I'm going bald! Now, you'd think that may have something to do with growing old or genetics, but I'm pretty convinced it's caused by exasperation. You see, I'm tired of fruitlessly convincing my friends to buy a laser printer whenever they ask me which inkjet printer they should buy for home use. So I've adopted a strategy. Before coming to the budget and the model number, the first thing I ask is whether they frequently print colour pages. In most cases, the answer has been either a weak “at times” or an almost inaudible “no” – they need a printer primarily to take prints of emails and documents. “If that’s the case, why don’t you buy a mono laser printer?” I almost shout.

It’s true that inkjet printers are most affordable and many come integrated with scanners, thereby adding the copier function. The average price of entry-level inkjet multifunction devices is around Rs 4,000. Add a few hundred bucks and you can buy a decent mono laser printer. Of course, you’ll have to forgo the scanner and the ability to print in colour, and it’s at this very point that buyers start hunting for an inkjet MFD. What many don’t consider at all is the print economy math.

Consider the contents of your inkjet cartridges as liquid gold and you'll think twice before clicking

Consider the contents of your inkjet cartridges as liquid gold and you'll think twice before clicking “Print”

I’ve often seen sales guys at shopping malls trying their best to convince people that a single cartridge can print over 150 pages and the cost per print translates to as little as Rs 2. I’ve also seen customers arguing that the company’s claims are false and what they got was less than half the claimed figure. But you see, the claimed yields are arrived at using “Draft Mode” and a 5 percent coverage text document, which is the standard. In simple terms, this is 5 percent of the entire surface of an A4 sheet layered with ink, which effectively works out to a Word document with text in 12 point font covering a third of an A4 page. Now, this isn’t always going to be the case. Also, the printing mode is set to Normal by default, which takes more ink to produce darker and clearer prints. If you take prints of pages full of text using Normal mode instead of Draft mode, it's obvious you'll get only about half the claimed figures or even less. And you wouldn’t want to use the latter all the time, because it yields drab-looking prints as a result of using less ink. In such cases, the print economy would work out to Rs 4 per page. I’d rather visit the local 'Zeroxwala' and get print jobs done at half the cost.

An interesting graph published by RefectionOf.Me showing relative prices of different liquids

An interesting graph published by RefectionOf.Me showing relative prices of different liquids

Or, I could invest in a mono laser printer that would deliver almost the same economy! After refilling the toner cartridge (which I’ve done several times for a few hundred bucks), the print economy improves even more. I haven’t noted much difference in the print quality when using a refilled toner, either. But this wasn’t the case when I once refilled an inkjet cartridge. The results were smudgy and the colours weren’t as vibrant as the original cartridges. Fortunately, the cartridge didn’t leak inside the printer, which is quite possible. Later on, I found a vendor who specialised in recycling cartridges and used imported inks. That brought some relief, but I eventually decided to let go of my inkjet printer and opt for a mono laser, just for the sharper prints and, obviously, the better economy.

Now, this is amusing – I find it hilarious when inkjet printer owners in my friend circle crib when the fuel prices increase. Surprisingly, they are fine with purchasing an inkjet cartridge with 5 ml of ink for Rs 500 without realising that it turns out exponentially expensive than fuel! No doubt manufacturing inkjet cartridges requires high-end engineering, but effectively you’re paying for a miniscule amount of ink that will be used for printing.


To save on printing cost, use draft mode whenever possible. And if you want to print 4×6 photos, go to a nearby photo studio that charges around Rs 5 to 7 for a print instead of blowing up more than twice the amount by printing the same on an inkjet printer!

Cover image credit: Jagdish Limbachiya

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