Expectations vs Reality of Printers

30th Apr 2019

Expectations vs Reality of Printers

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There is a rather interesting phenomenon when it comes to consumers and their expectations about purchases they make. Expectations vary greatly depending on the type of product being purchased. For example, when purchasing a new winter coat or a suit, most people have not given a lot of thought to how long they think, or expect this new item to last them. They are probably most focused on how well the item looks on them, if it is well-priced or how well-made it is. But when it comes to electronics, computers and related accessories, the life-span of these items is high on the list of questions asked when doing pre-purchase research or at the point of sale.

Although there is a fair amount of “printer-bashing” around the internet on various tech blogs and chat forums, generally speaking, people really do like their printers and are happy with their selections. HP and Samsung specifically receive very high praise from their consumers.

In a survey recently conducted of our TonerBuzz community, we discovered some fascinating facts ( Jump to the Infographic)

  • The majority (well over 50%) of the people we surveyed have HP printers in their home or business, and they are, for the most part, quite happy with their printers.
  • Over 80% of HP customers in our survey indicated they like, or even LOVE, their printers.
  • Less than 10% said they do not like their printers.
  • Those who own Brother Canon, Lexmark and Samsung also replied that they like/love their printers.

In their survey about the most reliable printers for your home, Consumer Reports found that

HP fares well in the regular black-and-white laser printer market. 61% of the respondents who own an HP model were completely satisfied with its performance. Only  Brother scored higher with 63%. For Samsung, the figure was 47%. They also reported that printers often get replaced because of performance problems. Among the printers purchased new since 2012 and subsequently swapped out by their owners, nearly 75% were abandoned because they had stopped working well or stopped working altogether. The remaining 26% were replaced by owners who wanted to upgrade.

When it comes to printers, people definitely have great expectations for their printers, and in many cases, there seems to be a wide gap between how long people expect their printers to last, vs. how long they think their printers should last. People have pretty high expectations, and perhaps, they are too high to be realistic. The truth is that the lifespan of a printer has more to do with the pages printed vs. years it will 'survive'. Manufacturers rate their products according to the 'Duty Cycle' — pages per month printer. And the duty cycle will be quite different depending on the make and model of the printer and it's intended use. Personal printers typically used in a home office/desktop will handle up to a few thousand pages/month, whereas work group and larger models for business may easily handle upwards of 100,000 pages/month.

Among those who participated in our TonerBuzz survey:

  • Over 50% expect their printer to last between 3-10 years.
  • About 22% expect it to only last 1-3 years, yet the majority of this group think their printer should last at least 3-5 or shockingly even 5-10 years!
  • 15% responded that they expect to get 10 or more years from their printers.
  • The respondents who expect their printers to last 5-10 years were also those most closely aligned with how long they think it should last with 78% responding also 5-10 years, and about 22% of this group think they should last 10 or more years.
  • Those who expect 10+ years from their printer also overwhelmingly responded the same regarding how long they
  • think it should last.

An HP support agent mentioned on the HP community support forum regarding the life expectancy of a laser printer that they could not provide a specific answer to the question of a specific printer's life expectancy as it depends on the usage of a LaserJet printer and also electronics could always be vulnerable to failures. But normally the support options or service options for a printer would be for 2 or 3 years with extended warranty and it becomes obsolete after that.

Another HP support agent suggested in a different discussion on the forum that 8 years is a good amount of life to see out of your printer, and it might be a good idea to replace rather than repair at that point.

The type of printer under consideration also plays a part on the life expectancy. When considering a typical desktop ink jet or laser printer used in a home office, a good life seems to be around 5 years, give or take. The variables at play of course will always be:

  • the printer model
  • the actual print volume
  • how well you treat it
  • the environment you keep it in

Even the larger, more sophisticated printer suitable for high volume printing still contains many electronic components which can break at any point, regardless of wear and tear. Not surprisingly, more features often leads to more problems – MFP's (multi-function, all-in-one) printers that also scan, fax and copy were found to have close to double the amount of problems reported than those of simple black and white laser printers. As with most electronics, printers tend to require repairs and service long after the manufacturer's warranty has expired. Since laser printers are so widely used and they typically still run well past their initial warranty periods, there are plenty of 3rd party companies who offer service and replacement parts for older models, which can further extend the life of a good machine.

Some points to consider regarding printer service and repairs:- What is the cost of the repair?- What is the cost of replacement?- What is the anticipated post-repair life span?

When it comes to printers used in the home, they are generally not very expensive to replace with a new one, and therefore, the cost/effort to repair may not be worthwhile. However, higher price-point printers that are more complex and generally purchased for business could definitely be worth the effort and investment in repairs and service to help keep it in use for some time to come.

When you do the homework up front before you buy a printer, ensure that it will be able to handle your printing needs. This will help close the gap between the expectation and the reality of your printer's lifespan.

Although there is no 'magic potion' around yet to guarantee your printer will last forever, here are some useful tips and suggestions to help your printer life a longer, more productive life:

  • Use OEM toner cartridges that are manufactured by the same company that makes your printer
  • Use good quality paper suitable for the type of printing you will be doing
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and service/maintenance of the printer to keep it working in optimal condition.

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