$40 printer, $40 ink

SAN FRANCISCO (09/22/2003) - Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Deskjet 3520 is the first ink jet printer to be introduced at US$40. Surprisingly, we found its overall print quality to be fairly good--but you'll pay as much for one set of replacement black and tricolor cartridges as you did for the printer itself.

At 4.5 pages per minute for text and 1 ppm for graphics, the 3520's tested speeds roughly match those of our Best Buy from the July issue's Top 10 Printers, the $50 Canon Inc. i320 Color Bubble Jet. Text print quality was good, but not quite as sharp as the i320's. Photo quality was very good on high-end photo paper, less so on standard paper.

Rebates over the past two years have pushed $50 or $60 ink jets down into the $40 range, and new printer prices may drop further, albeit not as quickly as in recent years, says IDC analyst Jennifer Thorwart. But ink is another story: Thorwart says that the costs of consumables subsidize the low prices of hardware.

HP says entry-level printers like the 3520 are best for those users who print infrequently and are more price-sensitive about hardware than about ink and paper. We agree, to a point. If you plan to print mostly photos--which use up the most ink--you may be happier with a more expensive ink jet that uses less-expensive ink. For the 3520, ink costs $2.74 per milliliter for color and $1.80 per ml for black--about 75 cents more per ml for black and 68 cents more per ml for color than the inks many of HP's pricier printers use.

Hewlett-Packard Deskjet 3520

Price when reviewed: $40

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