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Discussion: Printer for casual map printing

in: Orienteering; General

Mar 28, 2020 2:36 PM # 
Now seems like a very good time to buy a color printer for home use, something I've been putting off for months. It needs to be good enough for printing decent orienteering maps for myself but I don't need the speed or quality you would need for printing maps for e.g., a national event. And it can't be very big - certainly no bigger than my current (B&W) printer.

There are a lot of printers out there. Any recommendations?
Mar 28, 2020 3:01 PM # 
I have an HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw, which is very similar to your Canon, but color.

The thing I like the best: it just works. No need for OEM software install, etc. (although there are some features in there that are nice). On all devices I've cared to try from: iOS, Win10, MacOS, Linux. It's 600x600, so there are some compromises there, but not much (casual, right?), but consistency is better than any inkjets I've used. Although I've been out of that game for a while.

Of course it's discontinued, too, and replaced by the (I assume pretty much identical) HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw (~$220 at BestBuy), which also looks like it's getting ready for discontinuation. But the series is darn good for the price ... toners are not cheap, like $400(!) for a set of all 4 of the High Yield cartridges, but they last a long while.

Hammermill Premium Laser Print 28lb / 105g/m2 works extremely well in this printer, too.

Oh, and it's a great workhorse printer for day-to-day life, too. Ubiquitous on the Wifi, fast, crisp, color.

Good luck with your search!
Mar 28, 2020 3:11 PM # 
Casual printing? Pretty much any inkjet from a company you've heard of. Better paper will improve quality dramatically.
Mar 28, 2020 3:25 PM # 
Also interested in the same question. Something that includes a scanner is useful as well. I might have said I like my OfficeJet 6700 but it seems I just killed it, and the printhead is evidently not replaceable.
Mar 28, 2020 4:08 PM # 
I'll suggest the HP OfficeJet Pro 8610. Not sure if they still make that model, but I'm guessing there is an equivalent of it.

The quality is good (we use it to print maps for all of our local meets), and the ink is waterproof. It was $200 when we got it, probably 5 years ago. For anyone who does a lot of printing, which we do, there is a monthly ink plan which comes out to about 5 cents per print.
Mar 28, 2020 4:32 PM # 
The one I have (HP 3510) is a scanner/printer. Very common these days is wireless capability so that you don't need to plug it into the computer. Similar units seem to go for about $50.
Mar 28, 2020 4:37 PM # 
So is a regular cheap inkjet + good paper the way to go?
Mar 28, 2020 4:55 PM # 
It's what I've been doing. Works well enough for most of my purposes, though I will admit that I use the color laser printer at work from time to time. Another option (though maybe not so viable in the current climate) is to do prints at the local Staples or FedEx or whatever.
Mar 28, 2020 5:15 PM # 
Get a laser printer. Color lasers are cheap now, and so much faster than an inkjet.
Mar 28, 2020 5:15 PM # 
Agree with JJ that inkjet and quality paper work well. My preferred paper for O-maps:
Mar 28, 2020 6:00 PM # 
Is any advantage to a cheap laser printer other than speed (which I don’t care about)?
Mar 28, 2020 6:23 PM # 
Yes, much higher quality
Mar 28, 2020 6:26 PM # 
Historically, there were two big dings against inkjets, both having to do with inkjets using liquid ink and lasers using dry powder toner:

Ink dries up and clogs the tiny holes in the print head, if the printer is unused for a period of time (days? weeks?). Then you fight with it to get it unclogged, through annoying procedures that consume ink, paper, time, and patience. And if you don't succeed, which is often, you buy a new set of ink cartridges and throw away the clogged ones even though they might be far from empty.

Ink is much less likely to be waterproof than toner, making a smeary mess in the rain or your sweat.

But from what people are saying above, maybe things have improved with inkjets?
Mar 28, 2020 6:33 PM # 
A possible advantage is waterproofness, but I've found inkjets to have superior print quality, and the ink doesn't flake off with folding and wear, unlike laser toner. But if you're happy with good-enough-for-training and not necessarily best-possible (for consumer-level price) print quality, then a laser could be a great choice. Based on my last printer shopping experience last year, constraining the choices to printers with a small footprint (and low-to-moderate cost) makes it hard to also find one that has waterproof ink, which is important when printing orienteering maps, at least in Seattle. I always liked the (now old/obsolete) EPSON Stylus C- series, which had the Durabrite (waterproof) ink. It sounds like HP, at least, has an equivalent ink option. I agree that having at least slightly higher quality paper can really help with the print quality.
Mar 28, 2020 6:34 PM # 
Twist: let's say I also want to print photos.
Mar 28, 2020 6:36 PM # 
The print head is part of the inkjet cartridge (with most printers), so if the cartridge gets clogged up, you can try pulling it out and running it under hot tap water for a few seconds. I've had that work, but I haven't had to do it in a really long time, so I think the technology got better.

An inkjet in high quality mode with photo paper can give fantastic results. Photo paper doesnt fold well, so it's not a good choice for a map, instead use paper like Neils suggested. I don't worry about whether it's waterproof, because I use a map case anyway.

An inkjet usually takes up less space in your house, too.
Mar 28, 2020 9:04 PM # 
As I discovered a few years ago when printer shopping, there are two types of inkjet inks, dye based and pigment based. Dye based inks are the ones that dissolve instantly when hit by a raindrop or a teardrop .....I use mine mainly for printing out fieldwork sections ;-) Pigment based inks are, on the other hand, surprisingly waterproof. Combined with 28lb paper I find they are perfect for fieldwork. (Yes I still use mylar.) Most Epson printers like the EPSON Stylus C- series were Pigment based as is my now recently defunct Epson XP430.

I'm currently looking for a replacement and see that Epson now has now changed some of their inks. I did find that the XP430 seemed use a lot of ink, possibly from self cleaning, so will be looking at other brands as well. I did see an HP recommended in a previous post above that is Pigment based.

List of pigment based printers
Mar 28, 2020 10:54 PM # 
I don't worry about whether it's waterproof, because I use a map case anyway.

This is fine for training in terrains where one is unlikely to have both wet weather and thorns that poke little holes in the map case. However, both are common in the Seattle area. Also, I often do fieldwork where I'm taking the map in and out of the case to make notes on it, and trying to do this when it is raining significantly is a hassle, at best.

bchubb, I called EPSON when I was printer shopping, and they told me the ink for the ET-4750 (one of the Ecotank printers) is waterproof, which I discovered is not true after I bought it. Some of the larger and more expensive Ecotank printers did have pigment-based inks when last I checked, however.
Mar 28, 2020 11:14 PM # 
I have a Brother MFC-J6945DW and is very happy with it. It is a larger all-in-one, can print and scan up to 11x17 size. The ink tanks are large size and lasts a long time.
Using a good quality paper definitely improve the print quality, and the ink is reasonably waterproof.
Mar 29, 2020 6:51 AM # 
Is any advantage to a cheap laser printer other than speed (which I don’t care about)?
Yes, much higher quality

Not in my experience. Quite the opposite, I can get much better quality from a cheap inkjet than I can from all but the very best laser printers. If you look at the max resolution of even cheap inkjets the inkjets are higher. If you use good paper (coated inkjet paper) the print quality is much higher than for cheap (home) laser printers. If you use cheap paper the ink spreads on the paper and the quality is poor.

I have heard of the pigment vs dye thing but never experienced lack of waterfastness so long as I use good paper. I have only ever had Canon and Epson printers. In my experience the difference is (again) in the paper. Use cheap (plain office paper) and the ink runs with even a single drop of moisture. Use a coated inkjet paper and the ink is waterfast. [That goes for every printer I have ever had - I have never checked if the ink is pigment or dye] The coated paper is waterfast, not waterproof as such (like plastic papers) - you still want to put it in a map bag - but if the bag tears and you get some water in it the ink will not run and the paper is strong enough not to disintegrate.

Even cheap ($50) inkjets give excellent quality if you use the right paper. The manufacturers make their money by charging rip off prices for the ink, which runs out quickly if you are printing O maps- but still the cost page page is not excessive.

The main drawback with inkjets, if you are using them to print a lot of maps for events, is speed.
Mar 29, 2020 6:59 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Even the very cheapest color laser printers have at least 600 DPI resolution, which is sufficient for 1:10K map printing, particularly if/when you take the time to optimize (i.e. calibrate) the CMYK mix used for each of the 6 primary O map colors.

The main advantages are that the prints are pretty waterproof and no clogging even if you use it very intermittently. Main disadvantage is, just like ink jet printers, larger formats cost a lot more.

I do NOT recommend doing what I did, i.e. lease a Xerox C60 SRA3+ format 2400 DPI printer: It costs me 4200 NOK/month (about $350-400 currently), and in the minimum configuration I got it still weighs in at over 320 kg, so I had to place it outside my office: No room at home! The main advantage here is that the per-page cost is near zero, but with Covid-19 I'm not going to the office so I can't use it. :-(
Mar 29, 2020 4:19 PM # 
Owning a Brother MFC-J6920DW, I agree with SBERG. I print most club maps on it and the cost per print is lower than most, even at 11 X 17. This model does not have the print heads built into the cartridges. The only problems have occurred when I go on vacation and don't use it for a while. The nozzles for one color or another dry up. I bought a cleaning kit that pumps alcohol through the nozzles. This is a messy pain, but does solve the problem. I print on the paper HUGHMAC mentioned. Color (except for purple) and sharpness are fine, but this is not a printer I would use for photos.
Mar 29, 2020 11:42 PM # 
In addition to quality printing paper, it is also possible to splurge on nice plastic map cases (the clarity is great, although needs a little extra tape to make them 100% waterproof at the seal)
Mar 29, 2020 11:55 PM # 
For that, I just use leftover map cases recycled from A-meet maps. And I almost never bother to close up the open end at all.

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