Epson Vs. HP Inkjet Printers

Q: My tech friend says that HP printers are better than Epson printers because the print head is part of the ink cartridge. What is your opinion? – Angela

A: One of the main design differences between lower priced HP and Epson inkjet printers is that Epson incorporates the print heads as part of the printer while HP moves the print head to the cartridge.

Your friend’s perspective of ‘better’ must be based on the ‘what happens if the print heads become clogged’ problem. With an HP (as well as Canon & Lexmark) when you change the ink cartridge, you change the print nozzles, whereas, if an Epson’s print nozzles get clogged, you have a much bigger problem.

The fact that HP incorporates the print head as part of the ink cartridge has little to do with whether it’s better or not as their more expensive printers move the print nozzles to the printer just like the Epson models.

The cost of the print head is what causes printer manufacturers to move them to the printer. Epson uses a more expensive Micro Piezo on all of their printers (versus the thermal approach used by the other brands), which is why their cartridges are simply ink wells.

The higher level HP printers use print heads with many more nozzles, which makes incorporating the print nozzles on the cartridges too costly.

If you rarely use your printer or go away for long periods of time, then the argument could be made that a low-cost HP inkjet printer would be cheaper to deal with if the print heads get clogged, but preventing the clogging for either type of printer is my preferred approach.

For those that are going to be away for long periods of time, leaving the ink cartridges in the printer for either design isn’t a good idea. Epson printer cartridges shouldn’t be pulled out and reused, so once you pull the cartridge you have little choice but to throw it out.

Several companies make cleaning cartridges specifically designed for the Epson printers (search Google for ‘Epson cleaning cartridges’). After you remove the ink cartridges, following the directions for the cleaning cartridge process will generally remove all of the ink that typically dries out if left for a long period of time.

For thermal inkjet printers (HP, Canon & Lexmark), some have found success in removing the ink cartridges and placing them in a sealed bag (removing as much air as possible) along with a most paper towel and placing the bag in a cool, dark environment.

Another common reason that inkjet printers will get clogged, even if you use them a lot, is because they are turned off improperly.

If your inkjet printer is on a power strip and you turn everything off via the power strip, your printer never gets to finish its shutdown procedure that could include everything from a quick cleaning to the capping of the ink cartridges.

Always turn off your inkjet printers by hitting the power button on the printer. In virtually every brand or model, you will notice that the printer goes through many gyrations before completely powering down.

These extra processes are how inkjet printers prepare the print heads and nozzles for shutdown by clearing any extra ink and sealing off the ink reservoirs.

Repeated shutdowns via a power strip is an almost guaranteed way to cause print head issues on any inkjet printer as it’s no different than pulling the power plug out of the wall while your computer is running.

Frankly, with today’s low cost of color laser printers (several under $200) as well as the lower cost per page, considering one for your next printer will eliminate the clogged print head problem forever.

Ken Colburn
Data Doctors Computer Services
Data Doctors Data Recovery Labs
Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc.
Weekly video tech contributor to CNN.com
Host of the award-winning “Computer Corner” radio show

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  • Urban Underbrink

    I stopped buying HP printers because they are not made to last very long. In fact, my last 3 HP $100 printers failed in less than one year. Guess you could get a defective Epson but most will last for years if properly cared for. Big advantage of Epson printers is that you can install a CIS on them and never have to worry about the cost of ink or the trouble of replacing ink cartridges again. Check 123 ink refills.

  • sbruce45

    You say ‘For those that are going to be away for long periods of time, leaving the ink cartridges in the printer for either design isn’t a good idea. Epson printer cartridges shouldn’t be pulled out and reused, so once you pull the cartridge you have little choice but to throw it out.’
    Sounds like if you go away for long periods of time, don’t use Epson. Leaving the ink in the printer is a bad idea, and if you remove it, throw it away.

    I have an Epson and I print very infrequently. I found that if I leave the printer on, it gets clogged. I turn off the printer after each use. It might use more ink (to clean the heads with each printing), but no clogging.

  • Alex

    I have an Epson that cost me under $100. It works very well. The color is excellent and if there’s a clogged printing head it is easily dealt with. I was very impressed and didn’t expect the quality I got.

  • ken maxwell

    The problem with laser jet printers, is the health risk if any person in the area has lung disease,or a heart problem. According to the American Lung Association, either condition can worsen from exposure to the burned carbon gas from a laser jet.