows 7 laptop that I used later in 2013 to start my own business. The laser printer, currently only with its third or fourth toner cartridge, accompanies me even now while I use my second MacBook Pro. He has now been in action for 13 years and has already taken part in several relocations.

Inkjet cost trap: The money is made with the printer cartridges

When purchasing a printer with inkjet technology, you may be happy about the low price. But this joy often doesn't last long. After the first large printing projects, the low levels of cyan, magenta or yellow in the corresponding printer cartridges are quickly forgotten.

The surprise comes with the next large print job – nothing works anymore; only when a fresh cartridge is inserted. And that really costs money. This is where the razor blade principle comes into play: razors themselves are cheap, but the blades are expensive. In this way, shaver and inkjet printer manufacturers secure constant income through the necessary accessories. 

The devil is in the design: drying out and clogging are not uncommon

Due to increased digital communication and the advent of smartphones, printed matter is no longer as widespread within the family or among friends as it was ten or twenty years ago. Nevertheless, a printer is still part of the basic equipment of the computer for many, even in private households.

However, since a form, an invitation, a CV, a cat escape sign (which then runs off thanks to the rain) or similar does not have to be printed out daily or at least weekly, the ink dries up and the nozzles clog. The consequences: time-consuming cleaning, buying new cartridges or replacing the entire printer technology.

Planned obsolescence: intentional refusal to work in ink printers

It was in the media, there are various YouTube videos about it, and yet not many people seem to be interested. And that's why it should probably be pointed out again: Some manufacturers have demonstrably set up a kind of countdown in the printer software so that the device gives up the ghost after a certain period of use or after a certain number of printed pages. This is supported by corresponding error or warning messages on the computer. The whole thing is explained in detail and garnished with further points of criticism in these two videos:

Conclusion: Better buy a decent laser printer

Both the various reports and our own experiences lead to the conclusion: Inkjet printers are the worst piece of junk and should not be bought - unless you really have the perfect application, can help you with allegedly empty cartridges and are stress-resistant when it comes to drivers. Otherwise, my appeal: Better buy a laser printer. It heats the toner powder onto the paper (which makes liquids unnecessary), is less error-prone and is mostly made for long-term use with sometimes a lot, sometimes a few pages. In addition to black and white, there are also color models. The acquisition costs are higher in comparison, but quickly put into perspective.

Not so well known: LED printers

In addition to laser printers, there are also LED printers, which are different in design but very similar in functionality. Instead of a laser, which is projected onto the print roller by means of a rotating mirror, LEDs are used for the pixels on the paper. Each color (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) has its own LED strip. If you are interested in the whole thing, then click into the very informative video on the YouTube channel Technology Connections, which I can also recommend for all other topics covered there:

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22 Responses to “Why inkjet printers are the worst junk”

  1. Beatrice Willius

    I bought a laser printer in 2003. I bought a new cartridge once. The thing gave up the ghost 2,5 years ago. I think it was the cats that broke something. Since then I have a new printer (a combination device) with a “starter cartridge”. I'll have to replace that soon.

    1. Hi Beatrice! The combination device is also a laser? Or an inkjet printer? I just don't warm to inkjets anymore... so far only bad experiences. :(

  2. I agree with your report 100%.
    I ended my inkjet frustration (dried up cartridges, clogged nozzles, dirty fingers when refilling) about 15 years ago with a black and white laser. I then sold it (because it had to be color) 5 years ago and bought an HP Mufu color laser.

    Always works; for me the cartridges last forever and the quality is right!!!
    No more ink!!!

  3. Hm,
    I would have agreed without hesitation until we bought our current printer.
    Up until then, we had created almost everything using our indestructible Brother laser, but the toner unit and drum, unless originally bought, were quickly empty. The emissions in the study after the daily printout of various worksheets (double teacher household) gave further reason for uncertainty...
    We then came across the Epson inkjets (combi device) with filling tanks via a specialist article. Very low consumption (2nd bottle only opened after more than 2 years, cost 9€) and emission-free work with a great print image have completely convinced us. Smooth collaboration via Airprint with all Apple devices, even from long distances. Of course, it cost a little more at first, but has now completely paid for itself.
    I wouldn't have thought of it now either, but the old laser hasn't been used again since then.

    1. Hello Henning,

      then you are probably the people I meant with the interjection “unless you really have the perfect application” :D In addition, your case also describes more of a work assignment than the occasional printing in a private household. I don't know to what extent your printer model is worth it there.

      Best regards
      John

  4. As written here in the article, the statements are at least partially incorrect.
    It depends on the requirements whether you buy an inkjet or laser printer. As far as I know, you cannot print high-quality photos with laser printers, for example. Power consumption and ozone pollution is also an issue, although posts on ozone pollution tend to contradict each other. With inkjet printers, you buy a mega tank printer anyway. Ink costs are no longer an issue. It even goes so far that you can print a page or two every few days to avoid clogged nozzles. In an older article by c't-uplink, an editor said that clogged nozzles weren't a big issue with original ink, but that they increased with ink from third-party manufacturers.
    I myself have been using inkjets since the mid-1990s. In fact, unless you're using a mega tank printer, the ink is enormously expensive. With my previous inkjet, an Epson, 5 cartridges cost a whopping 100€. With my current Canon mega tank printer, ink costs are no longer an issue, even with original ink.
    The printer was on sale for just €229.
    Conclusion: To demonize inkjets is complete nonsense. It basically depends on the area of ​​application.

    1. So on the subject of "that clogged nozzles would not be a big issue with original ink"... I can contradict that from my own experience. I had bought an HP inkjet printer that was advertised as having “non-drying ink”. I only used the cartridge that came with it and another original HP cartridge and at some point it got so clogged that I couldn't print without streaks even after cleaning it 5 times. I'm sure there are different experiences, but I've never had a laser printer that had so many problems that I gave it away and was happy that it's gone.

      1. I don't doubt the experience either. The statement from c't-uplink was only that original ink tends to dry up less than ink from alternative suppliers. The reason was that with alternative suppliers, the color pigments were often a little larger than with the original ink and the print heads therefore tended to clog.
        My penultimate inkjet was a Canon with 5 ink cartridges. Of course I used alternative ink because of the price. The part was so clogged that I wanted to dispose of the printer. A colleague wanted the part and - lo and behold - he did the work, removed the print heads and placed them in warm water. Apparently it's printing again. In any case, due to the amount of printing I do, nothing else comes into the house than mega tank printers. Since I sometimes print a photo on photo paper here and there, a laser would probably not be suitable.

  5. I bought an Epson EcoTank multifunction printer (ET 2550) a few years ago. This has been running flawlessly for years and the ink is massively cheaper than toner. Even after a 2-month absence, he printed again without any problems. For my purposes I needed an A3 printer a few weeks ago. After thorough evaluation, it was again an Epson EcoTank printer (ET 16650). Very cheap print page price. In contrast to toner, ink is again massively cheaper here. Apart from what a laser printer “draws” in terms of electricity, the inkjet printers require a fraction of that. I don't know of any driver problems with Epson printers. I have these problems with a Kyocera laser printer (ECOSYS M5526cdw). With this printer, every print job is a little lottery. Kyocera couldn't help either. Therefore, every technology has its advantages and disadvantages. That's why I think the title of this article "Why inkjet printers are the worst junk" is a bit exaggerated.

    1. A friend of mine is also very impressed by the Epson printers. He is a professional photographer, so he prints a lot of photos. He is delighted with the quality. However, it may be that he also prints more frequently and therefore has no problem with drying out. Or Epson doesn't have the problem. I've only had two HP inkjets so far and my experience with them hasn't been great... so I can understand the title Johannes chose for the post. But as with everything, there are other experiences.

    2. That's how you get different experiences. I no longer have an Epson printer in the house. Now that I have a Canon mega tank printer, I had an Epson with individual cartridges. I don't have to say anything about the price, which was in the range of usury. It was bad, however, that some of the Epson's ink nozzles printed in black some time after the guarantee had expired. Instead of color, it was controlled as black. Color prints were a disaster. Oddly enough, the number of errors kept changing. That's why I no longer have an Epson in the house. At HP, by the way, it's the same in green. I was a loyal HP customer for years and kept buying Deskjets. The quality has gone down over the years. The last HP printer didn't even survive the warranty period, but of course it was repaired under warranty. That's why I'm now keeping my distance from both Epson and HP. I don't buy anything from either company anymore.

  6. I had exactly the problems described above for years with an Epson ink splatter. I solved the problem that the printer stopped working when only one of the two cartridges was empty by buying a so-called resetter. I used it to set the color cartridge “to full” again and again. So this 2-euro particle (a bit of electronics and a small battery) from the bay outsmarted the chip glued to the cartridge. The fill level is stored in these by the driver, which of course was never correct. If the printer indicates an empty cartridge, there is still enough ink left. Actually.

    At some point the resetter broke and I couldn't find a new one. From then on I had to buy a completely overpriced color cartridge to be able to print only in black. I solved the constant drying out of the nozzles with a small piece of sponge cloth soaked in distilled water and placed under the print head in the parking position. In this way, the blockages usually cleared up easily. But ultimately the whole procedure was very annoying, especially since the inks were difficult to obtain and only available online due to the age of the printer. And then, often enough, the next scam came into play, namely that of the dealers who regularly removed the expiry date and sold obsolete inks.

    At some point I got the tip that a well-known online retailer was always offering used laser printers. I got one of these two years ago for 40 euros! let him come. An older model from Kyocera. Connected - running. A cartridge was also included, which I still print with. During that time I would have had to buy countless ink cartridges for an insane amount of money.

  7. Addendum: The A3 Epson was purchased at the time because I wanted to print out photos. But if such a printer keeps messing up a whole (and expensive) sheet of paper because one of the nozzles fails in the middle of the print, you'll soon be fed up. If I need simple color printouts, I go to one of the machines at a drugstore. If I want high-quality images, I'd rather invest a little more money in a good printout from the lab, but certainly not in an ink splatter.

  8. Hey everyone, I can't confirm that. Have been using a Brother MFC-J4,5DW inkjet printer for 5730 years. Cartridge set original Brother is between € 72,00 / 92,00. They are enough for some 1000 pages. With a color laser printer, the cartridges would be 3-4 times higher. The printer was then around € 250,00. There are no driver problems here with Mac / Linux / Windows 11. And clogged jets (mostly magenta) happen every few months. Clean briefly and rest for months again. Works great.

      1. The cost of toner cartridges and inks can only be compared by comparing the number of prints. You can go much further with toner.

  9. I've been messing around with the ink printer stuff for weeks now and I've tried to revive at least 10 hobbyist devices, even with a compressor, but it's like a bewitchment, nothing really works that the nozzles are free and my hands look like shit. The whole thing is criminal, should be forbidden!

  10. First of all – I love my HP Envy inkjet! But of course, the disadvantages are obvious and have also been appropriately described by Johannes. However, what he did not take into account is the emission load of laser and LED printers. I wouldn't put a laser in my small office unless I had a separate room for it to work. But there isn't. That's why an inkjet is still my first choice. And now I'm looking at the Epsons with a filling tank...

    1. Hello Heinz,

      what type and amount of emissions are you referring to? What exactly do you mean by "emission burden"?

      You're just throwing that catchphrase out there, but not giving any details about it. So I see no need for improvement for the article here. Especially since several studies have shown that there are no specific health hazards arising from the use of laser printers. However, if you want to use filters for prevention reasons or buy devices with the “Blue Angel” seal, you can do that. You can also ventilate most rooms well if you think about it.

      Here you can find more information on the topic: BMUV page. The linked page also shows that concerns about the use of laser printers stem from office environments in the year 2000. Since then, technology has improved and the home office is not necessarily comparable to corporate offices and their high printer utilization by multiple people.

      If you know of other research and I'm arguing in the wrong direction here, let me know. I like learning about it.

      Best regards
      John

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