The high price of printer memory

Printer vendors charge as much as 10 times more for memory than third-party vendors

Say you had your eye on a color printer with 128MB of memory standard and you wanted to upgrade it to 384MB. Would you prefer to spend $90 for that upgrade -- or $1,300? Some of the vendors whose printers we review here charge exorbitant prices for additional memory and make vague threats about the risks of buying it elsewhere.

The accompanying table compares the memory prices of the vendors in our roundup with those of major third-party vendors. Oki Printing Solutions and Lexmark generally charge the most -- $730 and $879, respectively, for 128MB -- with Kyocera Mita close behind at $640. Meanwhile, third-party memory vendors such as Crucial Technology and Kingston charge much less: as little as $22 and $29, respectively, for 128MB of memory.

Buying third-party seems like the obvious choice, and some vendors are quite permissive of it. Hewlett-Packard and Xerox, for instance, don't object to third-party suppliers; Konica Minolta even anoints Crucial Technology as its outside provider of choice.

Other vendors, however, impose discouraging restrictions, threatening that your warranty will be null and void should you use unauthorized memory.

Moreover, some printer vendors hint that you'll experience performance problems if you opt for third-party memory. Kyocera Mita, for example, says the memory it sells is "specifically tested to function with Kyocera products." Oki Printing Solutions, for its part, says it "does not endorse third-party memory, due to variations in components that may impact overall performance and reliability in our printers."

In our view, the performance threat really is just a smoke screen: Either the memory runs at the spec the printer expects, or it's not the right memory. Reliability may be an issue, although bear in mind that vendors also buy their memory from third-party sources.

Is complying with the vendor's warranty requirements worth a tenfold premium? Shop carefully and decide for yourself.

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