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 user 2005-08-25 at 11:43:00 am Views: 80
  • #12368

    Last year’s tight race for the top spot in the printer market gets even closer this year.
    Last year’s tight race for the top spot in the printer market gets even closer this year. Hewlett-Packard earns a significantly better than average rating this time around, as it has for many years, but Canon’s absolutely stellar ratings, especially among newer printers, home printers, and photo printers, look to be helping it slowly pull away from the perennial favorite. Still, the two share the Readers’ Choice award—for now.
    We evaluated many categories of printers, used in business and at home, ranging from monochrome lasers to color all-in-one printers. Below is an in-depth analysis of the five leading companies in the very popular color ink jet category: Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, and Lexmark. But several other companies had notable results.

    Brother is second only to HP in the number of responses for black-and-white laser printers. The companies’ results are similar, though Brother customers report needing fewer repairs but are less impressed with service. In the ink jet all-in-one category, Brother doesn’t do as well. 17 percent of Brother’s devices need repairs.

    Samsung has also been making waves in the monochrome laser market, with aggressive pricing. The company won a Readers’ Choice award in 2003. It hasn’t returned to that level yet, but its results are respectable, and its reliability and low number of repairs are impressive. Xerox gets the highest overall score in the color laser category, but its business printers, along with those of Konica Minolta and Ricoh, have disturbingly high repair rates.

    The Fine Print

    Make no mistake: Despite Canon’s run at its crown, HP still gets its typically outstanding ratings, with a significantly better than average score overall and on reliability, with significantly fewer printers than average needing repair.

    When something does go wrong, readers are impressed with the HP’s Web-based support. HP relies on Instant Support technology, through which an embedded Web server gathers data about printers and submits it over the Internet to HP for diagnostics. In the color laser category, HP was the only manufacturer to get a better-than-average score for reliability, though Xerox got the highest overall score.

    So what is HP’s weakness? One possible answer: though HP gets significantly better than average ratings for the quality of its own ink, readers are less happy with the cost. Readers rate the cost of manufacturer-provided ink and toner as significantly worse than average. Even third-party inks receive scores significantly worse than average among HP users.

    Canon’s climb is powered by glowing service and reliability ratings for color ink jets, color ink jet all-in-ones, and photo printers. High ratings by owners of photo printers garner a towering score of 9.0 for likelihood of purchasing or recommending. No manufacturer does better in overall satisfaction or reliability in those fast-growing printer categories.

    One possible component of this success is the cost of ink. While the majority of negative comments survey participants make about printers concern cartridge and toner costs, Canon users have great things to say in this regard. The company gets a significantly better than average score for costs of manufacturer-provided ink cartridges. In the color ink jet category, Canon gets the best scores on cost of third-party ink cartridges for photographs and everyday documents. And Canon’s overall scores for the quality of its own ink and third-party ink are the highest of all.

    Canon’s newer models are faring well, as the company receives the highest scores of any manufacturer for overall satisfaction and for reliability among printer users who have had their printers for a year or less. Also, Canon’s score for repairs needed is significantly better than average.

    Among all printers, Epson’s fare reasonably well, getting average scores overall and on reliability, with similar scores for business machines. Overall only 3 percent of Epson machines needed repair, an impressive acheivement. On the other hand, the company’s home printers fare slightly worse than average on reliability.

    Readers are enthusiastic about the ease of use and ease of setup of Epson printers, awarding significantly better than average ratings in both categories. Epson also aces our repairs needed category, posting a significantly better than average score. But readers rate the expertise of Epson’s tech-support personnel as worse than average.

    Users are less pleased with the cost of Epson’s ink, and Epson’s score on this measure was the second worst among all manufacturers, beating only Lexmark. Epson’s scores for reliability are generally good, except for photo printers, where its score is worse than average.

    Lexmark’s scores for overall satisfaction and reliability are significantly worse than average. The company receives the lowest scores in all tech support categories—from expertise to providing prompt solutions—and the lowest score of all in terms of tech support’s ability to solve problems. Even those readers who have attempted to bypass active support give worse-than- average ratings to the availability of support information and ease of finding it on the Web. The only bright spot: a significantly smaller than average percentage of Lexmark printers needed repair.

    Lexmark also receives mostly significantly worse than average ratings in our categories related to ink cartridge costs. The company scores worst of all on the cost of manufacturer-provided cartridges, the cost of third-party cartridges for everyday documents, and the cost of third-party cartridges for photo printing.

    Dell is breaking into the printer market with printers based on designs by other manufacturers, including Kodak, Lexmark, and Samsung. None of the 67 Dell color ink jet printers reported on needed a repair—impressive, though printer repair rates tend to be low in any case. If a printer less than a year old needs a repair, Dell ships a replacement unit the day the customer reports his or her problem.

    On the flip side, users’ overall satisfaction with Dell printers less than a year old rates as worse than average, and readers’ ratings for the quality of Dell’s manufacturer-provided ink and toner for documents and photographs are also worse than average. Dell users report a worse-than-average likelihood of purchasing or recommending this brand again.