Bicycles and Printers? It's a parable, so humor me.
I ride a Trek 7.5 Fx Hybrid mountain bike. When I bought it in 2007, it cost $700 and it had Shimano Deore derailleurs, which are the lower end of Shimano's component sets. Although I have a great deal of experience adjusting bicycle components, I had many drivetrain problems - gears skipping, ghost shifting, low gears overshifted, high gears undershifted. No amount of adjustment left me a with stable, reliable ride.
Last weekend, I replaced the Deore components with Shimano XT, a higher end product. The difference between Deore and XT for my bike was about $100.00 or 15% of the cost of the bike. The new components worked perfectly and since I started using XT, I've not had a flawed shift or any adjustment problems. When I bought the bike, I would have happily paid 15% more to get a bike with a problem free drivetrain. The Deore components are now in the Wellesley Recycling Center and I'm a happy Shimano XT user.
And now, the analogy. At home, I've always used Inkjet printers such as the HP K550 and HP K5400 Pro. I spent very little buying these printers but filled them with expensive cartridges. HP printer drivers seem to have one purpose in life - to tell you to order new supplies. Each year the inkjet print heads fail and no amount of head cleaning/alignment can revive them. Since the cost of print head supplies exceeds the cost of the printer, I just replace the printer yearly. It seems that the lifecycle of a printer model is about a year, so I cannot even replace the printer with a similar model. Often that means that existing cartridges are no longer usable in the new model.
This weekend, I decided to get off the inkjet revolving door. I will never use an inkjet printer again because they are not eco-friendly, not cost effective, not easily maintainable, not reliable, and have poor life cycle management.
At BIDMC our printer lifecycle is 7 years with the following equipment
HP Color LJ4700N (Departmental)
HP Color LJ CP3525N (Work Group)
HP Color LJ CP1215 ((Single)
Black and White
HP LJ p4015N/TN (Departmental)
HP LJ p2055DN/X (Work Group)
HP LJ p2035N (Two-person)
I purchased an HP P2035N black and white laser printer at Staples and turned in my inkjet for recycling, getting $50 cash back. Yes, this printer costs a bit more up front, but it has the reliability, cost effectiveness, and life cycle management I need.
Just as with my bike, buying the right parts the first time to meet your requirements is the right thing to do.
I now have a small laser printer on my home network and not a single inkjet cartridge left in the house.