What printer is best?

That’s a question I get rather frequently. The answer just requires a little further information, such as What do you plan to print, and What do you plan to spend? In the following discussion, I will constrain the options to HP products, as they are ubiquitous, and use prices found on Amazon. The pricing is just for comparisons; the gentle reader is urged to look locally for the products.  Also, for this discussion, I won’t include tax or electricity costs.

First and foremost, if quality or durability is a consideration, don’t go cheap. An $80 printer will not stand up to frequent use, and the inks are likely to be outrageously expensive. For example, a ‘cheap’ printer, such as the Envy 4500 ($60, include scan and copy functions) uses the HP 61 cartridges. We’ll consider the more-economical high-capacity cartridges, so a black XL cartridge costs $31.99 and yields 480 pages (at the industry-standard metric of 5% page coverage). That’s $.067/p. The color ink costs $33.99 and yields 330 p, again at 5% ink coverage, and you will use that up quickly if printing pictures. That price point implies a cost per page of $.103.

So, put another way, the cost of the printer plus enough ink for 10,000 pages, plus two cases of paper (we’ll call that $45 each) brings the cost of ownership of that printer to $1805, and that’s if you didn’t blow through a stack of color cartridges printing pictures. Oh, and photo paper will cost a lot more as well, but we won’t get into that now.

A more expensive ink printer, the Photosmart Plus, costs about $280 on Amazon, and also will copy and scan. This model uses the HP 564 cartridges, which also have extra-capacity versions. The HP 564 inks also come in single colors, so unlike the HP 61 above, when one color runs low, you can replace it individually. The XL black yields 550 pages for $24.99 ($.045/p) and each of the three color cartridges yield 750 pages for $20.99 ($.028/p). Total cost of 10,000 pages, given equal distribution of color and optimal yields, $1660.


So, I guess that was a long way of saying that a cheap printer may cost a lot more in the long run. There are other factors to consider as well, such as whether one needs the copy/scan/fax capability. Also, if the majority of printing is black text, one should consider a laser printer. Typical price-per-page of a laser printer is $.01, including the paper. Cartridges will run $50+, but usually yield over a thousand pages.

Questions? Comments?

Will heat make my laptop run slower?

The editors at DigitalTrends did a small experiment to find out. You can read it here. They checked the temp of a laptop while running some processor-intensive programs while on a flat surface, and again while laying on a sleeping bag.

In a nutshell – no. Heat by itself will not slow down the laptop. What it will do is cause the laptop to fail completely. Having taken many laptop cases apart, I can safely say that they collect more material inside them than do desktops. This fouling is due in large part to the surface on which they are placed, as well as their having very small vents through which dirt may enter, but seldom departs. All that accumulated dirt will act as a blanket inside the case, preventing the cooling system from doing its job. Over time, the constant overheating can degrade the components until one or more fail. Then its time for a new laptop.

So my recommendation from here in Help Desk Labs – spend the $20-$30 on a cooling station and don’t bring your lappie to bed.

Windows 10 – what to do

Don’t panic.

Windows 10 will be released at the end of July, free as a download to current users of Windows 7 or 8/8.1. Should you get it? Well, maybe.

ZDNet has an article with some good advice here.

Take a look and let me know what you think – ready to take the Windows 10 plunge?

How old is that battery?

During a recent storm, I was at a customer’s business. The power flickered, and their PC went dark. I mentioned that we might need to invest in a battery backup to prevent damage to the PC and loss of data in the case of a sudden power event. They replied that they already had one; had been using it for years. It turns out that the battery was weakened enough to not be able to keep power to the attached devices, but no so dead yet that the low battery alarm on the unit had gone off.

A good rule of thumb is that a battery backup only lasts 2 – 3 years. If yours is older, don’t trust it to keep your mission-critical systems running in a low power situation. A dead battery will cost you data, and might let your computer assets get damaged.