TechBite: A Smart Printer with $4.99 Cartridges

By Steve Bass

I think we’ve got the razor-blade method of marketing printers figured out: Sell the printer for a couple of bucks, then gouge and exploit us on cartridges. I hate it.

Lexmark makes its money the old-fashioned way. It sells printers at higher-than-competitor’s printers, but then sells the ink cartridges at reasonable prices.

Pay the Big Bucks
I tried the Lexmark Prestige Pro805 multifunction printer for over a month (I won’t review something unless I have decent hands-on time, despite howling from the PR people).

Amazon discounts the Lexmark Prestige Pro85 for $200, which is about what others discount it for. The Pro85 uses four single-ink cartridges. When purchasing directly from Lexmark, you’ll pay $5 for black and $10 for color. Shipping is free and Lexmark’s recycling program gives you two free cartridges for every five you buy and return empty in a year.

Lexmark claims you can get 510 standard pages from one black cartridge. What’s standard? you might ask (nope, I don’t know). Is anyone willing to put this to the test (besides HP, Epson, and Brother, who as far as I know, haven’t)? Okay, so we’re going to have to take Lexmark’s word for it. 

If you register the printer, the warranty period is extended to five years. I have no clue how to judge the value, except to say only a few of the inkjet printers I’ve used have lasted that long — so I guess that’s saying something. You also get toll-free access to tech support for the life of the printer.
Lexmark’s Specs
The Pro85 is a color inkjet printer with a flatbed scanner, a copier function, and an automatic document feeder that holds up to 50 sheets of paper. (That came in handy for when I had to copy scads of docs for my parents.) If you need fax capabilities, try the cheaper Prevail Pro705 (it doesn’t have an LCD display).  

Lexmark all-in-one is economical and smart.

The paper tray holds 150 sheets. The printing speed is 10 pages per minute for black and 6 ppm for color; the Pro85 does two-sided printing and prints at 2400- by 1200 dots per inch in black and 4800-by-1200 dpi in color.

The Pro850 has both USB and memory card ports — you can print directly from either. The other way around works, too: Scan and save as a photo, document, or PDF directly to a flash drive or to your PC.

There are three ways to connect the printer to your PC: wireless, USB, or networked through an Ethernet connection.

Hands on the Lexmark
I gauge the value of a product using two criteria: Would I shell out the bucks for one? What would I say if you wrote and asked for a recommendation?

How Did the Lexmark Stack Up?

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13 thoughts on “TechBite: A Smart Printer with $4.99 Cartridges”

  1. You stated…”try the cheaper Prevail Pro705 (it doesn’t have an LCD display).” I downloaded their spec sheet and it does have an LCD display (see below):

    Display 2.4 inch (60 mm) Color LCD display

  2. I work in a cartridge refilling company. Since my career circles arount refilling, I gravitate around the cartridge industry.

    As a personal opinion, it has been my experience that most of the price of ink from the origional manufacturers goes into R&D to prevent refilling.

    Most technology invented for cartridges are designed to inhibit refilling, and advertised as advancements with the consumer in mind. There is also the “warranty war” where printer companies were misinforming the public that refilling voids your warranty. Thats like GM voiding the warrenty on your car because you used Shell gas.

    Now this goes into economics, which I’m not an expert, but if a large percent of your money goes into making your product more disposable, then buying the product only insures that it becomes more expencive and less reliable.

  3. I was checking for a new printer and I run across your post.I did check the printer Lexmark Prestige Pro85 and the cartridges and I do not form where you find that price on amazon the black cost 22.54 and the color 47.87 i like the Lexmark printers but they are always expensive. I better keep my Cannon that work very good.

  4. The same printer manufacturer who boasts double sided printing (to save mother earth) uses high tech chips to prevent refilling.

    “Its built-in two-sided printing can save you paper and help the environment so you can be efficient and eco-friendly, all at the same time”

    A recent call to tech support to inquire about the reason for lessening the quantity of ink in their cartridges was quite enlightening. Of course the rep avoided answering the question while waving the corporate flag with gibberish about “improved ink formulation” …….and the need to change the cartridge design to thwart miscreants intent on refilling !!!

  5. HP 825C and 845C are 10 year old designs which are flawless, reliable units. They also boast large ink tanks that are easy to refill by home user. After using a refurbed 845C for 8 years the only problem was the waste ink diaper overflowed. Cleaning it was messy project but its up and running like new again.

    Speaking of razors: I found a batch of 15 year old disposable razors and they were far superior to the new garbage on the market, with 4 or 5 blades and other gimmicks such as vibrating motors.

    Imagine my surprise when I used this vintage design (2 blades and a push strip to clean out debris) for 5 weeks before the blades dulled. You will never see that type of performance from the designed-to-fail products now being produced.

  6. I Have Never Had A Lexmark Printer, But I Have Had Epsons, Canons, And HP Printers.
    I Had 1 Epson R200, 1 Epson R220, And 1 Epson RX600.
    I Loved The Ability To Print On CD’s & DVD’s On The R200&R220 But All Three Printers Quit Working After 1 Or 2 Years Of Service With A Message That A Part In Them Had Exceded It’s Life Expectancy And When I Checked To See About Getting The Part Replaced, I Found Out That It Would Be Cheeper To Buy A New Printer Than To Get The Old Ones Repaird.

  7. Alistair Beaton

    I have a Lexmark X6690 All-in-One. Very good quality prints, but ink very expensive (no compatibles available)and cartridges don’t last. My usage is not high but I seem to be buying a set of cartridges a month for £44. I have owned and used 5 Lexmarks and always found them good for quality and ink costs were never an issue. Bought a Kodak ESP7 to save on ink costs, but the cartridges don’t last very long either and print quality is poor, even after replacing the print head. Duplexer tends to jam. All in all a bad buy. I have taken it out of service and considered buying one of the new Lexmark Pro series, but have had my fingers so badly burned on my last two inkjet purchases that I got nervous and decided to buy a laser as a printing workhorse and use the Lexmark only when necessary for colour printing, copying and scanning.

  8. I you can beat Kodaks’ series of printers…., I’d like someone to try because, I have yet to see their ink cartridges and low-end printers to be beat yet. Best bang for the buck n’ all!!!

  9. I have a HP Deckjet 3740 Ive used for 5 or 6 years, but I don’t print a lot.
    And yes, the replacement cartridges cost more that the printer did, BUT I get consistantly good prints and I’m satisfied. That’s MY bottom line.

  10. I have had two Epsons and when they work they’re great quality, but the cartridges are hugely expensive, and then the ink EASILY clogs in the printer. Once the printer has clogged [unless ‘s still under warranty] it becomes a huge piece of landfill.

  11. Well how many cartridges and there actual price not after all of this crap if I return this and do that I want straight out talk, I have ha two Lexmarks and they would ner at that time held a candle to my epson and I have had this epson about 8 years or better and I buy ink about once or twice a month in other words I use it constantly for pictures plus articles , so are you saying that I can do better going back to Lexmark ?

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