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Buying a Printer? Don’t Make This Mistake

Buying a Printer? Don’t Make This Mistake

Before you add that cheap all-in-one machine to your cart, consider whether you can afford its ink

By Daniel Varghese, WSJ

May 30, 2023 5:30 pm ET

Q:I’ve been schlepping to my local copy shop anytime I need to scan or print. Are there any good all-in-one printers that won’t bankrupt me?

A: I’ll do you one better. Did you know that you can scan documents with your phone? On iPhone, the feature is buried in the Notes app. Open a new note, hit the camera icon and choose “Scan Documents” from the available options. You can then make notes on the scan or sign it with the “Markup” feature (the icon that looks like a felt-tipped pen) before sharing it. You can also do this on Android with the Google Drive app. Just hit the plus button in the bottom right corner and choose the scan option.

Given this phone shortcut (which works unless you need high-quality photo scans), don’t splurge on a printer with a built-in scanner. For your other needs, however, don’t cheap out on a sub-$100 printer either. They tend to jam constantly, especially if you have the gall to try to print more than five pages at once. They also seem to burn through expensive ink cartridges like it’s their job. It kind of is.

For just over $100, Brother makes a ton of printers that use toner cartridges. These have camel-like inkwells, which rarely need replacing. As a bonus, these machines print double sided by default, quickly and reliably.

Epson EcoTank ET-2800, $280, PHOTO: EPSON

Not satisfied with the phone hack? For a printer that scans, but isn’t too expensive to operate, get the Epson EcoTank ET-2800 ($280). All-in-one printers of its ilk were once prone to software bugs and glitches, but the EcoTank is, pardon the word choice, a tank. It operates without issue and without ink cartridges. Instead, you squeeze ink into reservoirs that are built into the printer itself. This is certainly weird, but it’s cost effective. You purchase the ink in $10-$15 bottles that allow for multiple refills, rather than in cartridges you have to chuck each time they’re empty.

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