Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Requirements for a new printer

This is the third post in a series related to the recent demise of my old printer and acquisition of a new printer, including consideration of the cost of inkjet ink.

Although I had hoped to keep my old printer a little longer, I found myself in a situation where I did not have a printer. From time to time I have e-mailed documents to my local Office Depot for printing. However, the logistics of traveling to the store and the cost of printing really did not make this a viable long-term option.

Additionally, I had an immediate need for printing. Two days after my old printer died, I was scheduled for a flight on Spirit Airlines.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines prides itself on being what the company terms a "bare fare" airline. Nothing is included in the price of the ticket except a random seat on the plane and a small personal item (e.g., purse or backpack). Spirit increases the cost of various fees as the flight time approaches. It is cheapest to pay for carry-on and checked baggage at the time the flight reservation is made. If you get to the gate without previously paying for your carry-on bag, the cost is $100.00.

One additional charge that Spirit incurs is a $10.00 fee to print your boarding pass at the airport. As such, I needed to print the boarding passes for my family (three of us) prior to leaving home. This was my pressing need to print. However, I still wanted to choose a printer wisely, with the hope that I would be using it for several years.


I wrote down a few requirements for my printer.

  • Multifunction: The two most important capabilities I wanted were printing in color, of course, and the ability to scan multiple pages using an automatic data feeder (ADF).
  • Automatic Data Feeder: I wanted an ADF that could accommodate a minimum of 20 pages.
  • Wireless: My wife, daughter, and I use laptops, smart phones, and tablets routinely. Therefore, I wanted a printer that would permit us to print from any device. Until now, whenever my wife wanted to print something, she forwarded it to my e-mail and I connected my laptop to the printer.
  •  Cost around $100.00US: With the knowledge that the cost of ink would far exceed the cost of the printer itself, I set a target price of $100.00. This fit my budget as well as my expectations what I felt was reasonable.
  • High ratings on Amazon: I purchase quite a few items from Amazon.com, and rely on the ratings to help me decide. For my printer, wanted a printer that had a high percentage of ratings of 4 and 5, but also a minimal number of ratings of 1. My experience has been that about half of the 1 ratings are because of the incompetence of the buyers. However, I also find it valuable to read these reviews, since the other half of reviewers usually provide helpful details.

Comparing printers

Starting with a list of popular printers that I observed at both Sam's Club and Office Depot, I proceeded to conduct some research as summarized in the table below.

  • Multifunction: All of these printers offer similar features including printing and scanning.
  • ADF: All of these printers include an automatic data feeder for scanning, ranging from 20 to 35 pages.
  • Wireless: All of these printers offer wireless capabilities as well as direct connect via USB.
  • Cost around $100.00: The range of prices was between $87.99 and $115.00.
  • High ratings on Amazon: My approach is not scientific, but it helps me when purchasing from Amazon.com. I look at the percentage of ratings of 4 and 5 and compare it to ratings of 1. Thus, if the percentages of ratings were equally distributed, the combined percentage of 4/5 would be 40% compared to 20% for the rating of 1. This indicates a low ratio of favorable to non-favorable reviews. Ideally, a high percentage of 4/5 ratings indicates a consistently good product, especially if there are several reviews. 

The winner is ...

Regardless of how I examined the ratings, the HP DeskJet 5740 came out on top. The percentage of 4/5 ratings was 80%. This was the highest of these listed printers. When comparing the percentages of high and low ratings, the 5740 still was rated the best.

Having considered all of these requirements, I was satisfied that the HP DeskJet 5740 met my requirements the best. As I have used other HP printers, I knew that the new printer's features and operating system would be familiar to me. In my next post in this series I will describe my final steps to obtain the printer.

Requirements are important

If you are considering any type of purchase, I encourage you to first write down a list of essential requirements. In the field of project management, this is termed "business requirements" and are written in extensive detail in a business requirements document, known as a BRD. You don't have to have a massive document, but you should note any specific details that are important to you as you consider possible options for your purchase.

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