man using a printer

When your Brother boot loops, printer recommendations in 2021

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OK, so we’ve had this Brother HL-L2380DW which is an all-in-one printer. It is a laser and given that we almost never print, that is really the right choice. An inkjet will just jam and not work if you don’t print regularly. However, despite the fact that we have not touched the firmware on the thing (and it actually won’t take a firmware update), just last year it started boot looping.

That is, if you power the thing down or other is a power failure, it will warm up and then go silent again. You basically have to push the power button repeatedly for about an hour before it works again. Pretty frustrating.

Well, the solution is to think about printing again. We have a barbell strategy where we have this Brother and then an old Canon P9000 (our even older Canon broke), but the problem is that it also is beginning to have mechanical problems as well. Like it the fact that it won’t boot up properly. What is it with printers you barely use, why is power up so hard.

So the solution is to look at printing again in 2021 and ask what are the needs for. I tried using Rtings.com, but unlike the televisions, I’m not sure it has the breadth, although it does agree with PC Magazine pretty well:

  1. Printing. Today, most of out printing is very limited. The biggest use is that when traveling (particularly in COVID times), you need a lot of documentation and it is very nice to have a paper copy of your attestion form or your itinerary. This does not need to be beautiful. And particularly with 12.9″ iPads around, we barely need to print things out to read them. That was the old use.
  2. Color photos. The other use has been to print out beautiful photos. This need has also declined sharply because most of our photo sharing is actually on phones now via iCloud Photos or Google Photos if they are on Android. So the main use of this has been for older folks who want a portrait on the wall or something like that. That means it is a rare event, but basically having an 11×17″ A3Plus printer is nice. And yes, at that point, you do wonder if taking it to a service is better.
  3. Scanning and Copying. We actually do very little of this anymore. Most bank and other things are online. And if we need to scan then using a phone application that does straightening is better. And we almost never need an automatic document feeder with the current phone applications. The biggest use is scanning in old documents (like old memos) for archival purposes, but again Phone applications work well for that.
  4. Photo scanning. This is again for archive purposes and old old Minolta DiMage Elite 5400 is holding up and we have an old Epson Photo 3200 scanner.

Net, net at least for us, the biggest need is for:

  1. A simple black and white laser printer that is reliable and doesn’t boot loop. That is one that isn’t so cheap firmware is horrible. I’m kind of inclined towards HP for this although who knows how these new machines are. PC Magazine covered their new HP NeverStop 1001nw which does away with cartridges, you can refill the toner directly and the drum lasts 20,000 pages, so basically, if you buy it for $290 and get a $30 or two refills, you don’t need to think about it for 15,000 pages. I don’t think we will ever get there, but the idea that it will just sit and work is worth a try. They also have a super low-end HP LaserJet m15w but I’m worried that a $120 printer is going to be way too cheap.
  2. Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 is at the other end of the spectrum. Yes it is $700, but it uses tanks and not expensive cartridges, so the cost to print drops to $0.01/page and the first two years of ink are free. This is exactly the opposite of the razor and razor blades strategy. You pay more upfront, but the ink works better. Also, I’m hoping that with a tank, you won’t end up with the “ink drying out” problem as much. This thing is a six color printer, so if you want the absolute best 8-color, then you go back to cartridges and the Epson SureColor P900 is the ticket for a cool $1,100 and really professional looks but I’m not sure I’m printing enough art photography to justify either right now. If you do this then you’ll need a professional color matching system that will match the colors with your screen.

So in the end the decision was to go with the HP NeverStop 1001nw for $280 or so. If I’m lucky, we will literally never have to change anything, the additional refills are $15 each so four of these should last the entire 20,000 page drum life. I think we are probably printing 200 sheets a year, so this think will last 100 years 🙂

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