Cost-Cutting Printers

FRESNO, Calif.

Mike Traina sells printer ink cartridges and says his customers often experience "sticker shock." "They're blown away by the cost of the inks."

That's why how much you'll end up spending on replacement cartridges is an important consideration. Consumer reports tests 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."

Testers print thousands of black-and-white pages, as well as color, 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 eight 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," Dean Gallea said.

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

Testers also assess speed - timing each printer down to the second to see how quickly it gets the job done. The best delivered 13 pages a minute. The worst only three. In the end, consumer reports found a few all-in-one printers that hit the sweet spot.

They're inexpensive to purchase and run. Testers recommend the Dell for $120. It's model V715W. You can also use it as a scanner and copier.

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

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