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“Best value” printer? When is this true?

Issue #1210 – I’ve just received a marketing email from an online retailer that includes an element boasting ‘Best Value Printer’. This sort of claim is guaranteed to catch my eye and just has to be looked at more closely, doesn’t it? But what does the claim actually mean? What do marketing emails ultimately say about the company that produces them?

In this instance, I had to laugh when I looked more closely because the claim is absolutely meaningless and, frankly, just plain wrong. The section of the email in which the element is found is titled, ‘6 Amazing FREE Printer Deals’. Below the title are 6 devices, one of which has the caption, “Best value 3 in 1 printer copier and scanner”? How can that be when all six printers shown are “FREE”?

Email advertisementBest Value email ad

There are two obvious questions to ask. Firstly, does it mean that the printer in question is the least expensive machine in the email? Or, does it mean that, over a period of time, this printer will be the cheapest to run? For what type of user? For what type of application? For what number of pages per month?

I’m sorry but, either way, the answer is ‘NO’!

Firstly – if all six printers are “FREE”, one cannot be better value that any other. In fact, as the lowest specified device of the six, this would actually represent the lowest value of the selection. Three of the other five devices are laser printers and the other two inkjet devices are also 3-function printer/copier/scanners (and more) with much higher specifications. They also cost more in terms of retail price than the one in question – which means, as ‘free’ printers, they are clearly much better value than the one that would be cheapest if bought. This is especially true of the A3 Brother MFC-J5910DW, which is also in the line-up and features fax functionality, duplex printing and Automatic Document Feeder – no contest.

Incidentally, ignore the brand of the device being labelled ‘Best Value’ – the reseller could have attached it to any printer brand on the market and it would have made absolutely no difference. The printer in question here is completely irrelevant and I am in no way suggesting that the printer is not a good printer, good value or not to be recommended. In fact, I have a very high opinion of the printer range involved. This is a reseller marketing issue not a printer manufacturer issue. There is no issue over this particular printer being appropriate for a specific segment of users.

Secondly, the printer in question is the Brother DCP-197C, which uses the LC980 set of cartridges, while the Brother MFC-J5910DW shown on the same email uses the latest LC12xx series of cartridges.

Consider first that the LC980 series cartridge set is several years old now and produces 300 pages from black cartridges and 260 from each colour cartridge, while the LC12xx series has an XL set (LC1280XL) that is rated at 2,400 pages from the black and 1,200 pages from each colour and represents one of the most economical cartridge sets currently available on the market for home/office inkjet printers.

Cartridges
Price

Cost Per Page
for each cartridge

Black Each colour Black Each Colour
LC980 series € 14.50
(300 pages)
€ 7.99
(260 pages)
4.833 cents 3.073 cents
LC1280XL series € 26.80
(2,400 pages)
€ 16.50
(1,200 pages)
1.116 cents 1.375 cents

(prices are median street price in Euros, sourced in Germany)

You will see very, very clearly that the LC980 cartridge set is more than 4x the cost per page using the black cartridge and well over double the cost per page using colour cartridges.

With the DCP-197C costing an average of €100 (if it was still available) in the German market, and the MFC-J5910DW costing around €170, the associated Total Cost of Printing over three years might look like this for a home user:

Computations powered
by tcprojector API
Cost per Page
Total Cost of Printing
over 3 years (18,000 pages)
Black pages Colour pages Total
expenditure
Average
CPP
DCP-197C 9.5 cents 12.1 cents € 368.55 10.3 cents
MFC-J5910DW 7.5 cents 9.9 cents € 294.22 8.2 cents

Note that the Total Cost of Printing over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of 100 pages per month; 70% pages in mono and 30% pages in colour; is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase and the cost of power at 20 cents per KWh. All prices are Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

On this basis, how can there be any way in which the DCP-197C can possibly be described as “Best value 3 in 1 copier printer and scanner” by someone with any understanding of printer technology and costs?? Even at a very low monthly page volume of only 100 pages (home user) the more expensive machine will be at least 25% cheaper on average than the low-end machine – and that is including a hardware purchase cost.

Interestingly, using the LC1280XL cartridges in the MFC-J5910DW, the user would only need to buy two black cartridges and one set of colour cartridges in the three years, as opposed to eleven LC980 black cartridges and four sets of LC980 colour cartridges!

If we take the cost of the hardware out of the calculation (because the machines are being given away free), then the difference is even more marked. The more expensive A3 device becomes more than 50% cheaper to run on average than the low-end machine:

Computations powered
by tcprojector API
Cost per Page
Total Cost of Printing
over 3 years (18,000 pages)
Black pages Colour pages Total
expenditure
Average
CPP
DCP-197C 6.7 cents 9.3 cents € 268.55 7.5 cents
MFC-J5910DW 2.8 cents 5.2 cents € 124.22 3.5 cents

Note that the Total Cost of Printing over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of 100 pages per month; 70% pages in mono and 30% pages in colour; is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and the cost of power at 20 cents per KWh; but does NOT include the cost of purchase. All prices are Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

Clearly, this marketing has been undertaken by someone whose only understanding is how to produce an html email – and very poorly at that. There is no understanding of marketing message, no understanding of graphic design and no understanding of printers or Cost (Value) of Printing.

Unfortunately, what this sort of sloppy marketing underlines, yet again, is that general levels of understanding of Cost of Printing are still very, very low despite the fact that cost reduction and cost-efficiency is being talked about globally, even extending to one favourite topic of conversation being, “should I use compatible inks or toners in my printer”?

If this is the sort of information we are getting, and expect to get, from resellers, what hope is there that buyers, especially consumers, will EVER understand what it is they are buying and what costs to expect with the equipment they are buying?

In conclusion, this particular reseller clearly wants to get rid of his stock of DCP-197C printers – it is, after all, no longer an active model. But, the reseller is giving a false message to achieve its goal. Thankfully not all resellers and dealers are as sloppy and ignorant as this but, if they want to remain in business, those that are need to up their game.

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