Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Fine Print: Goodbye Canon i9100, Hello HP PhotoSmart Plus

It's a day that was long coming and now it has finally arrived. My long-in-the-tooth Canon i9100 met its successor on Tuesday, a new HP Photosmart Plus printer/scanner/copier combo. Getting a new printer was on my to-do list for over a month, but all of a sudden it just seemed like a good belated Mother's Day/early wedding anniversary gift. And much to my wife's shock (and a little of my own), I did not research my purchase one bit.

I just went to Target, looked at what they had - which was about 12 printers all within all between $80 and $135 - and just went with the most expensive model. I tried to compare features, but they all seemed the same. Except this HP seemed to be the only one that supported wireless printing, something that I don't see myself needing but could be very useful in the future, in addition to several other features that I really don't think I need either.

But to really understand why I got this printer, you would have to have lived with my Canon i9100 for a while. I've had it for almost 7 years and even then I bought it used off of E-Bay as I was cheap back then. The appeal then was that Canon i9100 allowed you to print your own 17x9 prints. I had dreams of filling my walls with awesome prints of my awesome photos.

However the dream quickly led to reality, and it wasn't pretty. For example:
  • Keep those ink cartridges fresh: there was nothing worse than starting one of those large 17x9 prints and watching white lines appear in the middle of the photo because at least one of the ink jets got clogged. At roughly 75 cents for a sheet of 17x9 paper and expensive ink, you could see your money go down the drain.
  • Oh, and just because each color comes in its own cartridge means that you just have to change that much more cartridges. I swear the ink would evaporate if the printer sat.
  • 17x9 photos are a little wider than your typical 4x6, and if you frame your photos are carefully as possible this could have a dramatic affect on your prints
  • Also while 17x9" was a nice wide print, good luck finding any frames that can fit them.
  • Back when I first got the printer, most of my photos had been shot on a 3 megapixel camera. Even though 3 megapixels are more than enough for good 4x6 prints, printing them up to 17x9 often meant the prints were blurry when viewed up close.

Ultimately it became apparent that this was the kind of printer for someone who runs their own photo labs. Someone who prints every day. So it was with great sadness as I watched this printer drain my pocketbook with every $50 set of ink cartridges (and that was off of eBay, retail price would be $78 + tax!). Actually I didn't realize it, I denied it. But in the last year even I could not ignore the fact that the printer couldn't produce any color besides red and black accurately and having to run the printer utility to unclog the print head before almost every use. I finally had to admit that I not only needed a new printer, but this printer has been one of the worst investments I've ever made.

I briefly considered getting another Canon 17x9 printer. But with their current model running $450 on Amazon, knowing that I can comparably sized prints from Walgreens or Sam's Club for well below $20 and remembering how much hassle the i9100 was, I gave up the dream.

So here am I with a new printer in front of me ready to be setup this weekend. Will I finally be able to print my own prints when I need them now? Will I still have to replace ink ever few months even if I haven't been using the printer? Stay tuned, I'm excited to put an end to one of my worst chapters in home electronics and open a hopefully much happier new one.

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