Which Printer Manufacturer Should You Choose?

by: Karl Smith

A question people frequently ask is "which brand of printers is the best?" The main manufacturers for inkjet and laser printers are Hewlett Packard, Epson, Canon, Brother, Lexmark, and Dell. Without picking one clear winner, here is a rundown of each one and some pros and cons of each:

Hewlett Packard - there is a reason that this name is synonymous with inkjet printers, laser printers and inkjet cartridges in general. HP has long been the leader of the printing industry in terms of size and selection of their machines and printer ink. But just because HP is the biggest does not mean they are the best. Something that has grown in popularity is individual printer ink cartridges for each color. From both an environmental and an economical standpoint, people like the idea of just replacing one individual color when it runs out instead of having to buy a whole new cartridge. This is something that HP was slow to adapt and they just recently introduced it on some of their Photosmart printers. At the same time, HP has also been decreasing the amount of ink in their cartridges. Their previous printer cartridges held anywhere from 20-40 ml of ink, while their newest cartridges hold as little as 5 ml in some cases. The cost of printing can still be low for HP users who do their own refilling, but it will mean more frequent refills for customers. So, as a trade-off for a vast selection and other benefits, you must consider the long term costs of operating an HP printer before buying.

* Pros - availability, dependability, name recognition

* Cons - no individual ink cartridges on almost all models, long term costs

Epson - along with Canon, Epson spearheaded the do-it-yourself photo printing movement with their collection of Stylus Photo printers. With Epson printers, you are going to find a large selection of photo machines and a good amount of entry level and high end machines. Epson has a limited number of multifunction inkjet printers, but the models that they do have are usually pretty popular and well-received. Based on customer feedback over the years, we have found that some Epson printers can require a little more maintenance than their counterparts in regards to running cleaning cycles for the print cartridges. So, this is something to consider when buying an entry level model from Epson. One downside with Epson is that you are unable to refill their ink cartridges.

* Pros - good photo printing, individual ink cartridges

* Cons - some maintenance issues, can't refill cartridges, machine may not last forever

Canon - Typically, Canon users are the most loyal to their brand. There was a period when Canon had a relatively small selection compared to other major brands, but the inkjet printers that they did have were always very popular. Most of the time, the top photo printer on the market will be a Canon model. For a while now, Canon has had individual ink tanks for their machines, and in general they have the lowest overall cost per page. Although their selection of inkjet and photo printers has grown recently, Canon still seems to prefer quality over quantity. So just know that although you might see a limited number of Canon printers in your local stores, what is available is likely of top quality. One downside is that there are some Canon inkjet cartridges that cannot be refilled. So for the newer machines the only product available is Canon brand ink.

* Pros - excellent photo printing, reliability

* Cons - some lack of selection/availability of machines

All Others - the three other main manufacturers of printers are Dell, Lexmark and Brother. Dell has become a big player in the market, simply because of their ability to sell directly to such a large number of people. Both Lexmark and Dell (who has Lexmark manufacturer products for them) tend to focus on inkjet and multifunction machines, so if you are looking for a photo printer then they are most likely not the manufacturers for you. Lexmark does have a selection of some quality all-in-one machines, but both the machines and the products for them can be hard to find. Also, Lexmark/Dell currently do not have individual ink tanks for their machines, so even with our remanufactured cartridges the cost of ink can be as high or higher than Hewlett Packard's. The good news is that you are able to use ink refill kits on Dell/Lexmark ink cartridges or have them recycled, so there are some benefits to their cartridges. Brother tends to focus more on laser printers and fax machines, so their selection for home users is pretty limited. Like Lexmark, they do manufacturer some quality all-in-one machines, but their lack of selection and availability is one downside.