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Epson’s new Stylus D120 business inkjet printer is competitive but not record-breaking

Issue #0732/1 – Epson’s new Stylus D120 just has the edge on raw draft-quality print speed, with a hardware purchase price (in-store) that is competitive without being low and long-term Cost of Printing that is beaten only by Hewlett-Packard.

Epson launched its Stylus D120 inkjet printer during August, with its new and faster black printhead, with the specific intention of addressing the small business printing market.

Where single function printers are concerned, especially at the very low end, there seem to be fewer and fewer products available as each year passes. There is, however, a steady market for business class single function inkjet printers and manufacturers seem to be putting more effort into specifically catering for this segment.

There is clear indication that colour laser is still not a feasible option for many micro businesses (and especially the self-employed). In this instance, inkjet has to fit the bill because of the lower out-of-pocket expenditure and the low page volumes that are involved.

Epson Stylus D120Epson Stylus D120

With the latest inkjet devices capable of producing correspondence-quality pages at up to 25ppm in mono (Stylus D120 – quoted by Epson), or even around the 12ppm (mono) and 10pmm (colour) mark that is quoted for best print quality on a number of printers, the speeds are not so far removed from the current print speed of most ultra low-end colour laser printers.

In the development of this latest print engine, Epson has put its focus into the black print speed. The faster speeds have been achieved through new manufacturing technology (see Issue #0726) but also by increasing the number of nozzles in the print head using the technique that has been employed by Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark for several years.

Dual-row print headDual-row print head increases
native resolution

This is achieved by creating two rows of nozzles on the print head that are offset against one another, thus doubling the native resolution of the print head. Hence, the D120 has a black print head with 180 nozzles, two rows of 90 nozzles, whereas the previous generation print head has just one row of 90 nozzles.

Closer nozzle spacing equals fewer required passes of the print head over the paper, therefore faster printing. Two passes can do the job previously requiring four passes.

Colour print speed is around 11ppm for correspondence quality – faster than the previous head could achieve due to the other technological advancements but not as fast as a dual-row head could achieve.

Hewlett-Packard Deskjet D6940Hewlett-Packard Deskjet D6940

With only the Hewlett-Packard Deskjet D6940 beating the D120 on both nominal mono CPP and long-term Cost of Printing, the D120 sits nicely as a machine targeted at business environments where mono printing is the norm but where users are attracted by the low out-of-pocket expenditure of an inkjet printer.

Colour is then available as a bonus when required – but at a price. The nominal colour CPP is the second highest in the group, exceeded only by the typically high costs of the Lexmark Z1420.

Business class
colour inkjet
Print Speed Nominal
Mixed mono/colour
CPP over 3 years
PIXMA iP-4500
€93.35 Mono
5.67 €cents
10.26 €cents
7.69 €cents
Stylus D120
€90.31 Mono
3.52 €cents
10.35 €cents
6.40 €cents
Deskjet D6940
€95.07 Mono
3.09 €cents
9.33 €cents
5.95 €cents
€80.75 Mono
4.53 €cents
10.38 €cents
7.20 €cents

Note that all prices used here are quoted in Euro and are average street price, inclucing tax.

For this level of machine, the mixed mono/colour CPP over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of printing 250 pages per month; 70% pages in mono and 30% pages in colour; is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase. All prices are average street price in Euro and include tax.

Total Cost of Printing – Business Class Inkjet Printers

250 pages per month by mono/colour page balance

Essentially, the higher the proportion of mono pages printed, the better the cost comparison works for Epson and the lower the proportion of mono pages printed, the more necessary it would be for the customer to look to another printer.

Conversely, high colour usage benefits the more expensive Canon machine, meaning that the differential between the four machines when printing 90% colour pages is narrower than when printing only 10% as colour pages.

For instance, for fast colour printing as well as fast mono printing at a price that cannot be beaten, users would be served better by buying a printer that would be considered to fall into a slightly different class – such as the Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro K5400 discussed in the article .

Apart from its mono print speed, the D120 is a fairly unremarkable printer. It does not ship with network interface, just USB, whereas the iP-4500 also ships with PictBridge interface; the Deskjet D6940 has both wired Ethernet and PictBridge; and Lexmark’s Z1420 ships with built-in wireless networking.

Paper capacity is 120 sheets compared to 150 sheets for the iP4500 and the Deskjet D6940. In addition the D6940 allows the purchase of an optional second paper tray for an additional 250-sheet unit (total capacity = 400 sheets) and the iP-4500 actually has two standard paper feeds giving a total capacity of 300 sheets. Only the Z1420 loses out to the D120 with a capacity of just 100 sheets.

Canon PIXMA iP4500Canon PIXMA iP4500

Furthermore, Canon’s iP-4500 offers automatic duplex printing as a standard feature. Even Hewlett-Packard limits this feature to an optional accessory.

On a less significant level for a business printer, Canon’s iP-4500 is the only machine to allow direct printing of CDs and DVDs.

So, the one area where the D120 does hold an advantage over two of the printers is that it uses individual ink tanks rather than tri-colour cartridges (as does the Canon iP-4500). This immediately gives users a benefit when it comes to printing real pages, as opposed to the perfectly balanced set of test images used for determining cartridge yield, because each tank can be changed separately.

In fact, it should be noted that the yields of the Epson and Canon colour cartridges are quoted with different yields to one another. To compensate for this uneven ink usage (and every manufacturer’s balance of ink usage is different), some manufacturers put a different amount of ink into each chamber of the tricolour cartridge in order to try and balance out the anticipated need and avoid too much ink being wasted.

Lexmark Z1420Lexmark Z1420

Regarding the value proposition, Lexmark’s Z1420 comes out as the least attractive, despite its built-in wireless interface and low purchase price, largely because of the high cost of its consumables, and tricolour cartridge configuration, but also the fact that it is slower, with a smaller paper capacity.

Lexmark does actually have a faster model, the Z1520, quoted at 30ppm draft mono and 27ppm draft colour but this model is not fully available across Europe yet.

Canon’s machine, although highly specified, is handicapped by its Total Cost of Printing that is 7% higher even than Lexmark’s and is 29% higher than the Deskjet D6940.

This really leaves us with the reality that the D6940 is probably the best value proposition due to its low Cost of Printing and the fact that it does have a high specification (Canon’s built-in auto-duplexing is the one feature missing from the D6940).

None of this detracts from the fact that the D120 has set a new record by coming in with the highest print speed in the inkjet market but, sadly, it is just not enough to give it the overall competitive edge.

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