How often do you print?

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How often do you print?

It's accepted wisdom that inkjet printers - especially those where the ink tank and the print head are a single unit - are relatively expensive to run. But that's not necessarily the case, according to HP.

There are two basic types of lower-end inkjet printer, and HP makes both. Some designs separate the print head and the ink tanks (individual ink cartridges, or IIC), while others combine them into a single unit (integrated print head, or IPH). Or, more accurately, two units: the black tank and print head is usually separate from the colour tank and print head.

According to HP 'inkologist' Thomas Brown, there is a perception that individual tanks are always better.

But IPH has its advantages, he said. While he was talking in the context of home printing, we think the arguments also apply to small businesses that are save money by sending invoices and other documents electronically but occasionally have to resort to paper.

Those advantages are that less intervention is required (there are only two cartridges to change, not four, six or even more), a complete set of cartridges is generally cheaper (although the yield is usually lower too), and the first-page-out time after being idle for an extended period is significantly lower, sometimes by minutes.

Furthermore, an inkjet printer uses a certain amount of ink to clean the printhead each time it is switched on - but the IPH design uses less ink for this purpose, and sometimes none at all. So the cost per millilitre of ink may be higher with IPH, but with infrequent use much more of the ink actually reaches the page so the total cost per page can be lower.

The way IPH designs typically put all the non-black inks into one cartridge is often thought to be a negative, because it means when one colour runs out, the remaining inks are wasted. But HP's latest printers dynamically and very subtly adjust the amount of each colour being used so all three run out at the same time.

And where IIC printers usually stop working as soon as one ink runs out, IPH allows continued printing when the black cartridge is empty (the other inks are used to simulate black), and monochrome printing is possible when the colour cartridge runs out.

Brown said a simple test is "do you print daily or do you print weekly?" - if the latter, consider IPH.

But for those printing in greater volumes, new office inkjet printers will appear soon, he said. These models will combine high speed output with a low cost per page and a low total cost of ownership, and use inks that are even more durable than current formulations.

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