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Printer price tags may not reflect savings

September 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
When you're shopping for a new printer, the price is important, but Consumer Reports says a cheap price doesn't guarantee you'll save money. Some all-in-one printers can cost eight times more to operate than others. Here are some tips to pinpoint some real money savers.

Mike Traina sells printer ink cartridges and said his customers often experience "sticker shock."

"They're blown away by the cost of the inks," said Traina.

That's why how much you'll end up spending on replacement cartridges is an important consideration when buying a printer. Consumer Reports testers review more than 100 printers every year.

"Often, cheaper printers can cost you a lot to run. So a low purchase price doesn't necessarily mean you're going to save money overall," said Terry Sullivan of Consumer Reports.

Testers print thousands of black-and-white and color pages to see how many each printer can churn out on one ink cartridge.

They use this information to calculate the cost per page for each machine. Some print pages for as little as a penny, while others cost more than 8 cents a page.

Consumer Reports also prints pages of text and graphics to assess clarity and overall quality.

"We look for things like crispness of the lines, the sharpness of the numeric characters, the smoothness of the grey scale," explained Dean Gallea of Consumer Reports.

"We also print photos to see how well the printers can represent bright colors and clear definition," said Sullivan.

Testers also assess speed by timing each printer down to the second to see how quickly it gets the job done.

The best printer delivered 13 pages per minute while the worst printed only three in per minute. In the end, Consumer Reports found a few all-in-one printers that hit the sweet spot that are inexpensive to purchase and run.

Testers recommended the Dell V715W model for $120. You can also use it as a scanner and copier.

If you don't need to make copies or scan documents, Consumer Reports said a good single-function printer is the HP Photosmart D7560. It costs $100 and delivers very good text and excellent photo quality.


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