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Printer Ink Wars — EcoTank, Instant Ink, MegaTank, INKvestment Tank , Instant Ink

Everyone has heard the adage that the major inkjet printer manufacturers – Brother, Canon, Epson, and HP – make more money from the ink that keeps their printers running than from selling the printers themselves. This is not just an axiom; this is absolutely true.

Printer ink is not the only consumable that drives profitability in a particular industry. Another frequently touted example is replacement razor blade cartridges. (How many others can you think of ?)

However, for a long time we had only one choice (aside from using third-party or remanufactured cartridges, but that’s another story) – to drink and pay the price – if, of course, we want to continue printing. However, over the past few years, mainly due to pressure from consumers and technical journalists, printer manufacturers now offer us a wide variety of choices.

It all started with the HP Instant Ink subscription program, but now every printer maker is offering some kind of “bulk ink” product that provides at least some reduction in the cost of the ink itself and, even better, increases the transparency of what it is. worth it. let your printer work.

Each printer manufacturer has their own consumable ink product, namely:

With the exception of EcoTank and MegaTank, these products vary greatly in approach and in how much they actually save you in terms of ink cost per page. Depending on how and what you print, each product has its own advantages and disadvantages.

On top of an ink barrel

Undoubtedly, printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids, possibly one of the most expensive substances on the planet. You pay a lot more for an ounce of printer ink than, say, gasoline, the most exclusive wines, most fashionable perfumes, and even, in some cases, gold.

Traditionally, we measure the cost of ink in terms of cost per page or “cost per page” (CPP). Over the years I have written about information technology, one of the biggest complaints (and complaints from many of my colleagues) has been the exorbitant CPPs in the printing industry, especially the CPP of household appliances and small business office equipment, also known as “recurring costs.”

Several factors, including the price of a printer, its volume, and so on, affect the total running cost of a machine, and the difference between the running cost of one machine versus another can be anywhere from 2 to 5 or even 6 cents apiece. monochrome page and even more – often much more – for color pages.

Are you saying it’s not that much? It’s just a penny! Look at it this way: for every 100,000 pages printed, a cent difference from one printer to another will cost you an additional $ 100.

Yes, I know you probably don’t print thousands of pages every month, or tens of thousands every year, for that matter. Then, it’s OK. Try this scenario: If you print and copy, say, 2,000 color pages a month, a 5 cent difference will cost you $ 100 or $ 1,200 a year.

Just think how many consumer or small office-grade printers you could buy with these savings As I have consistently noted in hundreds of printer reviews, often how much a printer costs is much more important than how much the machine itself costs to buy.

The good news is that all modern inkjet printers print relatively well, which makes you more worried about features and running costs. If you use your printer frequently, one or more of the bulk ink products listed below can save you money, sometimes even more. Choosing a 3D printing product depends on how much and what you print.

Brother Investment Tank

Brother’s newest volumetric ink supply technology, Brother’s INKvestment Tank, evolved from a previous product the company called simply INKvestment , which simply included traditional high-capacity ink cartridges sold at low enough prices to reduce operating costs.

In other words, INKvestment AIO was consuming a lot of ink, and when it came time to buy new ones, the cost per page was low – very low, for that matter, less than 1 cent for monochrome pages and about 4.75 cents per color. pages.

The second iteration of INKvestment, INKvestment Tank, consists of a tank within a tank. The technical name for this latest version is Brother dubbed INKvestment Tank Extended Print, or INKvestment Tank for short.

INKvestment Tank is a mixture of standard ink cartridges and a set of built-in tanks as shown in the image above. When you run out of ink, you still buy and install the cartridges as usual, but the cartridges are discharged into internal additional tanks.

The printer holds thousands of pages of ink between the external cartridges and internal tanks. And instead of displaying those annoyingly inaccurate ink volume indicators on the control panel or on the printer’s built-in web pages, INKvestment Tank sensors track how many pages you’ve printed and then estimate how many prints are left, as shown in the image below.

In addition, similar to HP Instant Ink, INKvestment Tank monitors ink levels, alerts you to low ink levels, and offers to order replacement cartridges directly from the device’s embedded website or control panel.

You can buy Brother Business Smart and Business Smart Plus all-in-ones in the standard version of INKvestment Tank or INKvestment Tank XL, with the difference that the latter comes with twice as much ink or two sets of cartridges.

Brother says each set of ink tanks contains – based on a formula of 300 prints per month, 60 percent black pages and 40 percent color pages – the annual ink usage. This is well below the maximum monthly duty cycle and / or the recommended monthly print volume for most Brother printers.

If you are using your product for its intended purpose, chances are good that you will buy ink well before the expiration date of the cartridges for one or two years. The good news is that the cost per page for monochrome pages is still (as with INKvestment’s original offer) below 1 cent, and color pages are still less than 5 cents each, making Brother INKvestment Tank printers exceptionally valuable.

Canon MegaTank

Of the four largest inkjet printer manufacturers, Canon’s commitment to inkjet printers and multifunction printers has been the most subdued. Like the original Epson EcoTank products, which fill the onboard tanks from bottles, Canon MegaTank products are convenient, easy to use, and very cost effective.

Unfortunately, we’ve only seen five MegaTanks since its release a few years ago, and one of them, the Canon Pixma G4210 MegaTank All-in-One Wireless Printer, is an update to one of four original models.

Each of Pixmas’s MegaTank, or G-series, although they all have slightly different feature sets, operate at the same speed, capacity and volume, and all four are intended for home and family use, although the Pixma G4210 supports Ethernet and comes with an automatic document feeder to send multi-page documents to the scanner. But, like others, it is too slow for anything other than small volume printing and copying, making it less than ideal for most business applications.

While they typically sell two to three times their non-MegaTank equivalents, Pixmas’ MegaTanks come with thousands of pages of ink per box. For example, Canon’s G4210 includes enough ink to print up to 18,000 black pages and 7,000 color pages.

That’s enough black ink to print 500 monochrome pages per month for three years. In any case, whether you use all the ink that comes with your printer, and whether you have to buy more, your price per page for both black and color pages will be less than 1 cent each.

Not only is this amazing value, but it just can’t get much better than that. However, printing 500 pages a month on a MegaTank, although it is likely capable, would force one of these little Pixmas to run out of power.

Epson EcoTank

Epson is, of course, the first company to come up with on-board bottled tanks, and the company has made a major commitment to its EcoTank product line.

EcoTank multifunction and standalone printers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from the inexpensive Expression and Expression Premium Small-in-One home and family printers to the fairly reliable WorkForce Pro office devices for the office.

The company has also developed a stable, higher-grade EcoTank WorkForce Pro hybrid version in which ink is sourced from large aluminum bags rather than bottles. These are alternative laser devices designed to replace laser printers in the workplace. The two monochrome laser printing alternatives, the WorkForce Pro WF-M5799 and WF-M5299, support XXL packs up to 40,000 pages.

Like MegaTank machines, EcoTank models typically cost two to five times more than their non-EcoTank equivalents. Depending on capacity and features, consumer and small business desktops range from $ 300 to $ 1,000 and, like their MegaTank counterparts, come with thousands of pages of ink.

Based on formulas specific to the product in question, Epson claims that each EcoTank comes with ink equivalent to a two-year shelf life. However, these formulas are usually based on relatively small monthly quotas.

However, as with the MegaTank machines, whether you use all the inks that come with the printer and whether you have to buy more or not, running costs per page are less than 1 cent for both monochrome and color pages. (However, the CPP of hybrids with aluminum bags is slightly higher.)

Of course, it can be difficult to justify spending $ 400 or $ 500 on a printer that would normally cost two to three times less without the EcoTank upgrade – you certainly won’t get the $ 400 or $ 500 equivalent in features, volume, or capacity; you just get a very (relatively, of course) inexpensive ink.

It’s important to note that EcoTank printers are not for everyone, but if you plan on printing hundreds (or thousands) of pages every month, they will save you hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of dollars over the life of their non-EcoTank. brothers and sisters and competitors. The more you print, the more you save. Period.

HP Instant Ink

Several years ago, HP started the ink consumable trend. Its Instant Ink subscription program offers ink at a flat price per page, with the cost per page based on the monthly subscription level you commit to. The various programs have changed over the years, but as I write this, the company offers six subscription levels, depending on your printer.

The smallest plan here costs about 6 cents per page, and the largest plan will set you back about 2.9 cents per page, with every additional print above the initial 700 at 5 cents each.

Compared to some of these other plans, which might not seem like a bargain, but keep in mind when using Instant Ink that this flat rate is valid for any page, black or color, with 5% or 100% coverage.

The advantage of Instant Ink is that, unlike the others listed here, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it can grow or shrink as your printing and copying needs evolve.

However, where this product becomes a terrific bargain is when printing a lot of photos, especially Letter size photos (8.5 x 11 inches) and / or full page graphics, which can easily cost 10 or 20 times 2. 9 cents. Like INKvestment Tank, with Instant Ink, the printer tracks your ink cartridges and orders new ones from HP when they run out.

Pence here, Penny there

As I said during the attack, which of these bulk ink products will work for you mainly depends on what and how much you print. In addition, there is also the suitability of specific printers and all-in-ones themselves.

For example, Canon’s MegaTank products, while good printers and excellent value in their rather narrow target market, are not suitable for any business application with any print and copy volume.

The bottom line is that if you print more than just a few pages a month, most of these products, with the exception of perhaps the smallest Instant Ink subscriptions, are irrelevant, and in some cases a waste of money. For example, you wouldn’t want to shell out $ 500 on an EcoTank AIO with thousands of pages per box ink if all you print is 10 pages a month.

At least you now have various products presented to you – a veil of mystery, if you will – allowing you to apply the economics appropriate for your particular application.

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