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How to print on a budget

Tips and tricks to save a fortune

You want great-looking output. You don't want to spend a fortune on ink and paper. These tips and tricks can help.

Taking a chance on cheap

The shock from replacing your first ink or toner cartridge naturally leads to a search for cheaper alternatives, such as third-party cartridges or refill kits. But proceed with caution.

When we tested several third-party inks, we found that they varied widely in print quality and were uniformly poor in archivability. Ink refill kits can get messy, and in our tests the print quality was mediocre at best. Continuous-ink systems - intravenous hookups from a printer to big bottles of ink – save money, but they require a large initial investment and involve other drawbacks.

However, Nabil Nasr, director of the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies at the Rochester (New York) Institute of Technology, says some third-party products are worthy of consideration.

RIT, which ran yield tests for this story (see Pay it again, Sam: ink costs can dwarf printer prices), works with printer manufacturers and third-party vendors to develop better ways to remanufacture, reuse, and recycle printer supplies. Nasr says some third-party inks have fared well in RIT's archivability tests; he recommends going with a known brand from a company that tests and guarantees its products.

Know more, save more

Printer vendors and computer stores offer little guidance on penny-wise printing. Educate yourself and experiment. Visit newsgroups but exercise caution in trying out home remedies. Regardless, if you stay aware of all of your printing options, your budget will thank you.

Ink jets: printing with a light touch

An easy way to make ink jet cartridges last longer is to use your printer's draft-mode setting. This lays down less ink on a page, saving as much as 50 percent on the per-page printing cost. Your pages will look light, but will be fine for quickly checking layouts or a web page. Many printers offer a range of ink-saving options for a gradual trade-off between print quality and print speed.

NEXT PAGE: Pay it again, Sam: ink costs can dwarf printer prices

  1. Tips and tricks to ensure you don't spend a fortune on ink
  2. The incredible, shrunken starter cartridge
  3. Penny-saving printer settings
  4. Digital photo tips
  5. Taking a chance on cheap
  6. Pay it again, Sam: ink costs can dwarf printer prices
  7. Bulk ink: feed the need, cheaply

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