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New inkjet range from Epson is attractive, fast and functional

Issue 0929/2 – Epson has been very active over the last quarter, with a dozen new inkjet printer products launched to market creating a smooth and sensible progression up the market, ranging from 26/14ppm (black/colour) single function printer with pigment inks to 38ppm office multifunction device with pigment inks and 40ppm photo multifunction device with photo dye inks.

Epson’s range is simple to understand with Stylus ‘S’ denoting everyday devices and ‘X’ identifying multifunctionality throughout. Change ‘S’ to ‘B’ and we have devices designed for business use or to ‘P’ for devices with photo inks for the photo enthusiast instead of pigment inks. The numbering system then provides the user a clear and concise indication of the level at which any particular device sits in the range.

Epson Stylus Photo PX810FW/Artisan 810Epson Stylus
Photo PX810FW
Artisan 810

In the table below, we’ve arranged the models in order of single function (everyday followed by business); everyday multifunction; business multifunction and photo multifunction.

Epson S21Epson S21

At the lower end of the range, the models are simple, unfussy and practical. They do not include any advanced features and focus simply on doing the job they were built to do. The fact that all models (except the Stylus Photo models) have DuraBright pigment inks is an indication of the practicality that has been upheld at the forefront of the development process for general purpose printing – pigment inks do not soak into plain paper to the same extent that dye inks do, meaning that images are brighter, more vivid, less susceptible to smudging and show-through (better for duplex printing).

All models have characteristic Epson individual ink cartridges with a permanent print head and are equipped as standard with USB 2.0 interface. As the range progresses, additional print speed is available, together with additional features for the more demanding user, whether personal or business.

Model Epson Price Characteristics
Stylus S21
Stylus S21
£40 {O}
€50 {O}
$n/a
26/14ppm
4-ink pigment inks
Single function
Stylus Office B1100
Stylus Office B1100
Workforce 1100
£200
€240
$200
30/17ppm
4-ink pigment inks
Single function
A3
Stylus SX115
Stylus SX110
Stylus NX115
£70 {O}
€70 {O}
$70
30/15ppm
4-ink pigment
3-function AiO
Stylus SX215
Stylus SX210
Stylus NX215
£60 {O}
€90 {O}
$80 {R}
32/15ppm
As above with:
3.8cm LCD display
Memory card slots
Stylus SX415
Stylus SX410
Stylus NX415
£80 {O}
€100 {O}
$100
34/34ppm
As above with:
6.3cm LCD display
PictBridge
Stylus SX515W
Stylus SX510W
Stylus NX515
£80 {O}
€130 {O}
$100 {R}
36/36ppm
As above with:
Wired and wireless network interface
Stylus SX610FW
Stylus SX610FW
£160
€200
$n/a
38/38ppm
As above with:
4-function
ADF
Auto scan to email and PDF
Stylus Office BX310FN
Stylus Office BX310FN
Workforce 310
£100
€150 {O}
$100 {R}
38/20ppm
4-ink pigment inks
4-function AiO
30-sheet ADF
Auto scan to email and PDF
Wired network interface
Stylus Office BX610FW
Stylus Office BX610FW
Workforce 610
£130
€220
$200
38/38ppm
As above with:
6.3cm LCD display
Memory card slots
PictBridge
Stylus Photo PX650
Stylus Photo PX650
£130
€160
$n/a
37/38ppm
6-ink dye photo inks
3-function AiO
6.3cm LCD display
Memory card slots
PictBridge
Stylus Photo PX710W
Stylus Photo PX710W
Artisan 710
£150 {O}
€220
$150 {R}
40/40ppm
As above with:
Wired and wireless network interface
CD/DVD direct printing
Dedicated photo paper tray
Stylus Photo PX810FW
Stylus Photo PX810FW
Artisan 810
£300
€330
$250 {R}
40/40ppm
As above with:
4-function AiO
ADF
19.8cm touch panel
Auto-duplex

Note that a number of these devices are currently the subject of special offers (indicated by {O}) or rebates (as indicated by {R}). Prices may revert back to original, higher, levels.

Epson Stylus B1100Epson Stylus B1100

Beginning with the single function devices, Epson has included an A3 device that will suit a wide range of business applications except for those requiring A3 multifunctionality – Brother is still the only manufacturer offering the A3 format in a multifunction inkjet device.

Perhaps Epson does not offer some of the flashy AiO features presented by Hewlett-Packard – it is only the upper-end models that include some interesting or novel features – but there is a device for every occasion. However, there do seem to be a couple of anomalies within the range.

Firstly, only the top-end photo AiO (Stylus Photo PX810FW) has auto-duplex capability. It is very surprising that this feature is not offered on the business models where, combined with the use of pigment inks, it would have the potential to offer fast duplex business printing. If Epson is capable of building a duplex model – and the Stylus Photo PX810FW is the only duplex inkjet machine from Epson – then the business range is the place to start, not a photo enthusiasts machine!

Secondly, Epson announces that models using “high capacity” black ink cartridges feature “Low cost per page comparable to a laser printer”! On the face of it, the reaction to this would have to be, “You cannot serious??” No inkjet device of this nature should ever cost as much to run as a typical laser device (see ).

In fact, the statement from Epson is being kind to laser technology and plays directly into the hands of those who still think that inkjet is more expensive than laser. Their reaction is likely to be, “if Epson’s business ink costs are comparable to a laser, why would I buy Epson business ink instead of laser?”

Epson Stylus Office BX310FNEpson Stylus
Office BX310FN
Workforce 310

So, where does reality lie here? Printing 500 black pages per month (and no colour pages) over three years on the Epson BX310FN would cost a user approximately €550 including the purchase of the device in the first instance. Printing 500 pages on an ‘average typical’ laser AiO (with network and duplex printing capability) would cost approximately €1,080 – almost double!

Now, this is not quite an accurate comparison. An Epson inkjet AiO would use some ink in maintenance operations during the life of the machine, so we should add in approximately €75 for [say] two sets of colour inks over the three-year period. Also, the most readily available colour laser comparison is based on devices with duplex capability, whereas the BX310FN is not a duplex machine. This would take something in the order of €75 off the cost of the laser device.

Therefore, the difference in expenditure is actually closer to €625 on the BX310FN against €1,005 on a laser device – making the Epson dual-tank inkjet device 38% less expensive to run than the laser device. Even comparing the BX310FN with the small business laser device that would cost least for black-only printing, the Epson would still cost 31% less.

So, Epson is incorrect when it says, “Low cost per page comparable to a laser printer” but to its own detriment. Epson could say, “Low cost per page up to 30% less than a laser printer”. This would begin to attract new customers.

This low cost of printing is at least partly down to a novel configuration from Epson that is used on two of the new models involving twin black ink cartridges. So, we should take a closer look at the print heads used within this range.

Two years ago, Epson increased black print speed in the business-oriented D120 printer in August 2007 by doubling nozzle density with the introduction of a second row of nozzles, increasing the nozzle count from 90 to 180 (see and ).

Epson Stylus Office BX610FWEpson Stylus
Office BX610FW
Workforce 610

Print heads used in the latest products now have a much higher nozzle count even than two years ago – 360 and 384 black nozzles. However, in one of these heads, Epson has continued its novel approach to high black ink capacity, introduced in the D120, with two black cartridges installed at one time – total cartridges on the carriage is five (2 x K plus one each of C, M, Y).

Perhaps the sad thing is that it is the head with 360 black nozzles that uses this technology and is combined with a low density colour nozzle count of 59 nozzles per colour, rather than being used in the head with 384 black nozzles, which has a colour nozzle count of 128 nozzles per colour.

In the BX310FN, the dual cartridge system pushes quoted black print speed up to a very rapid 38ppm but colour speed is still limited to 20ppm because the head just doesn’t have enough colour nozzles.

By contrast, the BX610FW uses the head with 384 black nozzles and 128 nozzles per colour, pushing print speed to the same 38ppm but in colour as well as black! Well worth having!

Indeed, this printer uses the T1001 black cartridge, which has a massive yield quoted at 1035 pages (not the highest in the industry but far better than most!), whereas the BX310FN yields 830 pages from both high capacity black cartridges together. Imagine the benefit of adding a second T1001 cartridge to this print head – 768 nozzles, nearly 2,100 pages between black cartridge interventions and the ability to push black print speeds up even further!

This dual cartridge configuration is a novel approach to achieving high print speed and increased page yield and is worth pursuing for business printing where black print speed is important and where minimum interventions are appreciated.

Five variants of Epson print head are in use in this new range of printers, as follows:

384 black nozzles, 128 nozzles each for CMY

  • Stylus SX515W / Stylus SX510W / Stylus NX515
  • Stylus SX610FW
  • Stylus BX610FW / Workforce 610

360 black nozzles with dual black cartridges, 59 nozzles each for CMY

  • Stylus B1100 / Workforce 1100
  • Stylus BX310FN / Workforce 310

High performance photo print heads – 180 nozzles each ink

  • Stylus Photo PX710FW / Artisan 710
  • Stylus Photo PX810FW / Artisan 810

Standard Epson print heads – 90 nozzles each ink

  • Stylus SX415 / Stylus SX410 / Stylus NX415
  • Stylus Photo PX650

Low density Epson head has 90 black nozzles and only 29 nozzles for each colour

  • Stylus S21
  • Stylus SX115 / Stylus SX110 / Stylus NX115
  • Stylus SX215 / Stylus SX210 / Stylus NX215

Another feature that Epson is making nothing of in its literature, introduced on the Stylus Photo PX800FW and now carried forward to the new Stylus Photo PX810FW, is the 19.8cm touch panel, incorporating an 8.9cm LCD display. This is a larger, but functionally comparable, or even inferior, equivalent to Hewlett-Packard’s touch frame used on its new low-end Photosmart models. Touch sensitive buttons are predefined and therefore not as flexible as the touch frame used by Hewlett-Packard.

Epson Stylus Photo PX710WEpson Stylus
Photo PX710W
Artisan 710

Direct CD/DVD printing is not new to inkjet printers but surprisingly few devices have the facility. Epson’s Stylus Photo PX710W and PX810FW are amongst those benefiting. Again, one might have thought that this would be a feature that some businesses would also find attractive, yet it does not appear on the business-specific models.

Finally, more suited to business users, is the auto scan to email and PDF feature found on the top-end general purpose Stylus SX610FW and both business BX AiOs.

Epson Stylus<br />SX515W / NX515′ />Epson Stylus SX515W</div>
<p>Success with regard to this feature really depends on the efficiency of the setup and installation procedure.  Attempting to install scan to network and scan to PDF on a number of printers over the past couple of years, there have been precious few that will install easily through a standard PC setup (i.e. including firewall) without specific and considerable input from the user to create the necessary port access.  Several tests have been abandoned completely on the basis that the process is so complicated that it would take an IT specialist to undertake the installation successfully – not a good recommendation.  It is Samsung’s installation (particularly as used in the Samsung CLX-3160 and Xerox Phaser 6110MFP) that has impressed most so far, proving to be most user-friendly, very fast and demanding the least technical knowledge from the user.</p>
<p>One hopes that Epson has created an effective installation procedure and, bearing in mind how simple it is to install a network-ready Epson laser AiO onto a network, the scan to email and PDF feature should prove useful.</p>
<div class="imgfloatright"><img src=Epson Stylus
SX215 / SX210 / NX215

To conclude, Epson has produced a very clear and well-defined range of inkjet devices with attractive designs; fast print speeds where it matters; models with a low hardware purchase price to fulfil the needs of the undemanding home user; and pigment inks throughout the general purpose and business segments.

Where the range does perhaps fall short is that it is relatively unexciting in terms of specification. Duplex printing is missing from the business machines and advanced features are few, far between and barely innovative.

Ending on a positive note though, a further article will compare Total Cost of Printing of some of these devices with recently launched devices from Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark. On the basis that Epson’s BX310FN should be capable of saving a user around 30% of the cost of running a laser device, we anticipate that there will be good news for Epson in that comparison.

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