Do printer manufacturers do any scenario testing?

We do a thing called "Scenario Testing" where we run through common end-user scenarios to make sure they work from end to end. This is like the antithesis of unit testing. The reason is that often each single component does the right thing, but when you put them all together, you realize the results weren't quite what you expected.

That leads to my question: Do printer manufacturers do any scenario testing?

Here's why I ask: My wife + I recently bought a color printer (Epson Stylus Photo R300). It prints great color photos.  However, it ran out of color ink and now can't print just black + white documents. The irony is that it even explicitly has a configurations page that lets us request "Black+White" documents (as opposed to "Photo quality", "Color", etc).

As an end-user, I'd expect a printer to be able to print black and white documents without requiring red ink.  This is especially useful since ink costs more than the printer. Thus it would be cheaper for us to just get a simple black and white printer.

So this leaves me with the following question: Do they just not do scenario testing on printers? Or is it just a marketing ploy to force you to buy more ink?


Comments (13)

  1. Gabe says:

    Is it a marketing ploy? I doubt it has much to do with marketing. But think about it this way: what incentive does Epson have to add this feature? I don’t think that their major competitors have printers that will work with an empty cartridge either.

    BTW, it is possible that the printer uses colors to simulate greyscales (much like ClearType does), so it may use colored ink to print B&W. Also, red isn’t one of the ink colors.

  2. Chris Nahr says:

    Of course it’s a marketing ploy. Inkjets are sold using the razor/blade model — the printer is dirt-cheap, all the profit is in the ink cartridge. (I read somewhere that ink for a printer is more expensive than than the best champagne, given the same volume of liquid…)

    That’s why you should do VERY careful market research before buying an inkjet. Shenanigans like the ones you describe are covered in good reviews that examine the long-term cost of ownership.

  3. Fredrik Elmqvist says:

    I’m using my old trustu HP LJ 4m+ (B&W LAserprinter) for the normal printouts. When I want enlargements of my digitalphotos I use the on-line photos services, with which it’s impossible to compete in price and QUALITY compared to normal Ink-jet home printers.

    If you still want color printouts for day-to-day use, i’d rather recommend you to buy a Color Laser, which in the long run is cheaper.

  4. Mike G says:

    Dubious business practices…which company does that remind me of?!


  5. Brian Hoyt says:

    Yes and Yes. They do testing to figure out how to sell more ink. I know it is cynical to say so, but I really believe it. This is the old fear of car makers selling the gas too.

  6. Ron says:

    Not only is it a ploy to make you buy more ink (I assume you are dealing with an inkjet), but they can require you to buy their ink.

    For example, my Dell inkjet is a rebranded Lexmark. Unfortunately when I buy a Lexmark cartridge, my Dell printer rejects it and tells me I have to buy a cartridge from Dell.


  7. Gabe:

    " don’t think that their major competitors have printers that will work with an empty cartridge either. " I assume you mean an "empty [color] cartridge"

    A black and white printer can print black and white text documents without needing color ink.

    And since most of my printing is black +white documents (no gray scale needed), I’m left thinking I should have just bought a black+white printer.

  8. mirobin says:

    I have a deskjet that has the exact same problem. I was livid when I encountered it, especially given that the ink cartridge has black ink in it!

  9. Themes says:

    Try to set Fast/Draft mode. It seems normal and high-quality mode always use RGB cartrige even for BW printing.

  10. Alex Shneyderman says:

    They might have just missed it. Call them up and request a fix.

    Why all this synicism, bugs happen … which reminds me of some well known company … hmm what company might that be???

  11. Matthew says:

    >> And since most of my printing is black +white documents (no gray scale needed), I’m left thinking I should have just bought a black+white printer.

    Lasers are so cheap nowadays that you are crazy not to buy one.

  12. pkothe says:

    dfinetly it is a marketing concept as this is never mentioned by any manufacturer. I had rtied this on HP,Canon & Lexmark(not all models though). Anycase the solution for ur issues is "just remove the color cartridge and leve the B/W cartridge in the printer and there you go, u will get a B/W print" For most of the printers leaving the colour in the printer is not a good idea( not using the cartride will make the ink dry and u cannot use it anyways). so keep the color cartridge safey sealed when not in use.

  13. Schneider says:


    I call them disposables.

    Just like video driver NVidia, always seems to screw-up your settings when you update. I even emailed them, clue less.


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