I pit HP as a bunch of lying toner thieves!

I bought a new HP color laser printer (HP M451DN). It came with “starter” toner cartridges, good for 1,400 pages (supposedly). I had a big print job, with 1/2 page color, so I knew I wasn’t going to get that many pages out of them (the page rating is for 5% coverage, which is a bit absurd). After 350 pages, the Cyan low warning came on. I actually thought that wasn’t too bad, since thats 1/4 of the rating, and I was using almost 10x the coverage.

The printer lets you ignore the warning, by pressing the OK button, although it nags constantly. So I kept printing. And pressing the OK button. And printing. And pressing the button. And printing some more.

One by one, all the other colors ran low, and they all had the same damn warning. Now I was pressing OK every few pages. But I still kept printing. I looked at each page, and they all looked fine. When I had printed another 215 pages, I noticed the first hint of toner fading.

So, HP wants me to replace the (expensive) toner when it’s a little more than 1/2 empty!


I mean, it’s one thing to have the low toner warning come on when the toner is really low. It’s another to expect the user to just throw away $100 worth of product for no good reason.

The reminds me of a fax machine I had at work years ago. For some reason we decided to get a color fax. I think in the year that we had it we got ONE fax that came in color. Anyways, about 4 or 5 times a week it would print off a test page to keep the print heads from drying out. We didn’t think anything of this at first…until it ran out of one of the colors. No big deal. We don’t need yellow, it’s a fax machine. Problem was, as long as it was out of any ink, the whole thing locked up. So I raced up to Office Max, grabbed some yellow ink, put it in and printed out our all black fax. After a while of that we learned to stay stocked up on ink. At one point we tried to put the same color ink in all the spots because one color was cheaper then the others but it didn’t like that.

After about a year this got silly. By my math, we were spending something like $15 a month to keep this fax machine full of color ink so that it could print out black and white faxes. I emailed Brother. No response. I sent off a few more emails and eventually got a phone call back where they basically told me to take a hike because that’s just how it works. After that I reported them to the BBB and I got a new (laser) fax machine for free from them a few weeks later.
Also, I have a wireless mouse that, when the batteries run low it flashes something on the taskbar. BLINK BLINK BLINK BLINK BLINK all fucking day. If it starts early in the day I’ll sometimes put a Post-It note over it so I don’t have to watch it blink. Now, mine is rechargeable, so all I have to do is plug it in for a few hours (and I try to do it before it blinks). But there’s a similar model that’s not and some people noticed that once it starts blinking on the taskbar you still get about 2-4 weeks worth of use out of it. They suggested that Logitech is in cahoots with the battery manufacturers. I just think they’re doing a bad job of knowing when the batteries are almost dead. My keyboard (also by them) goes from working fine to not working at all with almost no notice at all.

Same with the Brother laser I have. First low toner warning, I ran a report (pages printed, number of jams, lots of that sort of thing).
60% still left. :mad:

Other than that, it’s been a perfectly good printer and the toner life is better than predicted.

I didn’t know it was possible to send a fax in color until now.

From the manual for that printer:

Basically, HP’s concern seems to be that people complain about the poor print quality when the toner is low, which is probably why the nag messages appear. And in my experience, if you take out the toner cartridge, shake it and return it to the printer, the nag messages will go away for a few hundred pages.

Also, you noted that the 1,400 page capacity assumed five-percent coverage of the toner on the page, and you said you were using ten times that coverage. So why are you in the least bit surprised that the toner cartridges didn’t last as long as the specs claimed?

That wasn’t my issue at all.

The issue was: it complained that the toner was low (and the display said it was empty) when it was really 1/3-1/2 full.

That toner is EXPENSIVE - at HP’s prices, if I followed their suggestion and replaced the toner as soon as the warning came on, I would be throwing away $100-$150 worth of toner!

Color toner is by far the most expensive part of a laser printer. Most manufacturers went to “starter” toner and ink quite a while ago to cut shelf cost. They at least tell you they are less-than-usual units - for a while it was a hidden detail (“A” suffix cartridges instead of something else - you had to know the suffix meant “small load.”)

Yield is hugely variable. I don’t think you can consider yourself ripped off because you didn’t get a theoretical maximum from the starter cartridges. Overriding the low-quantity setting just means you’ll get some number of faded, streaky prints, and if that’s good enough, you should have just bought a cheaper (to maintain) printer.

And yes, a load for a color laser is expensive. If you weren’t prepared for that, you shouldn’t have bought one. The HP-branded load for mine keeps creeping up in cost and is now about $1200; competition on eBay has pushed OEM units from around $6-700 a set to near $1000. Refills and aftermarket ones are the same leaky, failure-prone and crappy print quality items they’ve always been. I 100% disrecommend them no matter how high the supposed user ratings are (based on 25+ years of experience).

I recommend HP color laser users search out the Xerox-branded replacement cartridges; they are about one-third the cost of HP-branded… and most HP printers are Xerox under the hood. The quality is excellent (says the very demanding graphics user) and I’ve had only one unexpected failure, which Xerox made good with a replacement.

ETA: How do you know there is toner remaining if the display says empty? You do know that cartridges accumulate some unused residue toner, so will still have some amount of toner in them that’s already passed from one hopper to the “waste” one.

But the message wasn’t, “replace toner now!” It was “low toner” which the manual says, “A <Supply> Low message—where <Supply> is the color print cartridge: The product indicates when a supply level is low. Actual cartridge life remaining may vary. Consider having a replacement available to install when print quality is no longer acceptable. The supply does not need to be replaced now.” Bolding added by me.

I can’t believe anyone is defending this practice.

If Toyota had the low fuel light come on (and the gauge read 1/16) when the car could still drive 300 miles, people would be all over them!

I’m and engineer. I expect that a company like HP (the guys who created Silicon Valley) could come up with a more accurate gauge for remaining toner.

For that matter, this situation is even more egregious - I was printing very heavy coverage. If this was an average print job, the toner would have been good for over 1,000 pages!

Oh, and Amateur - I’m well aware of the issues surrounding color lasers. I bought this printer to replace my failing Oki C6100DN, which was a total workhorse, and had HUGE toner capacity. Unfortunately, it was hard to get supplies for, and even harder to repair. I may try to fix it myself when I have some time.


No problem. All they need to do is read your mind to find out exactly what you will be printing for the next few thousand pages and then they can completely and accurately predict when the cartridge will be empty.

I absolutely can’t figure out why you think the toner carts are only half empty and cheating you out of the remainder. That “1400 pages” figure is sheer moonshine and as a color laser user you should know it. It’s like getting 54 mpg in a Prius; you can only do it by using a very lightfooted, long-range driving style.

You admit you’re running some heavy color pages and got 200+ of them before you got toner fading.

Toner fading is an indication that the cart is near empty, not half full.

HP is not misleading you except in an excessively optimistic yield estimate for junk, one-tenth-filled starter cartridges.

I am not at all clear what you continue to bitch about. You used up the carts. Buy new ones that will deliver a reasonable yield. Or buy a good business-grade inkjet next time - my K550 has a page cost of about 8 cents and ink tanks that last 5,000 pages.

Don’t you read?

The 1,400 page figure has nothing to do with it!

**The issue is the toner Low indication, and the constant warning. **

They need a better gauge - I don’t care how many pages can be printed withe the remaining toner - I want an accurate measure of the % toner left.

  1. The cartridges probably had a 1/5 - 1/10 standard load.
  2. You got exactly as many pages from them as you would have from a regular cartridge with that much toner remaining.
  3. The low-toner warning comes on to preserve print quality, not to tell you the cart is empty. It is as accurate as it needs to be for 99% of users.
  4. A few hundred pages between warning and fading is a trivial percentage of a full cartridge’s capacity.
  5. You can overrride the warning and reset if you really want to print increasingly poor quality pages.

The amount you were “cheated” out of - actually, the amount HP tried to cheat you out of, but you were too clever to be cheated - is a trivial percentage of a full cartridge. It only seems significant because it’s a large percentage of the token fill of the starter cartridges.

By the way, just to state the obvious, the purpose of the toner warning messages is to give you time to order and receive a replacement toner cartridge. If the warning didn’t appear until the toner was extremely low, people would complain of not being given enough time to get the replacement. Just like your car warns you of an empty gas gauge when there’s still a couple of gallons left, so that you have enough to get to a gas station. (If gas stations were hundreds of miles apart, the car might warn you when you can still go 300 miles.) Most people appreciate the warning.

The HP laser printer I use displays “Approximately 3000 page remaining”, then “Approximately 2000 page remaining” and so forth.

My Brother printer told me for 10 months that the toner in the yellow cartridge was low. I had the replacement sitting in my office for about 9 months and finally used it when the printer stopped printing and told me to actually replace the cartridge. If I’d only had one month’s warning, I might have been in trouble. :wink:

You still don’t get it, do you?

Once again, the absolute number of pages I got out of the cartridge is irrelevant.

This reminds me of a famous programming aphorism - “I can make any function arbitrarily fast, if it does’t have to work correctly.”
If they are going to put a message up that says “Toner very low” when there is still 1/3 of it left, why bother? I mean, why not just put the message up after printing one page?
I suppose you would think that was correct behavior, too.

Now, I pushed that damn button over and over, and got every last speck of toner out of the cartridge, but I’m willing to bet that most people go ahead and change the cartridge as soon as the first warning appears.

That just seems wasteful and sloppy. I know that if the products that I design worked that way, my customers would be screaming at me.

It’s actually even worse than that.

Imagine if (at the same time), Toyota was responsible for selling you a new gas tank full of gas each time. So they design a gas gauge that says “low fuel” in the hopes that you will immediately throw away your tank that’s 1/6 full, and purchase a brand new full tank.

I’m on board with your rant.

You don’t seem to get it either. They’re not forcing you to change the cartridge early. The manual simply says to change the toner cartridge “when print quality is no longer acceptable.”