Deskjet Or Laser: The Fine Print

Updated: Dec 24 2002, 05:30am hrs
Printing documents used to be a painful exercise in the early days of computing. Remember those dot matrix printers and struggling with a roll of computer printing stationary to fix it on the printer rollers while leaving enough space at the top so that the text is not spilled onto the next page. And, then that nerve-wrecking screeching noise.

However, dot matrix printers remain the most cost-effective solution for continuous printing of hard-copy files that arent quite cut out for sophisticated printing.

Although deskjets and laser printers have been available in the Indian market for some years now, these became popular only when price points scaled down in the early nineties. Deskjet printers have started making in-roads even in households as essential peripherals of the home PC for high-end users. The rise in the deskjets popularity can be attributed to apart from wallet-friendly pricing to colour printing capability that was not available with dot matrix and laser printers except for a few high-end models.

The corporate sector has also taken to deskjets in a big way. Cheap enough to facilitate desktop printing for key executives, companies however have begun to wake up to the fact that maintenance and operational costs (cartridges) of deskjets are quite high compared to laser printers. Most users remain unaware that printer companies make money from the sale of cartridges and not printers. Industry insiders even believe that printer prices are subsidised by cartridges. For example, a Rs 5,000 deskjet could set you back by Rs 3,500 when it comes to replacing the cartridge (usually once in six months for average users)! On the other hand, a Rs 17,000-20,000 laser printer will require its cartridge (Rs 4,000) to be changed once in two years.

Corporates have slowly started opting for network laser printers that are installed in a convenient location for a group of employees to use. This not only saves on operational costs but also on maintenance.

Unfortunately, purchase of printers has rarely been an organised process for most companies.

Printer purchase is usually need-driven with little focus on details in terms of its application and requirements. In most of the cases, factors like print quality, speed, load as well as the cost of operation and maintenance are ignored.

Most buyers, including corporates, do not reckon with after-sales support and operational costs. Printers are susceptible to operational glitches and faults due to the human interface factor. Moreover, printers are not dust-proof as they keep processing sheets of paper. In case of network printers, long downtime can prove expensive to companies that provide large groups of employees access to a single printer.

Printers are no doubt affordable now but only if you look at the operational and maintenance costs. The trick is to buy a printer that is cheap to run and develops fewer faults in the long run.