Are printers disposable?

The BBC posted an article today on their web site stating something that I have known for some time. That it is cheaper to buy a new printer than to buy new ink cartridges.

I have a Lexmark printer that came free with my DELL laptop. When I say free, I am sure that the cost of the printer was somewhere in the price I paid for the laptop so DELL are not out of pocket. Anyway, this printer has never worked. I phoned DELL and they say I should phone Lexmark so I did and they said to carry out a specific test.

The test is to plug in the printers power lead but nothing else. Do not attach it to the PC. Then Hold down the power button for 20 seconds and release. It will print out a test page. Mine had no black in it. Then power down, switch cartridges and repeat. Still no black. Lexmark say the printer is fine but I need to replace the black cartridge. I tell them it is brand new and has never worked but they do not believe me.

The printer is about £30 including delivery. It requires two cartridges priced at £15 each. You do the maths. It would be far easier to buy a new printer and chuck the old one. (Note: Keep the cables and adapters as they may come in useful later). They are so crap and plastic looking anyway that printers look as disposable as the ink cartridges they contain. I am of course referring to the desktop inkjet models.

Occasionally I still build PC's for people but mostly I upgrade PC's I have already built and check on occasionally to make sure they are running fine. Now and then someone will say "My friend gave me this printer to use. Will it work with my PC?" 99.9% of the time it has no ink left in it which is why they have given it away. Most likely after enquiring how much new cartridges cost. I advise the person to just buy a new one as they come with ink anyway.

You can buy ink at computer fairs much cheaper than from a store. This ink is usually quite a good match to the original ink and is injected into an empty cartridge and then resealed. Printer manufacturers are wise to this practice however and have employed such techniques as using special chips that detect if you are using approved cartridges.

My last printer was a pretty nice HP DeskJet. When it ran out of ink HP wanted £20 for a black cartridge and £25 for the colour. The printer cost me £65 originally. I went to a computer fair where prices were £10 and £15 for the ink. The printer runs fine and has even lasted longer owing to more ink being pressurised into the unbranded cartridges.

Of course HP says this will invalidate my warrantee but who cares these days if printers are so disposable? The warrantee is only good for a year anyway.

So I am left with a printer that has never worked, that I got for free that requires a new ink cartridge costing £15. I only use a printer to print black documents only. I can get a nice new Cannon desktop model with cartridges for £20 at a computer fair.


I was recently given a DELL AIO printer which appears to be a Lexmark printer made for DELL. It lasted a few months of occasional use and now it doesn't even recognise its own ink cartridges!

I still believe that the majority of printers are disposable but the Epson and Canon printers are proving to be the exception. They are reasonably priced and their ink cartridges tend to be between half or a third of the price of their competitors ink cartridges.

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Article upated: 21-May-2006