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Epson leads the way with low Total Cost of Printing for the home

Issue #0933/1 – We’re not used to seeing Epson as a cost-leader in the home inkjet market but its new Stylus SX510W fills just that position, displacing Canon and Hewlett-Packard from a more typically lower cost position. This is the second article in which we compare Total Cost of Printing between the new inkjet All-in-Ones from Epson, Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark with others on the market – this time taking a slice of the home-oriented portion of the market. We consider the Brother DCP-375CW, Canon PIXMA MP620, Epson Stylus SX510W (we’ll use the European name as pricing is sourced in Europe), Hewlett-Packard Photosmart B109n and Lexmark Interpret S405.

Here we have a group of AiOs that are priced within €10 of one another. They offer very much the same level of functionality as one another but with a few notable exceptions.

All are Print/Copy/Scan devices; all have wireless connectivity for use around the home; all have memory card slots and PictBridge for easy photo printing; and all are equipped with USB 2.0 interfaces as standard.

In fact, each of the five has at least one feature that makes it stand out from the others so, lets just work through them to identify these features.

Brother DCP-375CWBrother DCP-375CW

Firstly, three of the devices – Brother’s DCP-375CW, Canon’s PIXMA MP620 and Epson’s Stylus SX510W – take connectivity to the ultimate by offering both wired and wireless network interfaces. The Canon PIXMA MP620 even adds Bluetooth to this advanced connectivity.

Although more and more users are moving towards wireless connectivity in the home, wired network connectivity is actually still very helpful because it allows the device to be connected directly to the internet router in a central location. Why is this helpful, you ask? Simply because the downside of a wireless printer is that, if it needs to be moved, it has to be disconnected from the power supply, thus initiating start-up cleaning cycles (which are wasteful of ink). To have it hard-wired to the network helps to ensure stability and dependability – a small point maybe but worthy of consideration.

Lexmark Interpret S405Lexmark Interpret S405

One device, Lexmark’s Interpret S405 is a 4-function machine, with fax capability (and accompanying 35-sheet Automatic Document Feeder). With the necessity to tag the device to the phone line for fax usage, it strikes me that there is even less point in this device being purely wireless because most of its life it will, by definition, remain static.

For those occasions when mobility is helpful, of course wireless connectivity is useful to have – but by no means vital.

Canon PIXMA MP620Canon PIXMA MP620

From the flexibility point of view, Canon’s MP620 is capable of accepting paper from both the front and rear. It is the only device at this level that has two sources for paper, either doubling paper capacity to 300 sheets from an already high level of 150 sheets or meaning that both plain paper and photo paper (for instance) can be loaded at the same time. Most of these devices have a very low paper capacity of around 100 sheets but Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart B109n has a pitiful capacity of only 80 sheets.

Where Hewlett-Packard does redeem itself though, is that manual duplex printing is enabled through the printer driver. This is a manual process (the paper has to be fed into the printer a second time) but the benefit is that the device driver works out which order to print the pages in so that they are correctly duplexed. Trying to accomplish this without a driver facility is a nightmare for even few pages and not to be recommended – trust me!

Also offering manual duplex is Brother and Canon, while Epson and Lexmark offer no duplex printing facility at all.

Hewlett-Packard PhotosmartHewlett-Packard
Photosmart

Three devices incorporate a colour LCD display for ease of operation and to enhance direct photo printing. These are the Canon MP620, Epson SX510W and Hewlett-Packard Photosmart. Hewlett-Packard’s implementation of the LCD display includes its touchframe concept to increase operational flexibility.

Unfortunately, only two of the manufacturers quote a duty cycle for their inkjet AiOs. These are Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark. These models are rated at 2,500 and 5,000 pages per month respectively. While it is not possible to make even an indirect comparison with the other three models, Lexmark’s 5,000-page S405 is high for a home inkjet and is certain to stand above the average rating of the group.

Brother
DCP-375CW
Functions
Print speed
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
Print / Copy / Scan
33/27ppm
4-ink,
100 sheets
No
Manual
Not quoted
Wired and Wireless network
Canon
PIXMA MP620
Functions
Print speed
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
 
Print / Copy / Scan
26/17ppm
5-ink (high standard yield), pigment black
150 sheets front, 150 sheets rear
No
Manual
Not quoted
6.2cm colour LCD display
Wired and Wireless network, Bluetooth
Epson
Stylus SX510W
Functions
Print speed
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
 
Print / Copy / Scan
36/36ppm
4-ink XL cartridges, pigment
120 sheets
No
No
Not quoted
6.3cm LCD display
Wired and Wireless network
Hewlett-Packard
Photosmart B109n
Functions
Print speed
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
Print / Copy / Scan
30/28ppm
4-ink XL cartridges, pigment black
80 sheets
No
Manual
2,500 pages per month
3.68 cm LCD display with TouchSmart frame
Lexmark
Interpret S405
Functions
Print speed
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
Print / Copy / Scan / Fax
33/30ppm
4-ink, XL cartridges
100 sheets
35 sheets
No
5,000 pages per month
 

Finally, we come to the ink cartridges used or available.

In the inkjet printer industry, the move towards individual ink tanks has been gathering pace over the past year, even for devices targeted at the home environment. Every one of these devices is based on individual inks with either permanent or semi-permanent print head. Canon’s MP620 features a 5-ink configuration whereas all of the others are 4-ink.

For users, clearly the main benefit is that only the ink that is exhausted needs to be replaced, meaning that unbalanced colour usage does not result in quantities of ink being inaccessible within a tricolour cartridge just because one colour has run out.

However, as these individual cartridges increasingly move ‘off-axis’ (off the print head) it also opens up the opportunity for higher ink capacities – meaning higher ink yields per cartridge and greater potential for reduced Total Cost of Printing (not really in the manufacturer’s interests for low-volume home use though!).

Not all yields in this group are particularly high, though. While three of the machines have two sets of cartridges to choose from, the Brother DCP-375CW and Canon MP620 will only accept standard yield cartridges. The difference between these two machines is that the colour cartridge yields from Canon are double that of Brother’s. It is only the Canon black cartridge that has a low yield similar to that of the Brother black.

Ink Standard
(ISO Pages)
High yield – XL
(ISO Pages)
Brother
DCP-375CW
Black
Cyan
Magenta
Yellow
300
260
260
260
n/a
Canon
PIXMA MP620
Black
Cyan
Magenta
Yellow
Photo Black
324
535
510
530
4,520
n/a
Epson
Stylus SX510W
Black
Cyan
Magenta
Yellow
245
385
270
405
1,035
980
675
1,045
Hewlett-Packard
Photosmart B109n
Black
Cyan
Magenta
Yellow
250
300
300
300
800
750
750
750
Lexmark
Interpret S405
Black
Cyan
Magenta
Yellow
170
200
200
200
510
600
600
600

Apart from Canon’s MP620, there is only one other printer where we see standard cartridge yields above the 300-page level. These are the Cyan and Yellow cartridges for Epson’s SX510W, with yields of 385 and 405 pages respectively.

By the time we take high capacity cartridges into consideration for relevant machines, we find cartridge yields up to1,045 pages! This again is Epson, where Yellow and Black are both over 1,000 pages and even the Magenta yields 675 pages. Interestingly, Lexmark’s XL yields (except black) are only a little higher than Canon’s standard yields!

While manufacturers pitch cartridge pricing according to marketing decisions and financial demands, meaning CPP tends to be pegged to a certain ‘level’, there is greater potential for a lower CPP from higher capacity cartridges.

Epson Stylus SX515WEpson Stylus SX515W

In practice, we see this played out dramatically in this group. Epson’s very high yields provide users with much lower printing costs. Nominal CPPs in mono and colour are about 35% and 29% lower respectively than Canon’s and Hewlett-Packard’s. At the other extreme, Brother’s low yields push its nominal CPPs way up above all others – around 125% above Epson’s!

Although Lexmark’s ink costs are at a typically high level, they are not the highest in the group, making this device, Interpret S405, that little bit more attractive than Lexmark’s inkjet products used to be.

Put this into the Total Cost of Printing model for long-term CPP, over three years and including hardware purchase, and we see that a user can expect to pay significantly less for an Epson Stylus SX510W over its life than for any of the competitors. At 150 pages per month over three years, there is a 22% differential between this model and the nearest competitor, Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart.

Total Cost of Printing

Home Wireless Inkjet AiO


Note that for this level of machine, the mixed mono/colour CPP over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of 150 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 Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

Run the model across a range of page volumes per month and we see more stability across this group than we see in most groups of printers.

This is partly because the hardware purchase prices are so similar, with such a narrow range – from €122 to €132. If we were to disregard the Canon MP620, the range of prices would be only €4.

Hardware Purchase

Home Wireless Inkjet AiO


What we see at very low page counts is that there are three devices that fall almost on top of one another where long-term CPP is concerned. This spreads out as usage increases but, although the Canon and Hewlett-Packard models remain in close contention, Epson’s SX510W quickly drops away to present itself as the most cost-effective device for this level of user – a position it retains consistently at higher print volumes.

Total Cost of Printing

Home Wireless Inkjet AiO


It is surprising to see the Lexmark not at the top end of the Total Cost of Printing chart but this is down to a shifting strategy at Lexmark to target high-volume users and give them the tools they need to reduce costs. At this level of device, the effect is not as dramatic as we saw last week with high-end business AiOs () but, nonetheless, it puts Lexmark more in contention than it has been for years.

Clearly, users would benefit significantly from Brother making the higher yield LC1100, or even the LC1100HY, cartridges available for the DCP-375CW but, as a home-targeted device, the restriction to LC980 cartridges is all part of the product differentiation. As for business users, print intensive home users would be well advised to choose a different Brother model, enabling them to benefit not only from a higher specification but also a much-reduced overall Total Cost of Printing.

So, there are two major surprises here. Firstly, that Epson beats its competition quite so conclusively and, secondly, that Lexmark’s new range and business strategy places its model much closer to a competitive position than ever before. What is disappointing is that, even using XL cartridges belonging to the Return Program, Lexmark still cannot bring its Total Cost of Printing down into the regions occupied by even the pack, let alone the cost leader!

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