Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Printers Guzzle Ink, Tell Lies

It's no secret that ink printer manufacturers try and make most of their money off the consumables associated with printing. Unlike laser printers, they essentially give away the printer, but then charge a lot of money for the the inkjet cartridges and, to a lesser extent, the paper. Fine, but apparently there is a bit more to the story, as a new study found that more than half of the ink from inkjet cartridges is wasted when users toss them in the garbage. This is because most users huck them when their printers tells them they're out of ink. Turns out the infernal gadget is lying - they may still be over half full!

The findings come from a study, conducted by TÜV Rheinland and commissioned by Epson, that studied the efficiency of both single and multi-ink cartridges from various vendors. Surprise, surprise - Epson's own R360 posted the best numbers, with only 9 percent of the ink wasted. Kodak's, with its EasyShare 5300 came in as the straggler, wasting over 64 percent of its ink in tests. According to the study, some printers have hundreds of pages worth of ink left when they beep that they are 'dry'. And there's another wrinkle as well.

Readers that have followed the printing world for a while know that some printers use multi-ink cartridges (3 to 5 colors all in the same cartridge) and some use separate cartridges (one cartridge, one color.) Obviously, the multi-ink cartridge fare worse in these types of tests because they can be 'emptied' as soon as a single color runs low (like when printing out a Powerpoint presentation.) This unravels the story a little bit more, as Epson (who backed the study) uses primarily single-ink cartridges in their printers; this is almost guaranteed to be more efficient because there's only one color per cartridge, and thus only one cartridge to replace when that color runs out. These still waste ink - up to 20 percent - but generally were better than the multi-ink cartridge models.

The final wrinkle is that the study also did not calculate the total cost per page, which arguably is more important than efficiency. Epson refused to comment on this which suggests, well, you know. Lots of solutions to the problem; First, don't listen to your printer and use your cartridges until they run dry. Second, try an online service like Photobox, or use a continuous flow system. And third, if you are buying a printer, check out cost per page as well. :: arsTechnica

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