Epson does it with refillable ink tanks, while HP offers a subscription program. We don’t know what Canon’s move will be, but Brother has announced its solution to the challenge of buying ink: just put more of it in the box. The company is introducing two new multifunction printers that use a new high-yield cartridge, with one model claiming you won’t need to replace the cartridges for two years.
The devices, in the new INKvestment series, don’t offer anything new in terms of printer technology. The MFC-J985DW and MFC-J985DW XL color inkjet printers are based on existing Brother printers, which we’ve found to be some of the best available. Instead, the INKvestment printers use higher-yield ink tanks that produce 2,400 pages in black-and-white and 1,200 pages in color. When it comes time to replace those cartridges, the black color inks cost $24 and $15, respectively.
According to Eric Dahl, Brother’s director of marketing for Inkjet and SOHO Laser Products division, the company is attacking the cost-per-page story by charging less per cartridge. Based on Brother’s numbers, the costs for INKvestment break down to 1 cent for black and 5 cents for color, while traditional inkjets – Brother’s printers – average around 2-3 cents for black. And, if ink is cheap enough to replace, users are less likely to rely on third-party options.
The new printers target those who print a lot of documents, namely small business or home office users (Brother’s main demographic), but we can also see large households with lots of school kids benefiting. According to a Brother survey of 509 users, nearly half of home offices print about 200 jobs per month. Users who don’t print as often can purchase traditional, cheaper-to-buy (but costlier-to-maintain) models.
Where it will cost you is in the upfront purchase price of the machine. The J985DW is priced at $199 – not outrageous, but a slight premium over the entry-level WorkSmart-series machine it’s based on. In comparison, Epson’s EcoTank uses the same concept (albeit with ink tanks you refill), but its machines cost more.
A second model, the J985DW XL ($299), is essentially the same machine. However, this one comes with three sets of cartridges (12 total), which provides 7,200 pages in black and 3,600 in color – up to two years. Keep in mind, after you’ve exhausted the ink after two years, you’d have to pay more to achieve another two years, which, based on Brother’s MSRP, is $120.
Like most inkjet all-in-ones, the new machines can print, copy, scan, and fax. Speed is rated at 12 black and 10 color, which is good for this type of printer. There is a 2.7-inch touchscreen to handle functions, and a paper tray to fit 100 sheets (a bit limited if you’re a super-heavy-duty user). The printer also supports mobile printing and cloud-based printing.
Brother’s approach reminds us of Kodak’s short-lived printers, which touted cheap ink. However, Dahl told us that there’s no decrease in the ink quality – INKvestment inks are equal to the ones used in standard Brother ink cartridges. While HP’s subscription plan focuses on convenience, Dahl said that people don’t really hate buying cartridges; it’s the price that turns people off (Brother has partnered with Amazon for easy ink reordering through the Dash program, but these printers are not enabled). And unlike Epson, you’re not pouring any ink, but Epson’s EcoTank models offer even greater yields from one set of ink. It’s a bit of a marketing strategy, as high-yield cartridges aren’t a new concept, but it’s what Brother is going with.
Both printers are available online now, but will go on sale in stores, in July.
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