The Truth About Cheap Laser Printers
Screenshot credit: Staples.com website
If you have used computers for the last twenty years, you will know there is nothing more annoying than printer “marketing” companies. Their product packaging is filled with half-truths taken out of context making you think you’re getting something truly revolutionary. The whole industry is designed to sell you a half decent printer only to find out a few months later the toner cartridges are outrageously expensive.
While shopping for a printer in 2021, I found out there was a worldwide printer shortage. Some blamed it on the computer chip shortage and others said it was due to everyone working at home. I even heard some say it was due to the truck driver shortages. Either way, trying to locate a $99-$129 printer was next to impossible. Trust me, I tried for three months.
My Printing Needs
I have owned all types of printers. Everything from color inkjet, large format color inkjet photography printers, color laser printers, and monochrome printers. For this next printer, I needed simple. I did not need a scanner on top. Moreover, since I was going to be the only one using it, I did not need a printer with a high monthly duty cycle. My requirements were to mainly print out monochrome quotes and invoice. That’s it!
A couple of features I wanted were duplex printing and an Ethernet port, so I could connect the printer to my network. When shopping, be careful because many of the lower cost laser printers will have to be connected directly to your computer with a cord. The reason for this is they do not offer any networking ports or wireless connectivity. This is only important if you plan on placing your computer in a location that is not near your computer. Something to keep in mind.
The Cheapest Printer Might Not Be The Cheapest
While browsing in the Staples store, a salesman approached, and I told him my dilemma. He explained what was going on with printers and I told him I was familiar with it since I had been looking for a couple of months.
What I was not expecting was the conversation to go the direction it did. The salesman went on to explain the lower cost printers are actually more expensive after you purchase your first set of toner cartridges.
Originally, I had my mind set on the Brother monochrome laser printer for around $99. That is all I wanted to spend. My requirements were simple, and the price point was perfect. Then I found out the $99 printer did not have any networking capabilities.
So, that put me at my next option for around $129. Ok, not too bad. Yes, it’s around 30% more, but my printer was not going to be near my computer and many times I am working off my iPad Pro, so I need my printer to be on my network.
For this article, we are going to be comparing the Brother HLL2370DW monochrome laser printer for $129 to the Brother HLL6200DW business monochrome laser printer for $219. After we go through what’s included with the units and their respective replacement toner cartridges, you will see the more expensive unit is actually the cheaper of the two. And a much better unit overall.
Toner Cartridge Included in the Box
This next part is credited to the great salesman at Staples. Here is where we get into toner cartridges and the misleading specs that so many times you only find out about a few months later when you need to get a new cartridge.
The Brother HLL2370DW printer for $129 includes a “starter toner cartridge” that yields only 700 pages. Now this might sound like a lot, but it will go quickly. Also pay attention to the yield count for the drum unit. We will discuss this in more detail later in the article.
Stepping up to the Brother HLL6200DW printer for $219, you notice the included toner cartridge has an approximate yield of 3,000 pages. This is over four times the yield of the less expensive printer which cost $90 less. If you were to purchase a toner cartridge for the Brother HLL2370DW $129 printer to make up the difference, it would cost you around $77 to purchase the 3,000 yield cartridge.
Already the gap has closed between these two units, and we haven’t even talked about duty cycle, paper capacity, or super high-yield replacement toner cartridges. The more expensive printer holds twice the amount of paper which means less frequently refilling of the unit which can be very annoying.
The Brother HLL6200DW printer for $219 also prints faster at 48ppm versus 36ppm on the $129 unit. When moving up to the more expensive printer for just $90 more, your monthly duty cycle goes from 15,000 pages per month to 100,000 pages per month.
Now, many would be hard-pressed to print this much. What this is saying is the larger unit for just $90 more comes with more standard toner, a higher duty cycle, larger paper capacity, faster printing, and cheaper replacement toner. Already it’s a no-brainer.
Super High-Yield Toner Cartridges (The Best Part)
This is what truly sets the two printers apart and the salesman at Staples is to credit for this. He is the one who brought this point to the forefront when contemplating whether to spend $90 more on the larger Brother HLL6200DW business laser printer. Let’s break it down.
The Brother HLL2370DW printer for $129 has a super high-yield replacement toner cartridge available with an approximate yield of 4,500 pages. The toner cost $116 which comes out to around 2.5 cents per page printed. Not too bad, but let’s take a look at its larger brother (yes, pun intended).
For the HLL6200DW business laser printer, Brother offers a super high-yield replacement toner cartridge capable of approximately 12,000 pages for just over $10 more. That is almost three times the yield for putting you around a cost of 1 cent per page printed. If you were to purchase three of the TN770 super high-yield cartridges for the $129 printer, it would cost you almost $350.
The super high-yield toner cartridges offered for the two different Brother printers goes to show you how much more it will be to operate the less expensive printer. Yes, you will pay less on the initial purchase, but almost immediately you will be greeted with toner replacement costs because the included starter cartridge is so much smaller.
You start to look online for super high-yield replacement toner cartridges only to realize the business class printers offer so much more value. This is the reason the Brother HLL6200DW is probably one of the most popular all around printers available today.
Drum Unit Yield
The drum unit is what holds the toner cartridge, and it is a replaceable part that also has a page yield specification associated with it. The less expensive Brother HLL2370DW printer for $129 has an approximate yield of 12,000 pages before it needs replacement.
The drum unit for the Brother HLL6200DW printer cost only $22 more, but yields almost three times the output. These are the drum units that come standard in the box for each printer.
As you can see, the more expensive printer will save you lots of money over time as it will take almost three times as long before you need to replace the drum unit. The math doesn’t add up for the $129 printer, making it far more expensive to operate over time.
The larger Brother HLL6200DW printer has a paper capacity of 520 sheets versus 250 sheets of capacity on the smaller Brother HLL2370DW. This might not be a big deal for some, but if you have multiple people in an office environment, the extra capacity will come in handy and reduce frustration.
What did the printer say when it ran out of paper?
If you’re in the market for a monochrome laser printer, consider the points mentioned in this article. Walking up and reading the “marketing” on the printer box does not tell the whole story. Dig a little deeper and the truth will reveal itself like what you find on page five of Google search results.
If you are buying a printer for your office, the more expensive unit is a no-brainer. The savings in the first year alone will pay for a nice dinner at a high-end steak house. Hopefully, the information in this article will help you make a more informed buying decision when looking for your next laser printer.
All screenshots used in this article are credited to the staples.com and brother-usa.com websites.