Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cost analysis of a Lexmark inkjet printer

Six years ago I bought a Lexmark Pro205 all-in-one printer, one of the few affordable ones that had WiFi. This has proven a disastrous investment, so let's go quickly through the numbers:

  • purchasing price (10 Mar 2011): 140 EUR
  • black cartridge replacement (21 May 2012): 12E
  • full ink refill set (21 Dec 2013): 18E
  • full cartridge replacement (25 Mar 2014): 13E
  • full cartridge replacement (12 Mar 2015): 12E
In total 195E, there might be other expenses as well.
Electricity costs are not included and the printer is not very economical in standby.

Printed pages - as per printer counter - 691. I would estimate the total number of usable pages to be ~200, out of which ~15 were full-color photos. This is because most of the pages from beyond number 80 had streaks and the printer required at least 50 deep cleaning cycles. About one page in five is usable, but certainly not great.

So running costs until now are 1 EUR / page. That's definitely the most expensive printer I have owned.

In comparison, around 5 years ago I bought a Kyocera FS-1020D laser printer refurbished for 30 EUR. It has printed around 1000 pages with a discard rate of 1:50. That is, 1 in 50 pages came out bad because of the printer. So the running cost for this printer is <4 cents/page. No maintenance required other than the thermal fuse blowing out because it was sitting in an enclosed area (2h, see a recent article about fixing that).

To understand the following explanations my typical scenario is the following: send a single page to be printed or copy a single page using the scanner. Sometimes a duplex page is needed, but a failure on one side requires the entire sheet to be reprinted. So most of the time I'm waiting for the printer to start up in order to print one page.

If the above is not enough let's look at maintenance costs for the Lexmark, assuming 200 print jobs:
  • WiFi problems - the printer required unplugging about 20% of the time, requiring a 2-3 min startup and cleaning cycle - 1 hour
  • cartridges and replacements shopping - 1-2 hours
  • cleaning and deep-cleaning cycles, testing, more clean cycles - 3 hours
  • driver problems requiring computer restart or driver reinstallation - 5 hours
  • manual unclogging of heads - 4 hours
  • cartridge refill and/or replacement - 2 hours
In total 16.5 wasted hours so an average of 5 minutes per print job.

Flatbed scanning is also a different matter in itself, after the latest firmware update the PDF/JPEG mistakenly trims/crops active areas an A4 page. So 1 inch from all sides is missing, sometimes including crucial information. Since scanning also requires additional warm up time plus the transfer to the computer/USB it takes at least 2 minutes to notice the error. I would estimate this has happened at least 50 times so that's another wasted hour.

ADF scanning has the same problems as above but with the added bonus of the ADF taking in two sheets instead of one in 15% of the cases. This requires you to double-check all the pages and redo the scanning if you intend to merge it into a single PDF. One more wasted hour.

Here's an actual scan from an actual print, both performed just now. Notice the quality of the print, the page counter and cropping of the page (especially visible at the bottom):

Some other remarks:
  • the Lexmark software was for a long time incompatible with Windows 7. Even now it requires administrative privileges on Windows 10 and has connectivity issues
  • the cartridges are chipped and 'earmarked' as empty based on the number of printed dots
  • cleaning the print head (either manual or automatically) uses a significant portion of the cartridge
  • cartridges cannot be reused or reset. An original set costs more than the printer. Even though they still have ink in them the printer regards them as empty after ~100 pages
  • automatic cleaning cycles are sometimes performed during the night, not a good thing if you sleep in the same room
  • I've used the fax twice, it seemed to work ok
  • scanning to USB/SDCARD randomly (15%) locks up the printer

You could draw your own conclusion but it's safe to say that I will never buy another Lexmark printer for the foreseeable future.

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