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back to article Ten... all-in-one inkjet printers

There are two types of inkjet all-in-one printer: one intended for photo enthusiasts and the other for people running offices. It's the latter lot I'm attending to here, with a selection of printers designed for those who value plain paper output as much as - if not more than - snaps. The price ranges large, with the cheapest …

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Ink costs and reliability?

The slight problem with the review is that it does take into account two essential factors when it comes to inkjet printers:

1. Long term reliability.

2. Availability and cost of compatible cheap inks.

I find these to be absolutely crucial when choosing an inkjet printer. You might have given several Epson models good ratings - but I found over the years that Epsons have really weak print heads. Again and again, their heads dry out, sometimes they can be gotten to work again - but more often then not, they are for the scrap hip. It is worse if you use compatible inks, but it still happens far too soon even with original inks.

On the other hand, you might not like Brother printer quality (maybe it was just the one you've tried?) - while I have plenty of clients using them for regular print and photo print - with excellent results. More so - their printing heads seem far more robust then specially Epson and Canon printing heads - and will last a long time even when using nothing but compatible ink. The best one to date lasted about 6 years in a fairly busy small office, most of this time on compatible inks. This is a lot for an inkjet printer which was never designed for high volume of printing.

Even better still, you can buy packs of 20 ink cartridges for most current and recent Brother printers (LC900, LC1000, LC1100, LC985 etc.) on Amazon.co.uk for about £17- that's less then £1 per cartridge. You will be hard pressed to beat this combination of reliability and cheap running costs.

No affiliation with Brother - except for having tried and used their inkjet printers at many clients.

On the other hand - their laser printers are a completely different story. The all-in-one models I've tried at clients gave up the ghost in fairly short order. Go figure.

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L.B
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I have no experience with Brother printers so will take your word.

But I completely agree with you comments about Epson printers, I know 4 people who all bought Epson printers within 6 months as the price and print quality seemed good.

Every one of them died after about 18 months, claiming all ink cartridges were empty after 4 pages or just stopped output completely.

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Anonymous Coward

I keep hoping someone will report Epson have fixed the problem of clogging print heads. I got burned twice about four years ago and will not touch them again until someone reports this has been sorted. HP on the other hand has been totally reliable (though their printer monitoring software is bleeding annoying).

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FAIL

@AC 17:07

ALL of HPs printer software is bleeding annoying.

And they don't fix bugs.

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Do HPs still use those annoying tricolour ink cartridges - a consumate fail?

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FAIL

Epson, what a load of crap

Sadly for me Epsom = shit and I wouldn’t touch one with a 40 foot barge pole.

I purchased a Epson SX512W combined scanner and printer last year, usage during the school term is reasonable however the printer has been idle for the last 4 months. Last week I went to use it, I had to make a copy of in important document only to find the red has dried out, so I bought a set of cartridges only to find that the red printer head is also clogged. Several cycles of head cleaning also managed empty the (new) blue cartridge as well!!!!!!

Manufacturers won’t say how much ink is in a cartridge, however a little research reveals that epson cartridges contain between 8ml and 17ml of ink, or that Epson ink costs^H^H^H^H^H is sold for between €1000 and €2000 a litre, I could buy a bottle Remy Martin Louis XIV brandy or several bottles of Dom Pérignon for less!!!

Epson has invested heavily in creating an ink cartridge that is not refillable and has a special chip that says when the cartridge is empty, but the cartride does not report how much ink is left in the cartridge, the printer/driver decides if the cartridge is empty and sends a signal to the chip to set it so that it reports as being empty even though it is still 10% to 20% unused.

This is done because a print head operates by heating the printer head to make the ink spray out of the print nozzle, if insufficient ink is present in the nozzle the nozzle may be damaged by heating a dry nozzle of baking the ink in the nozzle thereby clogging it.

I don’t think the quality of the ink is an issue as I used a cannon BJC3000 printer for 9 years and only ever bought 2 cannon refills for as I was refilling the cartridges with a mixture of inks from PC world and Maplins.

In addition the setup software didn’t work and I had to configure the wireless setting myself.

On top of that my computer has stopped recognising the printer, I can see connected when I log on to the modem, so the printer is on the network but the comport can’t see it and the shitty epson diagnostics keep saying to check the printer settings.

Except I can’t do that because all as the printer will let me do at the moment is change the ink cartridge.

epson FAIL

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Happy

Hey ho, each to his own I guess.

I found everything you said about Epson to be true......about 15 years ago, which was when I swore I'd never buy another one. Never say never....

The eye-opener was about a decade back, stuck in an office with a dead Epson inkjet. Two cleaning cycles later and it was back in business, much to my utterly gobsmacked astonishment I might add. Holds true to this day, they are the *only* machines I have found that will always recussitate an ostensibly blocked head, something of a "must have" for occasional and intermittant use.

You can run 'em down to empty, just ignore the "buy more ink now" warnings^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hsales pitch. They do work with compatibles, but I find the colour balance superior with the vanilla ones. Again, each to his own.

Running a Stylus Photo PX700W right now. Works a treat. Top tip: Change the colour carts as a set when the first goes. The charging cycle uses ink and wringing the last drop out of the others is a false economy. This doesn't seem to be an Epson-specific PITA.....

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MVS
WTF?

Epson - a ditto, and shout out to the past, and experience with HP

I had five dead printers in my garage last year, three were Epsons. Stupid clogging print head. But. it all started when I thought I could use the compatible cartridges on my Epson 700, which prior to that was producing very nice photos and related home printing demands quite nicely for a couple of years. After the the third Epson gave up, I tried a Canon or two, and was screwed just as quick. (I have several of their cameras with the frozen lens issue, so I will NEVER buy another Canon product).

I currently have an HP 6500, and had to replace (Free under warranty) the print head. The LCD screen is scrambled, so I need to call them again, and it's not yet a year old. My HP 4L (circa 1995) still prints just fine, and I refill the toner. I also got an HP 3505dn, and it does pretty well, but the four toners cost $100 - $125 apiece. I won't go down the "compatible, or remanufactured" route again, too risky.

I just want a reliable, reasonably economical printer so my family can print school stuff, pictures, and work/volunteer documents when needed. Why is this so hard?

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Happy

If you're on a budget...

The HP 1050 is £25 in Tesco and works fine. Amazing value and probably cheap to run if, like me, you buy cheapskate unbranded ink on eBay. It works fine on Linux too, but I expect all of the reviewed printers do. Actually, it probably works BETTER on Linux -- I just plugged it in and a few seconds later it installed itself and just worked. Getting it working on Windows 7 involved a > 50Mb download.

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Anonymous Coward

You can normally skip the big download on Windows and just install the driver, leaving the annoying monitoring software and the rest of the bloat.

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Stop

Epson

I've been using an Epson Stylus Photo R360 with a CIS for the last 4 years. The heads show no sign of drying out but there IS a longstanding problem with Epsons in that they calculate when the ink absorbing pads will be saturated with ink and simply stop printing. The official way to fix this is to use an official repairer for about £100. When this happened to me about two years ago I used a hack and have printed happily and smudge-free for another two years.

If you have the Equivalent printer in the USA, Epson will give you a FREE software fix, no repair bills there. Lets screw Europe.

My advice would be to NOT buy an Epson. I don't mind printers which breakdown but I detest planned obsolescence.

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Anonymous Coward

Programmed Obsolescence...

I agree, we're all being taken for a ride when it comes to printers. I will never again waste my money on an expensive printer. The old adage "Pay more for better quality and save money in the long term" is no longer true. I have no doubt that my Canon was programmed to just stop working after a given time - Epson have been caught doing this too.

It would have been nice if the review could have quoted running costs per year independent of ink costs, so your HP @ $150 would be $100 pa for example because you're going to have to buy a new one after 18 months. Alas, how many manufactures quote mean time between failures?

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Re: Programmed Obsolescence

For what it's worth, my HP OfficeJet G85xi is still going strong after owning it for ten years now.

I use it heavily for scanning, possibly more than printing, so the ink costs are less of a factor for me than most people.

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r360

I too have an old 2007 r360 on CIS and a pair of R2400 on CIS too (and a dye sub 1400 on CIS) . The hack for the 360 is a right pain. I could only find one "dubious" site that had the hack. The 2400 was easily found. I needed to move the pipe from the right hand side of the 360 to a bottle in order to drain the ink. A proper frankenprinter but it is very very cheap to run. It is shocking how much ink is wasted into the drain bottle too.

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FAIL

HP8500

Read the HP support forums - this has to be one of the worst printers HP ever produced. Problems with paper feed and printheads are common - the heads are £40 EACH +/- and seem to have a high failure rate.

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The other thing to look out for:

No Linux driver: waste of space.

Closed source Linux driver: When the manufacturer wants me to buy a new printer, all he has to do is stop maintainting the driver. Assume the printer will be dead in two years.

Open source Linux driver: The manufacturer has to work harder to make me buy a new printer.

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Anonymous Coward

Agree in general, though just because some company stops "maintaining" the driver doesn't mean you have to buy a new printer. Once it works, then it works for the printer capabilities and they can't make it not work

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This is the reason my last 2 printers have been from HP - their HPLIP software is excellent.

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If it were that simple.

1.You upgrade your OS.

2.You buy a new computer with a new OS.

3.You wish to use your printer with your other computer as well (which has a different OS or a different enough version of the same OS that the driver can't be installed).

All these scenarios mean buying a new printer for no reason other than manufacturers being annoying. I'm not even a super open source guy (even go so far as to use a Mac most of the time), but offering open source drivers is a good thing for everyone. You can bet your ass that if I have a printer from one manufacturer that stops working because of driver issues, then I'm not buying another printer from that manufacturer to replace it. In fact, I'll buy something that is really well supported by open source and has available drivers for most operating systems (that shows that the manufacturer takes this stuff at least a little bit seriously, and that workarounds should be available).

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Anonymous Coward

I hate MFP inkjets

I would never buy an mfp inkjet even for low duty cycles or fax use, wether you use them for one off prints or low cycles, I've always found them to dry out after a couple of months, I'm sticking to Laserprinters even though the colour prints are nowhere near the resolution of inkjet printers, reliability and running costs of inkjets have put me off them forever, the other pet hate I have with inkjet mfps is they don't let you scan or send faxes after the ink runs or drys out.

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Happy Pixma MP4?0 user here. Everything working well after 4 years, photo output still excellent for the price. Even has/had Linux driver (though I don't use it any more).

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Anonymous Coward

My HP Officejet J4580

With fax and ADF, cost £50 incl delivery from HP a couple of years back, and I've only had to buy one extra black cartridge - I just keep injecting it with ink bought separately. NB pigment (not dye) ink, and injected using a 'primer' kit costing £5 off ebay, produce good results. You get a feel for the technique of topping it up, and the means of getting around any hitches! The software suite is junk but who needs one-touch scanning anyway?

BTW my mother has one of the HP 7200 series (luxury office all-in-ones) and we've bought third party ink pods with removable rubber topup stoppers, works a treat - although like with, say, an epson, you've got to switch it off and on regularly to keep the ink heads wet/clear.

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Pint

Kodak ESP 7250

The Kodak ESP series (e.g. 7250 and +/- ) are still available. Everyone that I know that was in the market for a new multifunction printer has ended up with a Kodak ESP in the 5000 to 9000 range. The primary reason is that the Kodak-branded ink isn't priced by criminal lunatics. With all the big players (Lexmark, Epson, HP, etc.) you will be forced by cost to use off-brand cartridges or refill. With Kodak one can just purchase Kodak tanks. Kodak also have fantastic support (so I've been told by others).

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Anonymous Coward

Kodak ink

(black anyway) seems to be only 5x or 10x more expensive than diy refills, as opposed to the 20x or 40x of some of the most expensive own-brand manufactured inks. So, yes, it's cheaper, but, that may not be saying much!

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Anonymous Coward

Ink dries out in the inkjet printers. 'nuff said.

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Anonymous Coward

That's very misleading.

There are two types of inkjet, broadly: those where the printhead is on the disposable cartridge, and those where it's built into the machine.

If the former gets dry, one can just literally sit them in a saucer of water, and use a 'primer' (which is a rubber seal) and a syringe to apply suction to restore the flow of ink. Primer kits can be bought on eBay - however, assuming the cartridge is used, say, every few weeks, nothing bad should happen. The important thing when refilling, is to do so immediately upon running out of ink - because the crafty manufacturers have chemically engineered the inks to deliberately clog the cartridge upon running empty. Hence need for primer/saucer.

The latter (fixed print head) type is more problematic - although there are allegedly fixes.

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Meh

That Lexmark Genesis is a work of art

Pretty much everything I was going to say about inkjets has already been said, and it's sort of refreshing to learn I wasn't the only one suffering.

I owned four over the years; two Epsons, a Brother and something else whose manufacturer I can't recall. Every one of them suffered clogging problems if they weren't used frequently, even with official cartridges, so that printing out the occasional page or photo once every month or so became an expensive waste of time and ink trying to get the damned things to self-clean to the point of usability.

I switched to an HP all-in-one laser a couple of years ago and have never looked back. The cost of toner is horrendous (£50-60 quid for each if one shops around, £80 on the high street) but the cartridges last for ages and it actually pays for itself in saved time and reduced stress. Now on the rare occasions when I want a document printed I have it in my hand after 60 seconds, not after 45 minutes of fighting with a clogged inkjet, wasting a fortune in ink and paper. On the even rarer occasions that I want a few photos printed, I pop them down to Asda.

Having said all that, kudos to Lexmark's designers for the Genesis which is simply stunning. If I had cash to waste (and a home that would do it justice) I'd buy one just as a conversation piece. It's gorgeous.

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Headmaster

oem ink

I must admit I used to always use cheap ink off ebay, online stores, etc. I swore by canon printers as they were the ones you could most easily get cheap ink for.

But time and time again I'd have problems with ink drying up in nozzles and gaffing around for ages to sort it out again and again.

I hated to admit it was cheap ink - ink is ink and all that... however,since I got an HP and decided to just stick to HP ink (albeit from the cheapest ebay seller I could find) I have never had a single problem ever.

My friends and relatives who had had similar problems with the canons I recommended to them with cheap ink, also stopped having them when I told them to start using canon ink.

I know it's a rip off, but the cheap stuff can sometimes be a different kind of rip off in that you don't really know what you are getting.

just my experience anyway.

stu

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The primary problem with cheap ink is if you wish to use the printer for photos. Unfortunately it is still the case that (unless you wish to profile the printer properly) manufacturer ink with manufacturer paper still gives the best out of the box results (essentially because the profile is already in the driver, and they were made for each other). Kodak paper is pretty good as they'll tell you on their website what changes to make to the printer settings for the best results. I've found third party ink to give awful results when printing photos despite trying all manner of changes to the settings. Print longevity can also be an issue.

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Megaphone

And another myth goes "pop"!

".....HP's business inkjet engine has two printheads, each supplied by separate, high-capacity ink tanks. This gives very low running costs of 0.8p for black and 3.3p for colour - the best you'll find here."

But, all that venomous anti-hp FUD claims that hp ink is twenty-zillion times more expensive than anyone else! Gosh, do you think they were lying....?

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Inkjet... never again

Five years ago I bought a canon MP830 MFP... mostly for its double sided scanning ability, and the scanner worked flawlessly up until recently when the lamp went. As a printer however I'm less impressed. The quality of the printer is excellent, both photos and documents, however It takes 5 cartridges, 3 colours and 2 blacks. I hardly ever print out in colour, but somehow the colour cartridges empty regardless. If any one of the cartridges is out, you can't print (though you could scan)...These cartridges are hard to find now, and have slowly been increasing in price over the years. So the other day I bought its replacement, a black and white canon laser printer (MF4550d), also with ADF scanning (single sided only - I wish I'd read the specs more carefully - going to have to write a script). If I want to print out a photo, there are plenty of places that will do this cheaply.

Inkjet... never again.

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FAIL

@Matthew 36

The reason your color cartridges empty when printing black/white documents is because in your *printer settings* you have selected color print. So you get a nice black containing ink from all your cartridges.

My Canon Pixma works flawlessly already for years, and when used correctly, ink usage is as it should.

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indeed

at home I use a canon i4000 5 cart printer. Never had an issue with it.

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WTF?

So much loss...

And yet nobody makes a LASER mfp?

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FAIL

FAIL

Lexmark X2600, HP CLJ Pro 100, Samsung SCX-4826FN, Konica Minolta 1690MF, Brother MFC 9010CN... Just a random pick list from the first page of a search at CDW.com.

Try harder next time.

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Angel

Let me rephrase that then...

And El Reg can't put one a single one on the review for comparison? PCW did that all the time - set up a roundup of color lasers and in a box show a phase-change printer and discuss the differences.

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Devil

people stull use inkjet?

I pity you.

I went with a nice brother colour workgroup laser printer a while ago. Yes it cost more, but it's been more then worth it, just on not having to toss out dried up ink cartridges.

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Idle printers

I have to record that as my inkjet printer is often idle for several months I have the threat of clogged jets. So after printing I remove the cartridges, with jets of course, and store them in a sealed jar. Next time they come out fresh as there is no evaporation.

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Facepalm

Not affiliated with them, but I have used happyprinter.co.uk for a while and been impressed with the quick service, cheap cartridges and the fact they worked fine in my Canon printer, despite all the usual comments from manufacturers you should only use branded (or shall we say, bloody expensive) replacement ink.

Just my opinion. [Bored on a sunday morning - talking about ink cartridges, Jeez!]

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Meh

Wireless?

I'm getting asked more and more about this. Folks are using their laptops etc. more in the living room and dont want the printer in the living room. The router due to the oddity of sticking the phone socket in the hallway means the printer doesnt go there either.

I've been looking for a MFP laser with wireless as a lot of folks have wised up to them and they are really hard to find or very expensive.

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I tend to use the Brother wireless mfp's - and find them good. Specially with inks at 20 cartridges for £17 from Amazon.co.uk - it's hard to complain about the running costs. The problem with laser mfp's is that they are considerably larger and heavier then inkjet ones.

On the other hand, at least Samsung and Brother do several wireless all-in-one mono laser printers. Probably some other manufacturers as well. I don't know about colour ones - but they tend to be even bigger then the mono ones.

I tend to prefer the Samsung laser printers in general - as they do models with 5000 and 10000 pages toner cartridges - which works out cheaper per page. At least for a business (even a small one) that makes a difference.

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Epson Workforce

Here in the US i bought the Epson Workforce 600 a while back -- wireless scanning, printing and faxing, both on Mac and Windows. Dunno about Linux.

However, when scanning you might do with a wired connection -- otherwise it takes really long for the scan to finish (most likely the transfer speed, not the scanner itself).

Used an old HP Deskjet before that, but HP stopped updating the Mac printer drivers.

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Linux

The Epson Japan affiliate (avasys.jp) does Linux drivers for wireless printing and scanning.

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I have an Epson SX510W

Not quite as fancy as the SX525W reviewed here but I can say without doubt that I would not recommend an Epson printer to ANYONE. The bloody thing eats through cartridges, arbitrarily corrupts cartridges so they're no longer recognized and uses chips on the cartridges to prevent the use of refills or other cheap means of printing.

As a general rule DO NOT buy any inkjet which uses chips, or combo cartridges. It's about time reviews started punishing printers that do this crap. Perhaps if manufacturers were docked 10-15% marks for using chips and reviews began hurting their profits, they might feel more inclined not to do it.

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Pint

@ "people still use inkjets?"

Oninoshiko: "people stull use inkjet? I pity you. I went with a nice brother colour workgroup laser printer"

Do colour laser printers do actual photo-quality prints? With the right paper, inkjets can print lovely photos (almost indistinguishable from the local photo lab). I agree that lasers are ideal for printing out tedious pie charts and mind-numbing presentations. Laser printers are great, provided you don't mind the noxious stink that some laser printers emit (an emission that probably causes *something*).

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For photos

No laser of any quality (none I have ever owned) emits a "noxious stink." I'll admit though, I don't sit around trying to huff printer-fumes.

How often do you print photos? I can't tell you how well it prints photos, It's not something I normally do. Frankly, the cost of ink (everyone I know who owns one with that logic, ends up having to replace the cartage EVERY TIME) and the right paper, that makes it not worth the cost to keep a second printer around that is crap at everything I normally do. It's normally cheaper to just take it by the nearest photo-lab.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Brian Griffiths

Are you sure that you are not confusing the 8500 and the 8500A, which is a different machine altogether.

The 8500 has problems with the paper feed due to part of the pick-up clutch cracking.

@Robert E A Harvey

Just install the driver using .inf file and don't bother with the HP software if it is proving irksome

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.inf

..of which none were supplied with the MFP supplied by the office.

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Holmes

Why not

Looking through the list one thought keeps recurring why would I buy an inkjet from this selection ? I couldn't think of a reason, the only one that was outstanding was the HP office and that was serious overkill for a home user. So for the money I'm likely to get a colour laser no problems with ink drying if I don't use it for several weeks and cost effective. Bit of a no brainer really unless you want a cheap throwaway model.

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Not cheap either

The real issue is that most "consumer" printers, be they ink jets or lasers only exist to stiff users for the consumables. They're badly designed, the software / drivers are filled with crapware and the consumables are expensive.

If you look at colour laser printers they tend to be a lot bulkier (thanks to all those toner carts and the complex rollers and moving bits, and the toner, cost per page is even more expensive than ink. I think lasers make perfect sense in the office and they make perfect sense if you don't care about colour at all. But the consumer models stink as badly as inkjets. At least with inkjets its easier to find 3rd party refills to lessen the pain a bit.

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