March 19, 2004

Printers, Part 1: Clogs Galore

Some while back I mentioned that I hate my printer. I got a number of good suggestions for a replacement; in particular, most people had had good luck with Hewlett-Packard inkjets. Now, I've got a good history with HP; I had a couple of their early injkets (the Deskjet and the DeskjetPlus), and we have a Laserjet 4 that's still working fine after something like 15 years. At this point I'm sure it will obsolesce before it wears out.

I got my first color inkjet shortly after getting my first digital camera; it was a Canon of some kind. I didn't get an HP because at that time HP's color inkjets were lagging, and printers that could reproduce a photo nicely were rare. The Canon's print quality was OK for its time, if not outstanding, but I was continually having problems with it--every so often the it would start garbling the data sent to it. Or perhaps the computer was garbling the data; I never did figure it out.

I replaced the Canon with an Epson Stylus Photo 700, which printed beautiful photos and got irredeemably clogged if you didn't use it often enough, which I didn't. I replaced it with a rather less expensive Epson (The 888? I don't remember.) It produced adequate prints, and suffered more or less the same fate. I replaced it with yet another inexpensive Epson, the C-82, which is the one I wrote about last time. It has multiple problems: it clogs regularly, and sometimes in mid-job, and it doesn't play well with Mac OS X 10.3--nor is any new driver forthcoming from Epson. I installed a third party printer driver that solves the driver problem, but given how much ink and paper costs, the mid-job-clogging problem is enough reason to look for another printer.

You'll note that that was three Epsons in a row to go south. Even I couldn't ignore that. The picture quality is great, and inkjet printers are ridiculously inexpensive these days, but they are not quite disposable.

So. Time to look for another printer.

On Wednesday, whilst our three older kids were all in school, Jane and I took little Mary off to the mall for a stroll and a road-test of our new Urban Assault Stroller. While there we stopped off at the Apple Store, where I investigated the printer aisle. "Naturally," I reasons, "If they sell the printer at the Apple Store, they expect it to work with their latest OS!"

(Whether this was a valid assumption shall be seen anon. Foreshadowing: your guide to quality literature.)

(The line about "foreshadowing" is a quote--10 points to anyone who can identify the source.)

The Apple Store had Epson, Canon, and HP printers. Given my past history with Epson and Canon, and the good words folks had for HP, I decided I'd give the HPs a serious look. And the one that really caught my eye was the PSC 2410.

The PSC 2410 is an All-in-one printer: it prints, scans, copies, and faxes. I've previously avoided this kind of beast--jack-of-all-trades, master of none--but this one is part of HP's PhotoSmart line, implying it should print photos nicely. In addition, it accepts digital camera memory cards, allowing you to make prints directly, without benefit of computer. And the scanner is a really nice feature. (I've got a scanner that I never use. It lives in a box, because I don't have room to leave it out all the time. Because it's in a box, I never use it. It probably doesn't work with OS X anyway.) In addition, the paper feed for HP printers is on the bottom, instead of sticking up in the back. This is good; it means that I don't need to take the paper out when I put the dustcover on the printer.

The price for the PSC 2410? $299.

I decided to think about it, and to check prices elsewhere. A little web research, and I determined that yes, indeed, the printer is well-thought-of, and that yes (surprisingly) $299 is a reasonable price. OK, I said; I'll get one.

Now, the Apple Store is at a mall about thirty minutes from our house. On the other hand, there's an Office Depot five minutes from our house. Feeling slightly guilty (the Apple salesman was extremely helpful, and really deserved to make the sale) I stopped off at Office Depot and took a look around.

And stopped dead in my tracks. You see, the PSC 2410 has a big brother, the 2510, that allows you to print, scan, and so on over a wireless network. It usually sells for $100 more than the 2410, and though I'm big on wireless I wouldn't spend an extra $100 to get a wireless printer. But Office Depot had a special sale on HP wireless printers--in short, I bought a PSC 2510 for the same price as a PSC 2410. Good stuff. Plus, Office Depot has all of the HP paper and inks. I got a ream of Bright White inkjet paper, a package of Premium Glossy photo paper, and some ink, and headed home.

Posted by Will Duquette at March 19, 2004 05:10 PM