The pursuit of the best printer to fit everybody's needs is never ending. Everybody is searching for a printer that is cheap to buy, cheap to run, reliable, no paper jams, will print, scan and copy. To add to this they also want the printer to have Wi-Fi, Duplex, high speed printing, to be a compact size and to work seamlessly with generic cartridges. Unfortunately there is no one printer that fits all of these criteria so as with any device there is always some kind of compromise to be made.
After being in the printer and print consumables market for some 15 years now I am amazed at how so many big tech sites and others compile their annual list of the top 10 printers. Almost every year I read these top 10 articles and it is very rare that I would include any of their top 10 choices as my own personal recommendations for printers. I'm not sure what they base their choices on as often in regards to printing costs and reliability the printers they select are quite often among the worst of choices.
I thought that we would first look at some world wide statistics on printers, mainly inkjet and see how they compare in regards to popularity, print speed, print costs and also compare the newer variety of refillable tank printers such as the Epson EcoTank, Canon MegaTank, HP Smart Tank and the Brother Inkvestment printers. Just keep in mind that these "refillable Tank" printers are not a new development as they have been around for many years. Printer manufacturers have spent many decades trying to work out how they can combat the non genuine cartridge market and win back their share of the print consumable market.
Printer sales world wide by manufacturer
Printer sales went through the roof during 2020 as Covid-19 hit the world and everybody was told to work from home. Naturally those confined to a home office required a reliable printer and this sent the demand skyrocketing to a point where most retail stores such as Officeworks, Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi simply ran out of stock. The Covid-19 situation actually caused a huge disruption in the supply chain of OEM printer manufacturers in China so the demand was there but unfortunately the supply couldn't keep up. This actually led to overall reduced annual sales in comparison to previous years. Below we can see the comparison of sales of the top 4 printer manufacturers for 2020.
Printer demand Worldwide over the past 5 years
The following graph shows the worldwide demand for home printers over the past 5 years. You can clearly see that when the Corona virus hit in around early March 2020 that the demand for printers went through the roof. As we all know this was due to the large number of people who were forced to work from home and therefore needing to set up a proper home office. Both printers and many print consumables were stretched to their limits in fact many consumers simply could not get cartridges for their new printers as they simply were not available anywhere. Even now, approximately one year later many stores are still unable to supply customers with the wide range of printers that were available before Covid hit. Statistics courtesy of Google search trends.
Printer Satisfaction Worldwide by brand
A survey was undertaken by J. D. Power back in 2015 to try and find out the satisfaction rating for various brands of inkjet printers. Although this data is outdated it gives us some idea of peoples thoughts back then on different printer brands. From working in the industry over many years the general consensus seems to be that the inkjet printer is a device from the pits of hell which was simply invented to frustrate us all. Seriously though, I think overall that a good quality printer is a very worthwhile device that if used correctly and often enough can serve us well.
Those who have read my previous articles already know that an inkjet printer is meant to be used regularly and ALL colours utilized or else the print heads can clog up and ruin the printer. Once again I will stress that if you want to print in just black and white DON'T BUY AN INKJET PRINTER! Okay so I've had my whinge now let's get back to the story. As we can see from the above stats, HP was the biggest selling inkjet printer closely followed by Canon, Brother and then Epson. Now let's take a look at the satisfaction statistics from 2015 and see what everyone though of the various brands of printers.
Okay so looking at these stats we can see that Canon received the highest satisfaction rating overall of any printer brand. This is what I would have expected as Canon is my own personal choice when it comes to inkjet printers. As to HP coming in second I know that a 2020 survey would not find them ranking that high as they have annoyed users immensely in recent years with their software updates which are aimed at blocking non genuine cartridges. Epson being least popular was also my guess as I personally do not like the piezo print head or their firmware method of detecting cartridges. I also despise the way that Epson printers monitor page count rather than ink levels which leads to huge amounts of wasted ink left in cartridges when they are supposedly expired.
Printer Satisfaction Survey - Ink Hub 2019
At Ink Hub we conducted our own online survey over a several month period to see what our customers thought of various printer brands. I personally believe that it is an accurate overview of the way people view the various printers and I also believe that there is several reasons as to why Canon printers rated so highly compared to the other major brands. The first reason is that the majority of our customers use our generic inks and they appreciate the fact that Canon never send out updates that effect the use of these aftermarket inks. This is contrary to the other manufacturers who are often relentless at using these tactics to try and get users to buy their own ridiculously priced consumables.
Secondly Canon printers use a very smart "Opto-electric" micro-chip which gives very little issues and also reads correct ink levels ensuring that all the valuable ink gets used up before you are alerted to change cartridges. These features couple with a thermal print head that almost never clogs is what has made the Canon inkjet printer a clear winner. The only downside to this is that the Canon inkjet printers almost always die due to the print head failing. If the Canon print head was built a bit more robust then I believe they would grab even a larger share of the market. So let's take a look at the results.
It's not at all surprising that our customers were not impressed with HP and Epson as these manufacturers are constantly trying to force the user to stick to their brand name consumables. Both HP and Epson are relentless in trying to throw a spanner in the works of the generic cartridge users however if they are smart and disable the updates on the printer itself then it's not an issue. In the past 12 months HP have surpassed Epson in their relentless efforts to try and destroy the non genuine cartridges by constantly releasing software updates. Consumers are fed up with these tactics and I personally believe that it will have a huge impact on the sales of these printers. The great thing is that we always stay on top of these updates by making sure that we have the very latest chip version of all our cartridges ensuring very few compatibility issues.
Volume of printing worldwide
It's interesting to see the amount of printing that each country produces annually and compare them side by side. As you would have guessed America and China are up there as the largest volume printers. India is a fair way down the list, even though they have such a large population they just don't have the same amount of printers as the more wealthy countries have.
Comparing Inkjet Printer Speed
In this next section we will take a quick look at some figures of some of the latest, most popular printers and compare their printing speeds. Not everyone is concerned about the print speed however some users are printing large volumes and this is when it becomes more important. If regular high volumes of printing is needed then the obvious choice would be a laser printer. Laser printers are much faster than the average inkjet printer and much cheaper to run when using non genuine cartridges.
The above graph shows the print speed of four of the latest, most popular inkjet printers from the big four manufacturers. The purple represents the pages per minute when printing in Black and White while the orange is the number of pages per minute in colour. The Canon printer is the fastest just in front of the Brother while HP and Epson are a fair way behind in overall speed. The Canon, Brother and HP printers all utilize a thermal printhead while the Epson uses a Piezo printhead. This is perhaps the main reason for the faster print speeds as the Piezo printhead used by Epson is slower to spit the ink out and onto the page.
The Piezo printhead is also more susceptible to clogging up than the thermal printhead however the head itself is perhaps likely to have better longevity than the others. Personally I don't like the Epson printheads and if you are the type of user that does not print regularly or mainly prints in black and white then the Epson is perhaps not the printer for you.
EcoTank vs Cartridges
The EcoTank is Epson's latest push to try and capture a large portion of the inkjet printer market. With Jimeoin at the helm of the advertising campaign they are spending big bucks trying to convince people that they've kind of reinvented the wheel. Let me point out that EcoTank style printers are NOT a new invention, this style of printer with it's large ink storage tanks have been around for many years. All of the four big players have their own versions of the EcoTank such as the Canon MegaTank, HP Smart Tank and the Brother Inkvestment and they all use similar technology.
Investigations have shown that the cheaper EcoTank printers may start saving you money at around the five year mark. What they are saying is that if you were to buy one of the cheaper Epson inkjet printers and use non genuine cartridges then it would take around five years for you to be in front money wise by using the ecoTank. This is based on a user that does an average amount of printing however the EcoTank starts to win out in less time if larger volumes of printing are done.
If however we start to look at the higher end EcoTank printers such as the EcoTank WF-R4640 or in Australia the EcoTank ET‑5800 you are looking at between $1200 to $1500 as the initial purchase price. My question is will the printer actually last long enough to see a cost benefit over a standard inkjet printer using cartridges. I think we all know the answer to this question, it's kind of like my solar system, it was a great cost saver until the inverter needed replacing twice and all the isolator switches corroded. So what I'm saying is that if the printer lasts you 10 years or more then yes you will save a bundle however knowing the lifespan of inkjet printers it's not going to happen.
So let's have a look at a graph which shows us the cost difference over a two year period between a top end EcoTank printer and an average inkjet printer using non genuine cartridges. Admittedly the cost savings will start to catch up over a longer period of time however we will look at stats later on printer longevity and get an idea of how long the EcoTank is likely to last.
So we can see that after two years if we purchased the EcoTank for $1200 we would still be some $610.70 out of pocket as compared to the Epson printer using non genuine cartridges. As previously stated the savings from the EcoTank would slowly catch up and perhaps overtake the cartridge inkjet printer over a much longer period of time. Once again this saving is fully reliant on the fact that the EcoTank printer has a long lifespan. So the obvious question now is what is the average lifespan of your everyday inkjet printer?
The average lifespan of an inkjet Printer
The following graph shows the average lifespan of an inkjet printer in years. The statistics are recorded from 2008 until 2015 and as we can see there is a gradual decline in longevity over this seven year period.
Unfortunately I was unable to find any more recent statistics on printer longevity but let me assure you that the average printers lifespan now days is more likely around the 2 - 3 year mark and many die much sooner. In saying this I'm taking into account that the market has been flooded with millions of $50 to $70 printers which are mass produced and the life expectancy is rarely more than a couple of years at the best. So let's assume that your EcoTank printer does last you the entire four years as the statistics tell us would you be in front money wise? Maybe if you do a heap of printing in that period you might come out a winner, I guess it's up to the individual to make that decision.
Let me just leave you with one more image ( see the complete story here ) as it gives you a better idea of the cost comparison between the EcoTank and the standard inkjet printer. Another reason to ditch the Epson EcoTank printers is the terrible reviews they are receiving. Take a look at the Epson EcoTank Reviews.
Print and Digital Magazine Revenue
Let's take a look at one last graph so we can gauge where the future of printing is heading. The figures below are taken from 2015 - 2020 and show the volume of magazine sales of both digital and physically printed magazines. As it clearly shows, the trend is slowly heading towards a digital domination and the old style "physical" magazine is gradually disappearing. Admittedly this is based on the commercial aspect of printing rather than a domestic view but the same trend is happening in all areas. Most of us by now have realized that all of our local newspapers have all but vanished and most have changed to an online "subscription" style format.
Other digital forms such as email, PDF's and tablets are also replacing the need for hard copy printed documents as consumers and businesses alike try to cut printing costs. Like it or not this trend will continue and the amount of printing will slowly fall until the point where digital formats exceed the volume of printed materials. The need for printers however will continue to exist as we all continue to print hard copy's of invoices, receipts and various other documents rather than storing them digitally.
What are printers being used for?It's interesting to take a look at what people are actually using their printers for. The statistics shown in the graph below are from the UK and were taken during the Covid pandemic from 2020 to 2021. Obviously the Covid situation resulted in a much larger percentage of home printer use as people set up home offices. Another reason for the increase in home printing was that many students were being home schooled and needed to print much of their curriculum. The statistics for Letters or "Keeping in touch" surprised me accounting for a massive 19% of all printing.
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