If it consumes consumables (ie: ink, bulbs, etc), check their cost too before buying it

 Photo Gallery: See our photo gallery that shows the different angled views of Toshiba's TLP-XD2000U LCD projector. Last month, as a part of putting on Mashup Camp at MIT in Cambridge, MA, I decided it was time to insource a couple of items because outsourcing simply wasn't paying off as the route to go.
Written by David Berlind, Inactive

 Photo Gallery: See our photo gallery that shows the different angled views of Toshiba's TLP-XD2000U LCD projector. 

Last month, as a part of putting on Mashup Camp at MIT in Cambridge, MA, I decided it was time to insource a couple of items because outsourcing simply wasn't paying off as the route to go. Not on cost and not on quality. For example, for one of our previous events, we outsourced badge printing to Kinkos. Perhaps it was our mistake in not being specific about font size. But, for around $200 we got a few hundred badges with the name of an attendee printed on each one. In 12-point type. The event was fun but everyone left with crows-feet around their eyes: the residual effect of too much squinting.

When I first saw the badges (just before the event), I desperately wanted to meet the rocket scientist whose hands were on the badge stock just before the badge printing started. How can one know how to insert badge stock into a printer and not know that the badges must be printed in large bold text that's viewable from several feet away? Some of the attendees took matters into their own hands by scribbling their name in magic marker on the back of the badges and turning them around inside the badge-holders. 

Just prior to this last Mashup Camp, I was in Sam's Club buying some office supplies when I noticed that they had HP's Color Laserjet 2600n on sale for $300. You don't have to be a math whiz to do the back of the envelope calculation. When compared to the cost of outsourcing the badge printing, it would only take two events for the printer to pay for itself. Not only that, I could take printer with me so that I could print ad-hoc badges with logos on-site on the day of event. Bonus: I could make them colorful.  Seems like a no brainer, right? Well, then comes the catch.

As I wrote in a recent razors and blades piece (referring to how the iPhone is actually a blade, not a razor), a set of new color toner cartridges for the 2600n retails for $325 (or, if my local Sam's Club had them in stock, which it doesn't, $295 there). In other words, the printer, which comes with a full complement of color toner cartridges costs less at Sam's Club than the retail price of just the full complement of toner cartridges!. In other other words, instead of refilling the printer with new toner cartridges, I might as well just buy a whole new printer every time the current one runs out of toner (and auction off the old one on eBay). Even with this bit of irony in my fledgling event company's capital asset acquisitions, it makes more sense to insource the badges than to outsource them.

One point I'd add is that Microsoft Word, Avery's badge-stock, and the 2600n left a lot to be desired when it came to printing the badges. Avery's badge-stock comes with explicit instructions on how to print badges and the right options to use Avery's badge-stock appeared where it was supposed to in MS-Word. But the badges did not print with the same alignment that was shown on my computer's display (in some cases, the bottom line of one badge showed up on the next badge) and I'm not sure who to fault for that. My gut told me it was a problem with the printer driver but I could be wrong. The other problem? Some badges were printing with artifacts of the badges that had already printed on them. This was most definitely a problem with the 2600n.

Moral of this story? Check out your cost of consumables so you know what you're getting into when you buy that next printer. 

Need another example?

Last week, while researching the massive photo gallery we assembled (of four Vista-loaded Toshiba notebooks), I bumped into Toshiba's press release about its newest projector: the TLP-XD200U (pictured right). There doesn't seem to be anything terribly remarkable about the project. For $849, you get an LCD projector that has a reasonably bright bulb (2000 lumens) and that can handle up to 1024x768 resolution. Over on CNET's shopping site, you can find similarly configured projectors for less money, but not a whole lot less (in other words, this project is designed to strike in the value range). But it was a reminder of the other piece of technology that we don't want to outsource: projectors at events. At our last event, we paid $550 per projector per day to lease less capable projectors for two days.  For $1100, I can buy projectors that can go to higher resolutions with way more brightness (lumens).  Unfortunately, I ran out of time to get them and we ended up leasing them instead. 

But then, I started thinking about the consumables again. In my research of projectors, I kept bumping into mentions of the bulbs that go into them. The bulbs need to be replaced after a certain amount of service. Essentially, bulbs are consumables. So, for kicks, I thought I'd check into the price of a new bulb for the TLP-XD200U. According to the recommended accessories page for the TLP-XD200U on ToshibaDirect.com, the replacement bulb (which is apparently the same replacement bulb for the TLP-XC2500U), is $438.99; a little more than half the cost of the projector.

It's not nearly as bad as the situation with the HP Laserjet 2600n and many bulbs, as long as you take proper care of them (give them a chance to cool down after usage, etc.) can last up to 2000 hours or more. But, nevertheless, knowing that this is a cost that you could encounter and that you're probably better off keeping these expensive spare bulbs on hand (than not) , it may cause you to rethink buying one if you're in the same situation that I was in. In my case, not. If I see any more proposals to charge me upwards of $550 per day for a medium-range projector, I'd rather by one than not.

Even so, as a little bonus, we tossed together a tiny photo gallery of Toshiba's new TLP-XD200U. As a side note, this is not to be confused with another projector: Mitsubishi's XD2000U which sells for more than $3500. Who names these things anyway?

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