Kent's Blog
EC Container 5

Spending $300 to save $10

I live in New England, where frugalness is prized. Well, to some extent, at least. How about: I don’t like to waste money needlessly, although I do value my own time.

When my HP CP2025DN color Laserjet printer ran out of its initial black toner cartridge, I knew how to get more toner out of it. Lots of years with HP black&white laser printers taught me there’s a LOT of toner still in there when the printer thinks it’s “out”, and the failure mechanism of actually running out of toner is the text on the printouts just gets lighter and lighter. When that happens, just shake the toner cartridge, and get another hundred pages or so.

The printer has 4 cartridges, the usual black, magenta, yellow, and cyan. Each cost about $100 from HP, a little less if you want refilled no-name cartridges. I bought 4 new cartridges since I’ll need them all eventually, but didn’t put the black in until I noticed the output fading. The color cartridges were more than 2/3rd full when the block toner initially ran “out”. So after a few hundred pages, I thought the printouts were looking a little less black, and put in a new black cartridge.

And...the printer complained it was still out of toner. What it had done was to drain the color cartridges, probably using all the ink to approximate black. And so all the color toner cartridges were empty.

So to use the last $10 or so of one black cartridge, I’d drained $300 of color cartridges.

But I still won’t replace the color cartridges--I’m using the new black cartridge, but not the new color cartridges. I still get color that looks fine to me even though the printer says all of the color cartridges are completely empty. But what do I have to lose now? Now, I’m running a new experiment, to see how long the printer will print color even with “empty” color cartridges. And to see how HP will try to rip me off this time. I guess it could needlessly drain the black toner, but where would the black ink go?

Moral of the story: Don’t run with scissors? Never start a land war in Asia? Well, I’m not happy HP feels the need to do something underhanded (who would really want to use expensive color ink to approximate black?) to make me buy more toner. I didn’t mention the fact that the printer by default stops and refuses to print when it thinks it still has 6% toner left, although that setting can be overridden on a menu setting (Toner Low Override: On).

I had previously bought a Minolta MC2550 color laser printer, and it did colors great (better than HP), but its small black text was blurry, and since 90% of what I want is to print really small text (2-up duplex text), that was just unacceptable. Then the Minolta began jamming I never did buy new toner cartridges for it, I just traded it in towards the HP instead when Staples ran a deal on trade-ins, after I’d run the toner down to nearly empty. Which was a bad deal for Staples since I would have been happy to pay someone to take the Minolta away.

But now I no longer trust HP printers, which is probably going to cost HP more than $300 in the long run.
EC Container 6