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A Printer That’s Cheap to Keep

J985dw frontalIf $300 for an inkjet printer seems excessive these days, it is, until you realize that the Brother MFC-J985DW XL Work Smart All-in-One with INKvestment Cartridges not only has a scanner, fax machine and copier, but comes with something other printers don’t: three sets of ink cartridges (12 in all) that the company says are enough for two years of printing.

That might be a bit optimistic, but it’s impressive, nonetheless. That translates into paying $100 for roughly $130 of ink. Not a bad deal, but if you’d rather pay retail, there’s also a $200 version of the printer that comes with a single set of the same ink cartridges.

Overall, at 6.8- by 16.5- by 13.4-inches, the J985DW is about the same size as other multi-function printers and can fit on a shelf, dedicated table or even on a milk crate. Unlike more commercial printers, there’re no bases available that can hold a larger paper tray or other amenities and raise the unit to waist height.

That’s unfortunate, because the J985DW’s tiny 100-page paper tray is just too small. During two months of daily use, I found myself refilling it all too often. On top, it has a 20-sheet document feeder for scanning, copying or faxing pages.

Front and center is a tilt-up 2.7-inch color touchscreen that controls the printer’s settings. There’s a handy instant tap area for seeing how much ink remains in the printer’s cartridges as well as places to print from online storage services, like DropBox, set up faxes, copies and scans. You can create shortcuts to sequences that are used frequently.

With the ability to connect with the J985DW via a USB cable, wired LAN, WiFi, thumb drive or SD card, it offers freedom of choice for printing. Plus, it can tap into Apple’s AirPrint and Google’s Cloud Print to print wirelessly.

There’s another printing method that’s rapidly becoming the de facto choice for phones and tablets: Near Field Communications or NFC. Just tap the phone to the NFC spot to the left of the screen and use Brother’s iPrint & Scan app to put anything on paper.

J985dw screenThe hardest part of the setup is that the USB and Ethernet ports are hidden inside the printer. You need to open the machine up, snake the cables in before plugging them in. It takes an extra minute, but is worth the effort.

Inside, the J985DW also has a high-quality flatbed scanner that can turn pages into 2,400 by 1,200 dot per inch images and .pdf Acrobat files. They can be saved on a PC, thumb drive or emailed. It took 52 seconds to scan a sheet on the printer’s flatbed, but if you want to scan a stack of two-sided originals, the J985DW lacks a one-pass scanner so you need to manually turn the stack over and scan them again.

The printer creates super-sharp 6,000- by 1,200 dot per inch documents and is rated to deliver 12- and 10-pages per minute (ppm) of black and white and color output, but it struggled to get close to that. The first page came out in 5.5 seconds and the J985DW produced color documents at the rate of 4.3 ppm. If you use the printer’s duplexer that drops to 3.4ppm. It’s slow, but not nearly as loud as a laser printer.

At 22-watts, the J985DW doesn’t use nearly as much electricity as a laser printer does and it drops to 2-watts when it goes to sleep. The J9895DW has a Quiet mode that most schools will like. It not only silences the printer but uses less ink.

The printer allows you to choose between Normal, Fast and Best quality printing modes as well as Natural or Vivid color. Its output is bright and sharp and characters come out well formed with little bleed through, even on photographs, although areas of dense printing tend to pucker a little.

J985dw inkWith nearly 4,000 pages printed in a variety of modes, the J985DW is economical with per-page costs of 3.4 cents per page for color and less than 1 cent per page for monochrome text documents. That’s quite a bargain compared to the cost of HP’s much more expensive OfficeJet Enterprise Color MFP X585 as well as most laser printers.

While the J985DW can’t stop rogue firmware from running, it does come with a nice network monitoring program. The BRadmin Professional lets you see what going on inside of Brother printers as well as some HP devices. You can see if a printer is running out of ink, how many pages and printed and make key changes to its operations. At any time, you can type in the printer’s IP address and see what its settings are and make key changes.

Getting the J985DW also gives you access to Brother’s Creative Center, a library of software and templates that can help with school projects. In addition to making brochures and small booklets, the printer can help create flash cards, posters and coloring pages.

With a two-year warranty, the J985DW’s $300 price is roughly that of HP’s Color LaserJet M452dw printer, but it cuts the price of printing to the bone, allowing classrooms to use this valuable teaching resource without thinking about the costs.




Brother MFC-J985DW XL Work Smart All-in-One with INKvestment Cartridges


+ Can print via USB, WiFi, SD card, LAN, NFC or thumb drive

+ Includes three sets of ink cartridges

+ Touch screen

+ Phone and tablet apps

+ Two-year warranty


- Slow

- Small paper tray


Clean, Simple and Fast Printing

M452dw aIf you listened to the futurists and educational pundits, by now we’d have paper-free schools where everything is assigned, completed and handed in digitally. Happily, this isn’t the way the history played out and there’s still room in the curriculum for everything from paper quizzes to hand-in worksheets. HP’s Color LaserJet Pro M452dw fits into the scheme perfectly with fast, moderately-priced printing that is as good as it gets these days.

While the base M452dw is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, it still takes up 11.6- by 18.5- by 16.2 inches and weighs in at a hefty 41-pounds. It can sit on a table, a shelf or you can add several trays to it, making it the equivalent of a high-end printer station that a small school or department at a larger one can share. Like other mid-range printers, the M452dw lacks a finisher to fold or staple its output.

The white printer has a tilt up 3-inch color touch-screen and a 250-page paper tray. You can quickly add a 550-sheet base for $150. It’s about as flexible as a printer gets these days with the ability to monitor a school- or district’s worth of printers with HP’s Jet Admin software.

Able to connect via cable (USB or Ethernet) or wirelessly (with built-in WiFi), the M452dw is versatile and flexible. Alternatively, you can put what you want to print on a USB thumb drive and insert it into the printer’s USB port. It works with Word and Acrobat documents, PowerPoint slide shows and .jpg images. The touch screen shows a preview and there are size and orientation options. 

M452dw screenIn a magic trick that few printers can perform, the M452dw has a Near Field Communications (NFC) spot to the left of the printer’s top. Set up your image or document in HP’s ePrint app, tap the phone or tablet onto the NFC zone and the printing process starts. Be careful because the NFC spot is in an angled portion of the printer and if you place the device there you run the risk of your device sliding off.

You can also email items directly to the printer via HP’s eprint with apps for Android, iOS or Windows Phone; it can also print items from Chromebooks via Google’s Cloud Print. The app can directly print Acrobat and Office files from any of these devices.

Inside, the printer has a 1.2GHz processor along with 256MB of RAM and 256MB of flash storage. It puts 600 by 600 dots per inch documents, charts and images onto paper, although the output can be enhanced to the equivalent of 38,400 by 600 dots per inch. It’s about as secure as a printer gets these days with the ability to only start up using its unaltered firmware, reducing the chances of a backdoor attack on the school’s network.

Inside, the M452dw uses HP’s latest low-temperature toner that’s housed in cartridges that also contain the printer’s photo drum. In a move that I hope others follow, changing the printer’s toner cartridges is a non-muss affair that takes less than a minute. You don’t even have to pull a tab: just open the box, remove the module from the plastic case and put it into the printer’s tray. After closing the tray, the cartridge sets itself up; the printer is ready within a minute.

M452dw usbTo save paper, the M452dw has duplexing built in, although the non-duplex equipped M452nw version lowers the price to $200, but instead of the color touch-screen, there’s a two-line monochrome display. Rated to print 28 pages of single side documents per minute (ppm), the M452dw was able to deliver its first page in 10 seconds and produce large documents at 24.6ppm. Printing on both sides of a sheet slows this to 23.7 ppm.

Still, the M452dw has a very efficient paper path. It doesn’t wait for the first page to be finished before starting on the next one. In fact, watching the duplexing pages emerge and drop back into the printer is a hypnotic treat.

The printer uses 500-watts of power when it’s printing, but won’t dim the lights as is the case with some of its competitors. Still, it consumes more power than the inkjet-based HP Officejet Enterprise Color MFP X585. Its power use drops to 2.4-watts in sleep mode.

After more than 5,000 pages printed – from worksheets, maps and quizzes to reports and Web pages – the M4452dw worked with a wide variety of papers including inexpensive copier stock, envelopes and cards. It jammed a few times, but this was mostly due to the corner of a page being bent or curled. Its output is second to none with razor sharp type, excellent color balance and only a slight shininess to its surface.   

M452dw screen aThe M452dw comes with a set of introductory cartridges that are capable of producing 1,200 sheets each. In other words, you’ll need to get replacements soon. While the basic cyan, magenta and yellow can print 2,300 pages and cost $110, the black one is $85. There are also high-yield color modules produce 5,000 pages and cost $190, but the black one can print 6,500 pages and costs $142.

All told, it cost an average of 13.4 cents per page to deliver a variety of full color documents and monochrome documents, including image prints, worksheets and reports in a mix of high quality and EconoMode settings. Monochrome prints cut that to a little over 3 cents per page, making it one of the cheapest printers to use.

At any time, you can check on the status of its supplies through its IP address or by printing one of its preset internal reports through its touch screen. There are also pages for seeing how many pages have been created, the network status as well as the devices current settings.

With a one-year warranty, the M452dw costs $300, hundreds less than comparable printers and roughly what you’d spend on a classroom-ready inkjet printer. It shows the power of the printed word and is the best way to put high-quality documents in the hands of students and teachers.


M452dw bHP Color LaserJet Pro M452dw



+ Inexpensive

+ Large toner cartridges with no mess changes

+ Print from USB, LAN, NFC or thumb drive

+ Fast

+ Inexpensive


- No finisher

Bottomless Ink Cartridges

Mfc985dwxlTired of paying for ink cartridges for your classroom printer? Brother’s latest MFC-J985DWXL printer will not need new ink for two years, assuming you print 200 pages a month. That’s because the it uses Brother’s INKvestment system and comes with three sets of ink tanks. That should be enough for more than 7,000 black and 3,600 color pages, by Brother's estimates, or two years of typical use. The printer itself is no slouch with not only a built-in scanner that can put images onto a variety online storage systems, but a 2.7-inch touch screen. The printer has free apps for phones and tablets, can print with near field communications and create documents on both sides of a sheet. 

Everything in Black and White

M5000 WF ProIf you’re tired of paying for color printing when all you create are black documents (like quizzes, worksheets and puzzles) on white paper, Epson’s WorkForce Pro M5000 Series Monochrome Printer can save some money. The $400 WF-M5694 uses the company’s PrecisionCore technology and has an input tray that holds 580 sheets at a time. It can scan, fax and copy as well as print, but its huge ink cartridges allow the WF Pro M5000 family to deliver up to 10,000 pages on a tank. It connects to a wired or WiFi network and prints as many as 20 pages per minute and prints on both sides of the paper.

Big Ink

2-HP PageWide Pro 577dw MFP PrinterIf you thought that HP’s OfficeJet Enterprise Color MFP X585 was the last word in big inkjet printers, think again. The HP PageWide Pro 552 uses HP’s latest PageWide technology that eliminates the back and forth of the printing head with a series of printing elements that span the entire width of the page. The 552 can deliver up to 50 pages per minute, has an automatic duplexer and with its optional paper trays, it can hold up to 1,500 sheets of paper. It’s got NFC and WiFi built in, has a 4.3-inch touchscreen and starts at $700.

Big Step Forward for Printing

M402n_center frontWhile most concentrate on color printing, HP is sticking to its knitting when it comes to economical monochrome laser printers, such as the LaserJet Pro M402 printer. Its white case is not only 18 percent smaller than the black M401 it replaces, but the printer is 30-percent faster and has faster duplex printing. Based on its new Precision Toner, the printer wakes up quickly, has higher capacity toner cartridges and offers direct printing of Office documents (along with .jpgs and .pdfs) from memory keys. But, the biggest step forward is that you can now print to one of HP’s new printers from Chromebooks without using Google’s sometimes awkward Cloud Printing service. HP lets you print locally over WiFi by just typing Control-P, just like a Windows system. As interesting as these things are, most buyers will be most impressed by the fact that the M402 will be available for about $50 less than the M401 it replaces.

Print with Android

MX7 - K7600GX Right PerspectiveToo many printers use obscure internal programming languages that make it hard to figure out what to do when something goes wrong. Not Samsung’s MultiXpress MX7 Series K7600GX, which speaks Android in an effort to make its abilities easier to fathom and use. The monochrome printer can pump out as many as 60 pages per minute, has a 10.1-inch color screen and in addition to printing, it faxes, scans and copies items. The print engine creates sharp 1,200- by 1,200 dot per inch documents and the first sheet comes out in as little as 7.5 seconds.

Speed Printing

Samsung MF4530It’s amazing how fast printers can produce documents when they print in just black toner. Samsung’s ProXpress $650 M4530ND is a high-speed printer that puts 1,200- by 1,200-dots per inch onto paper and tops out at 47 pages per minute of output. There’s also the $850 M4530NX that adds a color touch control screen. Both are suitable for a department, entire floor or a small school to share, have duplexing and can be connected via USB, a wired or wireless network or even with an optional NFC connection device for tap and print operations. The printers can also integrate with cloud storage systems for quick printing of stored items. While the standard toner module holds enough for 7,000 pages, Samsung makes cartridges for as many as 40,000 pages that can drive down printing costs dramatically.

Big Bags of Ink

Epson WF 8590Forget about changing the ink cartridges every week with Epson’s WorkForce WF-8950 super-printer. It’s based on the company’s Precision Core inkjet technology and rather than using small plastic ink modules, the system uses bags of ink to not only increase the volume to be enough to cover 75,000 pages, but also to cut the cost to the minimum. It can support a group of classrooms or even a small school by being able to pump out 24 pages per minute and hold more than three reams of paper. There’s a scanner/copier with a document feeder that can suck in 20 pages per minute.  The system can be connected via USB, wired networking or WiFi. This first of a new family of printers should be available by the end of the month.

Big Ink

HP X585 aAs schools consolidate their office and classroom printing into a handful of large machines, they usually choose a laser printer-copier, but HP has a better – and ultimately cheaper – way. The OfficeJet Enterprise Color MFP X585 not only is faster and less expensive to create a variety of documents, but it is a security king that can save on power.

To start, the OfficeJet MFP X585 is a lot of printer that weighs at least 80-pounds and will likely require two people to unpack and set up. It can not only scan and copy, but fax as well. The printer uses HP’s new pigment-based ink and PageWide technology, which covers the entire width of the page with more than 40,000 jets that spray minute droplets of ink onto the page, rather than moving the jets back and forth over the page. It results in faster and more efficient printing.

The printer delivers 600 by 600 dot per inch documents, but can optimize them to look as sharp as 2,400 by 1,200 resolution for photos. It has a 320GB hard drive and an 796MHz processor with 1.8GB of its own memory. It can handle up to 53-pound paper and 80-pound photo card stock and has a single large paper tray that not only holds a full ream of sheets, but shows how much is inside. HP sells a $400 cabinet that can hold supplies and paper as well as a second paper tray for $300.

HP_LaserJet_Enterprise_MFP_M630HP offers a variety of drivers for just about any system on campus. There’s software for all recent Windows and Mac clients as well as for Linux computers and a variety of network operating systems.

Like most devices in its class, the X585 has duplex printing built in, which can save a surprising amount of paper in schools. It also has a duplex scanning engine with a 50-page sheet feeder. The X585’s flip up 8-inch view-screen can display what’s being printed and used for making configuration changes. There’s an optional keyboard, but it’s only available on the more expensive X585z model.

Out of the box, the printer can connect via a USB cable or wired Ethernet connection. To add WiFi, you need to get HP’s add-on 802.11b, g and n WiFi module; it costs $70. It has the bonus of including a near-field communications (NFC) sensor for printing after placing an NFC-quipped phone, tablet or notebook onto the device. It’s the closest thing to IT magic that you’ll see in a school. 

But, you don’t need a physical network connection to print with the X585. At any time, you can use a mobile device to wirelessly send print orders to the X585. The HP ePrint app is available for Androids, iPhones and iPads although it only works with images, Acrobat files, Web pages and Office documents.

Its success at school is due in part to the X585’s low operating costs. To start there’s neither a fuser nor drum to wear out and replace. In fact, the only consumable item, other than ink, is a tray to catch the excess ink. It should last for roughly 50,000 pages and costs a reasonable $20.

1wntGyUzvneiy2K9CBYV58-30Plus, the X585’s ink cartridges are positively huge, holding 86.5-, 80.5-, 83.5- or 203.5-milliliters of pigment-based ink for the cyan, magenta, yellow or black cartridges. The cyan, magenta and yellow ones cost $100 each and are capable of printing roughly 6,600 pages while the $115 black one can put out 10,000 pages, according to HP’s optimistic forecast. Over the course of three-months of daily use in the printer’s best print-quality mode, it was able to deliver color pages for 6.2 cents and monochrome ones for an amazing 1.2 cents per page. This makes it one of the least expensive printers to use and you can save some more by using one of the printer’s lower-quality modes.

Happily, the printer’s output lacks the annoying shiny quality of laser prints, but the X585’s documents are just as sharp as that from the best color laser printers. Although the ink dries quickly, images that fill most of the sheet tend to saturate it, causing the surface to pucker and wrinkle.

Because it tops out at about 60-watts – about the power use of the typical light bulb – the printer uses a lot less electricity than even the most efficient laser printer. Although it requires a three-prong plug, for those in older schools with antiquated wiring, the X585 won’t dim the lights when it starts up.

For such a complicated device, the X585 was remarkably easy to set up, but it can take about 40 minutes to get the system configured, installed and ready to print its first page. HP will come and install it for you for $440. Once it’s up and running, it takes 23 seconds to pump out its first page and can deliver 26 pages per minute of everything from spelling tests and parental letters to worksheets and report cards.

I printed nearly 10,000 pages on a variety of material – from the cheapest copier paper to card stock and labels – and the printer only jammed once. It was easier to clear the jam from the paper path than with a laser printer because nothing was hot.

HP X585 supplies pageTo make changes or check on supplies, the printer has an extensive collection of data pages that can be displayed on its screen or remotely through its IP address with a connected Web browser. You can also control or tap into the printer’s configuration with HP’s JetAdmin software. In addition to ink levels and total number of pages printed on the current set of ink modules, the system can spit out a variety of reports on its current status and configuration, who’s printing in color and fax activity.

It’s not perfect but still helpful when you’re running out of ink. That’s because a warning appears on screen about which cartridge is near the end of its life but fails to tell you approximately how many pages remain. 

Because it is meant to fit into a school’s digital document flow scheme, HP has what it calls QuickSets. These are established document flow patterns for anything from scanning the day's homework to inputting invoices that need to be paid.

Security is its true calling and can make the X585 as secure as a computer. There are more than 200 built-in security settings and it is the rare printer with a Trusted Platform module and encrypted hard drive. With everything from report cards to social security numbers being printed, this area is often ignored but necessary today.

One big step forward is the use of pull printing, where the person printing a document needs to enter his or her personal code to get the pages to actually print. It cuts down on orphan and accidentally picked up pages and if nothing is printed, the document is automatically deleted from the X585’s hard drive the next day. On the downside, the printer has neither individual output trays nor a stapling finisher option.

The printer comes with a 1-year warranty, but HP can extend it for $130 a year. It may be expensive, but the X585 printer is worth its weight in ink because it can not only cut down on the costs of classroom and office printing but can make them more secure at the same time.


HP X585 b

HP OfficeJet Enterprise Color MFP X585


+ Low per-page costs

+ Security


+ 8-inch display

+ Inkjet technology

+ Printer apps

+ Duplex printing and scanning


- Price

- Slow start-up

- No finishing options


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.