Monday, May 19, 2008

Exploring the real cost of color printing

The recent introduction of a wide variety of color laser printers into the market has confused the decision of what printer to purchase for color printing. Previously color printing was sent to a commercial printer or done in house on a slow ink jet printer. Although all of my graphic design customers prefer the quality and have stayed with their ink printers, many of the commercial and industrial accounts have purchased color laser jet printers.

When purchasing a color laser printer, printer price should not be the only factor to consider. Printer speed and print quality will eliminate many candidates but other factors should be taken into consideration.

One of my customers purchased a $300 color laser printer. After a short time he received a ‘toner low’ message and purchased a yellow toner cartridge for $79. He installed the toner and before printing a single page got another error message telling him to purchase a $179 drum. He threw the printer away!!

The quick and dirty comparison is to check out the cost of toner on a per page basis. To do this, simply, go on line to one of the office stores and check out the price of toner for that printer. Divide the price by the page yield. Be aware that the page yield is based on 5% coverage and the average color coverage is 20%. Many times the printer comes with ‘starter’ low capacity cartridges which can be replaced with hi capacity cartridges at a much better price per page yield.

Since most printing is black the cost of the black cartridge yields a lower cost per page. Only the high end, expensive, color laser printers achieve a monochrome cost per page approaching the cost of the heavy duty workgroup laser printers.

A more accurate measure of the total cost of ownership takes into account the cost of all the consumables such as toner, drums, waste bottle, transfer belt, fuser, ink and print heads. Lyra Research performed this analysis on a dozen color laser and ink printers priced at under $500. They assumed a printer life of 5 years, monthly page volume of 450 pages and 50% black and 50% color printing.

Printer CPP Black $ CPP Color $ Printer $

HP Officejet Pro K550 0.015 0.08 200

Brother HL 2700CN 0.015 0.09 500

The results from Lyra Research on total cost over the 5 year period were revealing. The HP business inkjets were the least expensive with a total cost of $1500. Brother HL 2700, Ricoh Aficio G500, Dell 3100 and Samsung CLP 600 all stayed under $2000. Dell 3100 and Konica Minolta Magicolor 2400 were under $2500 while the Xerox Phaser 6120 and Lexmark C510 approached $3000. The highest total cost of ownership went to the Samsung CLP 300 at an astounding $3340!
total cost of ownership for these low priced printers varies considerably. The Samsung CLP is the least expensive printer but has the highest total cost of ownership. As a result of this type of comparison many of my customers have decided to purchase inkjet printers over the laser printers.

Further savings of approximately 30% can be realized with the use of aftermarket cartridges. Lyra Research and Recharger Magazine took a survey of small and medium business users of aftermarket cartridges. A large majority of these users rated the aftermarket cartridges the same or better than the OEM (original equipment manufacture, ie HP et al) in five different metrics. Print quality was the highest rated metric with 55% saying the print quality was as good as the OEM, 16% saying it was better and 22% saying it was much better. Aftermarket cartridge life was the lowest rated metric of the five with 82% of the respondents saying it was the same, better or much better than the OEM’ life.