color printer: should I go with ink or laser?
I'm looking at long term cost and quality. Thanks.
It depends on what you are going to be printing. If it is mainly text based documents with simple graphics I would go laser, but if you plan on printing a ton of photos, ink jet would be my recommendation. Laser printers are more expensive up front, but the toner is usually less expensive per page than an ink cartridge. Personally I use a laser printer since I usually just print off school work, invoices, and reciepts and very rarely do any complex graphics such as photographs.
For long term ownership, I prefer monochrome lasers. They're simple and if you can get a SMB model from HP or even a Brother, they're just about bulletproof and keep going as if they are the Energizer bunny. If you still want color, find one from HP or Brother with a reasonable CPP and consumable list. HP's low CPP models tend to include the ITB as a consumable, so consider that a consumable for anything descent with HP. Brother tends to consider it lifetime across the line but the drums are sold as a set for color (C/M/Y); for black the drum is sold individually. That said, this is significantly cheaper then the HP ITB replacements.
I personally use an HP M401n right now and I'm happy with it, although I may be replacing it due to a clicking gear that’s difficult to replace (I suspect sales floor abuse because it was a floor model). It doesn’t impact printing as far as I know so I still use it but I’m probably going to replace it if I ever need toner or I start seeing hard jam errors. This is an older model that has been discontinued for quite some time. While I like HP, I am dissapointed with the latest models to the degree I’m seriously considering Brother after years of hesitation.
While I think HP's value proposition is no longer there, I'm liking some of Brother's mid to high volume lasers; especially the XL/XXL bundles. You get the same printer as the base model (and Brother toner is cheap) but I’m partial to XL printers with pack-in toner on value alone. The pack-in toner is worth $200 alone, but you pay for this in the initial purchase price (Ex: Base L2750DW is $249.99 vs $399.99 for the XL bundle).
Brother also doesn't play games around 3rd party toner like the major manufacturers and makes it easy to tell the printer to disregard the reported toner level :-). I expect 10 layers of vendor crap to sell OEM toner, but Brother isn’t as evil as the others and I’m picky; I will walk away from brands like Xerox because they reject used toner and Samsung because they use firmware to block 3rd party toner based on the chip ID. Epson is also on that list** for the 88/69/68 carts with wetness sensors and the use of a read only EEPROM lock at ~25% to prevent refilling. I will never consider them again.
**I've had 2, but they were either acquired used as scanners or it was given to me and I scrapped it. I just don't buy the genuine ink for them because I don't want to give Epson even one cent of my money.