Printer Math: 135 = 180 = 250

Everything you need to choose the right printer

Printer Math: 135 = 180 = 250

Late breaking news! In just one day, the price of the best printer in this comparison dropped another $20, from $270 down to $250, making it an even better deal! The price of the worst printer also dropped, by $15. So the overall equation is largely the same, but it is constantly changing.

No, that’s not a misprint. In the wonderful word of computer printers, a $135 printer, a $180 printer and a $250 printer can all actually cost the same.

A customer was interested in an HP machine to replace his old all-in-one. Actually, the old machine was still working, but the scanning was not compatible with Windows 10. Shame on HP for not releasing software updates, but I can’t fix that problem – at least not for less than the cost of a new machine.

Basic specifications: Monochrome laser, all-in-one (scan, print, copy). Nothing really special. Moderate usage.

I took moderate usage to mean 500 pages per month. That’s one ream of paper. More than many home users, but not out of the ordinary. Over a short printer lifespan of two years (and laser printers typically last much longer than that – sometimes 10 years or more), that’s 12,000 pages.

First option: M148fdw

on sale for just $135. It is a relatively basic machine, but includes all the necessary features. But only a 2-line control panel. And relatively slow printing (30 pages/minute) & scanning (18 pages/minute, single-sided only). But more than “good enough” and the price is right. Or is it?

Base price: $149

Included toner: 1,000 pages

Additional toner: CF294X 2,800 pages $84 (3 cents/page)

Total Cost for 12,000 pages $135 + ($84 x 4) = $471

Second option: M227fdw

on sale for $180. Better control panel. Same print speed. Slower scanning (15 pages/minute). More toner included. How does this compare?

Base price: $180

Included toner: 1,600 pages

Additional toner: CF230X 3,500 pages $101 (2.9 cents/page)

Total Cost for 12,000 pages $180 + ($101 x 3) = $483

The winner: M426fdn

Wow! 40 pages/minute instead of 30. Scanning 26 pages/minute single-sided and 47 pages/minute duplex! An all-around better machine by almost any metric. Except price?

Base price: $250 (was $270)

Included toner: 3,100 pages

Additional toner: CF226X 9,000 pages $217 (2.4 cents/page)

Total Cost for 12,000 pages $250 + $217 = $467

End result: 3 printers with very different capabilities, but when you add up the cost of toner, the total cost is nearly identical because the more expensive printers include more toner and use toner cartridges that cost less per page.

In case you were wondering, what happens if usage is a little higher and/or you keep the printer a little longer? At 1,000 pages (2 reams) per month and 3 years – or 36,000 pages total, the results are:

MF148fdw $135 + ($84 x 13) = $1,227

M227fdw $180 + ($101 x 10) = $1,190

M426fdn $250 + ($217 x 4) = $1,118

The printer business is no longer about the “best” price on a printer. It is about the best total cost of ownership. If the TCO is the same for different printers, you may as well get the most features for your money.