Choosing a desktop printer for a smaller business used to be an easy call. For heavy users, a laser printer, which cost thousands, made sense because cost per page was just pennies. Those with lighter printing demands usually chose an inkjet imaging device, which today costs less than a good business lunch. But watch out: Some inkjet prints can run as much as a dollar per page, a recipe for losing money fast.
Well, no more. New technologies and dramatic changes in ink pricing are blurring the line between laser and inkjet printing. Here are some nuggets of value in desktop inks and imaging:
Xerox Solid Ink
ColorQube 8570/N ($699; replacement ink sticks start at $100 per pack for black inks; $150 for a two-pack of color inks)
For the price of a decent-quality laser printer, Xerox brings a new idea: solid ink-based printing. Instead of spraying ink on a page like inkjets do or burning in the image with a laser, solid ink works like a giant printing press, by rolling a microscopic layer of color onto the page. The result is a deep, rich, highly professional printing look. Costs are reasonable by industry estimates: 3 cents per page for black and white, and 13 cents for color. One catch: No cartridges. This means less environmental impact, but no low-cost inking alternatives. A Xerox solid ink printer means Xerox solid inks.
Original HP Inks
HP 60XL Black Ink Cartridges ($35)
The rush to low-cost, refillable printer cartridges has led to one great benefit: Even giants like HP have had to figure out how to get cheap, high-quality inks on the market. Take the HP 60 Black Ink Cartridge. Standard versions sell for $15, which prints about 200 sheets for a not-cheap 8 cents per page. But HP quietly sells a higher-capacity version of the same cartridge, the HP 60XL. This cartridge prints 600 pages and sells for $35, which lowers the price to about 6 cents per page. My Print Rewards, HP's rewards program, can lower prices even more. Considering that a good inkjet small-business printer now costs less than $100, there is real ROI in HP Inks and printers.
Walgreens Ink Refills
($13, black or color)
Refillable cartridges offer solid image quality, don't jam most machines and major retailers like Walgreens and TigerDirect.com are now in the business. Simply head to a participating Walgreens and, for $13, you can have your cartridges refilled, black or color. You might not want to use these inks for your best-quality jobs (or your résumé). But for internal printing and imaging, what's not to love?.