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ZippyDSMlee's picture
Joined: 2006-09-30

[QUOTE]State of the Art
Paying More for a Printer, but Less for Ink

Published: May 17, 2007

In some ways, the world of electronics is a great big game of Us vs. Them, filled with imbalances of power that the little people can’t do anything about. Through learned helplessness, we’ve come to accept that the gadget we buy today will be passé in a year — period. Calling technical support is going to be a nightmare — tough rocks. Buying cartridges for an inkjet printer will cost twice as much as the printer itself — each year.

The Kodak 5300 printer ($200) has a color screen and memory-card slots, so you can print your camera’s photos without a computer.

But a couple of weeks ago, a funny thing happened: Kodak decided to get into the inkjet printer business for the first time (not counting a joint venture with Lexmark a few years ago). And to drive the point home, Kodak decided to turn the razor-blades model of printers and cartridges on its head. Kodak’s printers cost a little more — but the ink, according to Kodak, costs half as much as Hewlett-Packard’s.

The first three Kodak models are all-in-one machines — that is, combination printer/scanner/copiers. They’re good-looking, cleanly designed machines that work with both Mac and Windows.

The base model is called the 5100 ($150); the 5300 ($200) adds a color screen and memory-card slots, so you can print your camera photos without a computer. And the 5500 ($300) adds faxing, a document feeder and double-sided printing. All of these machines contain the same printing guts and accept the same cartridges.

These machines print beautiful glossy photos relatively quickly: a borderless 4-by-6 print pops out in about 55 seconds.

That’s not as fast as rival models (some manage a 4-by-6 in 32 seconds), but there’s a big difference: Kodak’s machines accept so-called pigment inks. They take longer to dry, but they also take longer to fade — as in 90 years, even when exposed to the air. The dye-based inks in most inkjets begin to fade away in as little as one year. In other words, if you’re willing to wait 20 more seconds to print a photo, you might gain 89 years of viewing pleasure.

On plain paper, printouts generally look sharp and bright, but occasionally appear slightly faded or have faint bands across broad areas of color.

But quality, schmality: let’s talk ink. Could it be true that Kodak charges half as much for the same ink?

Getting to the bottom of this question is like trying to calculate the interest on the penalties for late payment of the alternative minimum tax on nonfarm income. It’s extremely complicated.

Hewlett-Packard asserts that Kodak’s tests are flawed; for example, it says Kodak didn’t use the recommended paper when testing one of H.P.’s printers. Kodak responds that H.P. will say just about anything to protect its cash cow.

As evidence, Kodak points to the H.P. news release that landed shortly after Kodak’s new strategy was announced. H.P. was announcing a new ink-pricing strategy.

“See? We forced your hand,” says Kodak (I’m paraphrasing here).

“Nonsense,” replies H.P. “This is a massive cartridge packaging, labeling and numbering reorganization that we’ve been working on since 2004.”

The thrust of H.P.’s new pricing scheme is that starting with its spring 2007 printer models, each ink will be available in two cartridge sizes: standard and XL. The smaller size will cost less than H.P.’s current cartridges, but also contain less ink.

H.P. says that by lowering the upfront cost, the new “standard” cartridge will benefit people who don’t print much. And yet, as Kodak points out, H.P. has actually managed to increase the ink’s cost per page.

H.P.’s new XL tanks, on the other hand, hold three times the ink of the standard ones — but cost twice as much.

So now, given all of these twists, here’s the 64,000-liter question: Do Kodak’s cartridges really save you money?

There are a thousand variables (printer model, paper type, what you’re printing, which size cartridge you’re testing, phase of the moon, what you had for breakfast and so on). The following calculations are based on cartridge prices from Staples.com. They don’t factor in the paper price, and they ignore the existence of cheap cartridge-refill companies.

This simple example pits Kodak’s $200 all-in-one, the 5300, against H.P.’s $200 all-in-one, the C5180.

Kodak’s black cartridge costs $10 and prints 350 pages (of an industry-standard test document). Ink cost per page: 2.8 cents.

H.P.’s current black cartridge costs $18 and prints 660 pages, for an ink cost per page of 2.7 cents. The H.P. wins by a hair.

In most other scenarios, however, the Kodak wins by a mile. For example, the black ink cost per page generated by H.P.’s new, improved 2007 cartridges — the standard and the XL sizes — cost you 7.5 and 4 cents per page, respectively. H.P.’s new pricing scheme has made it less competitive, not more.

The math for photo prints gets even more complicated, because the H.P. 5180 uses individual color ink tanks ($10 each), so you don’t throw away perfectly good ink when one tank runs dry. On the Kodak, however, a single $25 cartridge contains all four colors, plus a fifth tank containing a clear sealant that’s applied whenever you print on Kodak photo paper. (The Kodak also has a separate black cartridge for text.)

Kodak hoped to settle the economy issue by hiring a lab called Quality Logic to study 14 printers from H.P., Canon, Brother, Lexmark and Kodak. The lab bought three of each printer, and nine sets of cartridges for each model, to compensate for subtle variations in manufacturing. [/QUOTE]


Ah modern gaming its like modern film only the watering down of fiction and characters is replaced with shallow and watered down mechanics, gimmicks and shiny-er "people".
Incoherence is my friend and grammar my bane, which is the fulcrum of suffering I place upon others!:ZippyDSMlee

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