Budget Laser Printer Recommendations

For pretty much the first time in my life, I’m finding I really need a printer at home. In past times I’ve been quite happy to sneakily print off everything at university, at work, etc.. Several years ago I rescued a chunky old HP laser printer from the skip at work and that served me well for a few years… and then it died. Now I’m working from home a lot and this is becoming a real hassle, but budget is tight.

So, can anyone recommend a very cheap mono laser printer for home Linux usage? I have few requirements:

  • Cheap!
  • I don’t need colour printing.
  • I don’t really care how fast (or slow) it prints as long as it isn’t terminally slow.
  • I don’t care what interface it uses (USB, parallel, whatever) as long as it works.
  • I don’t have any preference on manufacturer, maybe you do, hence me asking you!
  • Needs to be reliable, I can’t face having to fiddle with it every few pages. This is the sort of printer where I would like to give it a 100 page manual to get on with.
  • Needs to work in Linux (and BSD as well would be nice).
  • My primary usage will be manuals and code listings, but I would want to run off the odd letter or my CV now and again.
  • I’ll be buying it mail-order so any recommendations for local shops will not be useful for me (I don’t live in Hampshire), but they might help other people in the LUG.
  • Cheap!

Perhaps there are other requirements I should be specifying? If so, do say, and I’ll clarify. Like I say, I’ve never had to buy a printer for myself before.

I shall also post this to the Mailing List and summarise any responses from there.

:::: — Andy Smith

Ah – rescued printers! My LaserJet 4P was rescued from a skip too, and works great under Linux. It’s a bit noisy and much slower than modern lasers, but it was free!

More helpfully, a fairly authorative guide to printers under Linux can be found at It will at least tell you if a printer works under Linux, if not how much it costs and what interface it has. Probably a good starting point.

:::: — Tony Whitmore

How about this one: Samsung ML-1440

  • 600dpi
  • 14ppm
  • 8MB RAM — this seems a lot for budget lasers
  • Says it works on lots of OSes so obviously not a “WinPrinter
  • 270 sheets in the feeder, that’s pretty good for what I’ve seen
  • £109+VAT

Looks fairly decent and sturdy, but has anyone had any horror stories? It seems scarily cheap for what it is..

I (Peter Salisbury) bought an ML-1250 from DABS and it works really well and cost around £95 (update, near identical ML1210 currently £80 inc VAT at DABS 23.Dec.2003). Some things to be aware of:

  • Setting margins is a pain (maybe that’s all Linux printers) see my Linux Log for details of how I went about it
  • The default Debian/sid/KDE driver doesn’t let you print multiple copies (again see my Linux Log for the one I used.
  • It scrunches envelopes – I still use an old Epson ink-jet for that
  • You can very easily top up the toner cartridge (

Alternatively there is the Minolta-QMS !PagePro 1200W

  • Got a good review in the September 2002 edition of PC Advisor.
  • 1200dpi
  • 12ppm
  • Only comes with a 150 sheet feeder. The review noted this was rather flimsy as well, but it doesn’t look any more flimsy than the Samsung one.
  • Costs £26+VAT more.

:::: — Andy Smith

Mailing List Updates

Here’s a quick summary of the main points that came up during the email thread.

Hugo Mills made some very good points about the difference between cheap and mid-range printers:

  •  Most decent printers will tell in the documentation or advertising blurb what the “duty cycle” is, sometimes called “pages per month”. This is not a slightly odd measure of printing speed, but a measure of how fast the parts wear out. The printer will officially need mechanical attention (normally replaced rollers) after that point.
  •  My printer is a Brother HL-1270N, based on the same Canon engine as the HP LJ4s, and has (I think) a duty cycle of 50,000 pages. You will find that a cheap laser (sub-£200) will have a duty cycle much less than that.
  •  I would strongly recommend buying a small-workgroup printer, such as the LJ4 (actually, I think they’re making LJ6es these days) or the Brother HL series. Buy a cheapo printer, and you’ll be buying another one in 2 years’ time. Spend about twice as much, and you’ll basically have a friend for life. :)
  •  My printer’s spec: 600dpi laser, Postscript (4Mb RAM, upgradeable with SIMMs), 250 sheet paper tray, 150 sheet output tray, 10/100 Mbit Ethernet port (IPP, LPR, FTP, POP3, others; HTTP and telnet config interfaces), can’t remember the speed, but it’s either 6 or 8 ppm. Duty cycle 50K sheets, I think. Toner £50 for ~6K sheets. Cost, £450 two years ago.

My thoughts on this were basically:

  • I appreciate what you’re saying Hugo but at the moment I simply can’t afford to spend £400+ on a printer. […]
  • To be honest if I bought a 600dpi laser printer today for £120 and it did what it said on the tin for 2 years I’d be reasonably happy with that. £120 spent 2 years ago is easily forgotten. :)
  • Course, what I have to worry about is that it might not do what it says on the tin, or might fall apart after 6 months. For example, the Samsung looks incredibly cheap for its specifications. What’s the catch?

Brian Chivers chimed in with some support for the Samsung:

  • A friend of mine has one of those printer’s and they are great […] When I set them up 2 years ago, it was so easy and she’s just changed a toner in one of them, which isn’t bad considering it’s used in an office enviroment.

As did Stuart Metcalfe:

  • We’re using one of these – highly recommended as a little workhorse! Running on an RH8 samba/CUPS server ATM and works well with WinXP and Linux clients. Print quality’s good and speed is reasonable.
  • The price is good too – we can’t match/beat it or I’d offer to sell a new one to you.

However, John Lewis cautions:

  • Looks too good to be true ;-(
  • 8mb ram is too small for any graphics printing so increasing that would be a first priority.

Unfortunately, that model printer comes with 8MB RAM and is not upgradeable in any way. I guess that’s one reason why it is so cheap. To be honest though, I cannot find a printer anywhere near the same price range that even offers that chance to upgrade past 8MB. Most of the sub-£300 laser printers I can find actually come with 4, 2, or in many cases only 1MB of RAM anyway! I intend only to print documents; 8MB should be OK, I think.

Nick Chalk suggested:

  • Another option might be a good second-hand machine.
  • I bought an HP Laserjet 6MP from a company clearance about a year ago. It was UKP 50, with 14,500 pages on the clock; it was in good condition, and included a toner that hasn’t yet run out.

A good suggestion, but as a relative newbie in the printing world and someone just looking for a quick and easy solution, I’d rather buy something as opposed to try and find a second-hand bargain.

Thank you all very much for your advice. I shall try my luck with the Samsung I think, and will report back on how it turns out.

Philip Stubbs 2003-12-31

My Samsung ML-1210 from Dabs, (£50) arrived today. My only complaint with the lack of a printer lead. However I had a spare USB cable to hand.

I installed cups and failed to get the printer working. I then tried reading the documentation that came with the machine, but that was RedHat specific and I use Debian. I then went to but that just confused me even more. I downladed the ghostscript source, before realising that gs supplied with Debian already had the required driver.

I was starting to get anoyed at this point. I then found a site that recomended foomatic, so I downloaded foomatic-gui, and thirty seconds later I had a test page printed. I am now very happy. I have a brand new USB laser printer, working in Linux for the price of replacment cartridges for my old inkjet ;-)

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