Consumer Reports Outs Thirsty Printers

(Credit: Canon; Epson)

In its latest test of printers, Consumer Reports says certain maintenance cycles can use up half of some ink cartridges, adding another $100 or more per year to printing costs.

The problem comes from maintenance cycles, when ink, which can cost $10 to $70 an ounce, isn't even used on printed paper or photos but is wasted to clean print heads and other tasks, usually when the printer is preparing to operate after sitting idle.

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Consumer Reports' new tests confirm that some thirsty printers guzzle much more ink than others during their maintenance rituals. The extra cost of using those models can add up to $100 or more per year.

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In previous printer tests conducted by consumer groups and the industry, many pages are printed until a cartridge runs out. In Consumer Reports' latest tests, they turned the printer on and off and printed intermittently, as consumers do in the real world.

"What's happening is when a printer is turned on, it's performing these maintenance chores and some models use a significant amount of ink," said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor with Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports found HP's Envy series of printers used relatively little ink for maintenance, and the Photosmart series used a lot more. The two machines with the highest excess usage, a Lexmark and an HP, used about five times more ink in occasional use compared with continuous printing.

The magazine said several all-in-one inkjet printers are affordable and use ink efficiently. These include an $80 Brother DCP-J140W, the Epson XP-800 ($180) and Epson XP-600 ($100).

Here is a list of how some printers tested by Consumer Reports stacked up, showing the cost of the ink used for maintenance cleaning, on an estimated monthly basis.

Printers with the lowest maintenance ink costs:

1. Brother DCP-J140W: $0

2. Epson XP-800: $14

3. Brother MFC J4510DW: $15

4. Brother MFC-J4410DW: $16

5. HP Envy 120: $18

6. Canon Pixma MX522: $20

7. Epson XP-600: $20

Printers with the highest maintenance ink costs:

1. HP Officejet Pro 8600: $126

2. Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro4000: $122

3. HP Photosmart 7520: $108

4. Epson Expression Photo XP-850: $100

5. Canon Pixma MX922: $86

6. HP Photosmart 6520: $82

7. Canon iP7220, iP7250: $61