Beating the printer 'confusopoly'

There are a bewildering range of printers available, says Darien Graham-Smith, and the wrong choice can be a nightmare

Back in 1997, Dilbert creator Scott Adams coined the term "confusopoly" a market in which would-be shoppers are bamboozled with a huge range of similar options, leaving them overwhelmed and unable to make a smart purchasing decision.

At the time, Adams was principally talking about the mobile-phone market, which even now remains bogged down by a bewildering range of deals and tariffs. But the idea of a confusopoly will be equally familiar to anyone trying to choose a new printer. We're talking different features, different speeds, different print quality and, of course, different running costs. It's a lot to take in and if you make the wrong choice, you could be left pulling your hair out over shoddy prints, dire performance and a rapidly mounting ink bill.

Frankly, this isn't a state of affairs that the industry should be proud of. Personal inkjets have been with us for more than 30 years; lasers for even longer. The market ought to feel a lot more mature than it does. Compare the laptop market: sure, not all portable PCs are created equal, but a cheap and cheerful purchase can normally be relied on to get the basic job done. Wouldn't it be nice if the same could be said for printers?

It doesn't help that running costs really are an unknown quantity. While ISO page yields provide a useful benchmark for comparison between different printers, it's impossible to predict how many mono and colour pages you'll personally burn through, and hence how your total cost of ownership will stack up. There's also no guarantee that ink prices won't change down the line, turning your low-cost printer into a bum deal.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

You'd be forgiven for throwing your hands up and picking a printer at random. But if you end up with one of the many duff choices out there, you'll resent it every time you hit Print. This isn't a market where you want to play the odds.

Thankfully, you don't need to; high-quality, low-cost printing is achievable. Skip over the bargain-basement models and be clear about your priorities, because no printer will magically suit everybody. But the right one will give you years of fuss-free service and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you've beaten the confusopoly.

This article originally appeared in PC Pro issue 262

Featured Resources

Digitally perfecting the supply chain

How new technologies are being leveraged to transform the manufacturing supply chain

Download now

Three keys to maximise application migration and modernisation success

Harness the benefits that modernised applications can offer

Download now

Your enterprise cloud solutions guide

Infrastructure designed to meet your company's IT needs for next-generation cloud applications

Download now

The 3 approaches of Breach and Attack Simulation technologies

A guide to the nuances of BAS, helping you stay one step ahead of cyber criminals

Download now



Best printers 2020

18 Dec 2019

Lexmark C3224dw review: Cheap, but not necessarily good value

14 Dec 2019

Xerox VersaLink C500DN review: Appy days

3 Dec 2019

Choose the right colour printer for your business

29 Nov 2019

Most Popular

Microsoft Windows

What to do if you're still running Windows 7

14 Jan 2020
operating systems

17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

13 Jan 2020
Microsoft Windows

Memes and Viking funerals: The internet reacts to the death of Windows 7

14 Jan 2020

Dell XPS 13 (New 9300) hands-on review: Chasing perfection

14 Jan 2020