Pros: low cost, easy to use, separate ink cartridges
Cons: a bit slow, cannot print B/W if one of color cartridges is out
I bought this printer for $69 at Best Buy. At this price there is no question that it is a very reasonable cost for an all-in-one printer. The remianing question is whether the features quality and performance are up to par:
The installation program seems to be designed for laymen in software installation. It's so easy and friendly: you just insert the CD and the program shows all the steps in animations. For example when you need to connect the USB cord there is an animation that shows you where to connect on both ends. My Vista installation was a breeze, I just strictly followed the instructions and within 15 minutes it's done.
- Printer operation: overall, very easy. This printer can perform printing, scanning and copying but not faxing. The printer makes some noise but I don't think it's loud enough to be complained. The body looks solid, stylish but not as compact I want.
- Paper Printing: printing is quite slow but to me it's still acceptable. I measured the time to print 2 full B/W pages in high quality, it took about 1 minute. The B/W printing quality is good, the letters are not smeared.
- Photo printing: I think the software provided by Epson(Epson Easy Photo Print) is, while basic, very easy to use. If you insert a picture with a square shape and you wan to print 4x6, the software automatically cuts the picture to 4x6, shows it to you on the monitor. After pressing the Print button it print to a 4x6 photo paper. You don't need to know how to crop the picture to fit you paper size. This printer cannot print panoramic photos. The sizes it can print are: 3.5 x 5, 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10 and 8.5 x 11. You can print borderless photos. I printed a couple of pictures using no enhancement (the software does not have many enhancement options anyway). The qualities are pretty good, my wife couldn't tell the difference with the ones printed from CVS store. The printing speed is, again, to me slow but still acceptable.
- Scanning: easy. You place your photo and press the scan button. The software will be automatically activated and shows the scanned image on the monitor. You then rename and save this image. The scanning process takes quite long, about 4 minutes for a 4x6 photo. The result, while not excellent, is better than I expected for a basic printer.
- Copying: nothing is easier than copying a sheet of document. You just place your document and press the Copy button. You can choose B/W or color printing. The B/W copy speed is just average. Note that you can copy only one page at a time.
- Trays: the tray capacity is 80 sheets, good for general use. The tray is sizable. You need to adjust only 1 slider to accomdate the paper size. For example, if you wan to print a 4x6 photo you just place the paper to the right edge of the tray and move the slider (from left to right) to the left edge of the paper. Some other printers require adjusting 2 sliders and this is quite bothersome.
By now you probably already know that the printer manufacturers lure the customers by offering very low printer prices and then recoup the money later from the ink. That's why this all-in-one printer (come with 4 ink cartridges inside) costs only $70 whereas the ink cartridges themselves cost $55 (each ink cartridge sold separately sells for about $13 each, black ink $16).
- Ink printing design: The printer uses 4 separate cartridges, one B/W and the rest is for colors. This configuration is good since you only buy the ink that is out (in some other machines all 3 colors come in one package, if you're out of one color you're forced to buy the whole set and thus waste the other colors). This printer uses a 3-color system for color printing, so it doesn't produce top-notch photos. If you need a high quality photos, you'd better buy a printer with 6-color system.
My big complaint about the print cartridges: the printer does not allow printing of B/W if one of the colors is out. I think the manufacturer purposely designs the machine this way to force you to buy ink(printing in B/W does not need color, why doesn't the printer allows the poor college student to print B/W sheets?)
This printer also uses Smart Chip. See the Ink Cost discussion below for explanation to why this is a big deal.
- Ink consumption:
I don't think there is a way to measure precisely how many pages 4 ink cartridges can print, but in general I can say the ink consumption of this printer is average, at least it's true for the black ink. I printed about 60 B/W pages and the ink indicator is just past the 1/4 mark (I have to assume the ink indicator is honest).
- Ink cost: the ink consumption is actually not as important as the ink cost. As I said above, each ink cartridge costs $13, so it will break your bank if you buy them from stores such as Best Buy, Target. Fortunately, you can buy from ebay, and the cost, according to my research, is about $14-20 for all 4 cartridges, shipping included. These ink cartridges are not from original manufacturer but to my experience they're OK(I have pictures printed with my old Epson Stylus 640 eight years ago and now still look good).
However, you have to be very careful, you need to buy "compatible" ink. Lately the manufacturer has a new scheme by installing "Smart Chip" in the printer. In a nutshell this chip makes difficult to refill ink or to use non-origin ink cartridges. Some Smart Chip also disables ink cartridge based on expiration date even, so you cannot use it even if the cartridge is still full.
Note that if you buy refillable cartridge make sure to buy one with "Automatic Reset Chip" (one that will neutralize the effect of "Smart Chip").
I talked a lot about ink because it WILL become a nightmare for you after you finish the original cartridges that come with the pritner.
- Other remarks: the printer doesn't come with a cord. If you buy from a regular stores a 6-ft printer cord may cost you anywhere from $17 to $30 (or more). If you buy online it costs only $5 - $10 including shipping (for example from Amazon $4.88).
In summary, this printer is a very good basic printer. However, like any machine it's not for everyone. For those who just want a low-cost printer to perform basic functions printing/copying/scanning with one or two touches of buttons, this is the one. For those who want better features such as better picture quality, faster printing, multipe-page copying, faxing capability etc. they should look elsewhere.