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Wow! Epson undercuts Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro for Total Cost of Printing!

#1201 – There is nothing like a good challenge to exercise the mind and it seems that Epson has delivered a mighty challenge to Hewlett-Packard in the office inkjet arena. The big questions, though, are, ‘what is the nature of the challenge’?; ‘how big is the challenge’?; and ‘what does the challenge mean for users and for Hewlett-Packard’?

Hewlett-Packard has held the office inkjet ground from a very strong vantage point for many years now but Brother began a concerted challenge this time last year and now it is Epson’s turn. It is the launch in September of the Epson WorkForce Pro range, combined with the more recent launch of Hewlett-Packard’s newest generation of Officejet Pro, the 8600 Plus, that we are referring to.

Each of these companies bring to market a distinct perspective on the theme.

As a generalisation:

  • In its Officejet Pro range, Hewlett-Packard always brought:
    • Low Total Cost of Printing
    • Generally high specification
    • Higher print speed than any other inkjet model
  • In the past three years, Brother has brought:
    • Efficient and attractive A3 multifunction in a desktop device, with …
    • Versatile business features (twin paper trays, duplex ADF)
    • Low Total Cost of Printing as of one year ago (not quite matching Hewlett-Packard levels though)
  • And now Epson brings:
    • Even lower Total Cost of Printing than Hewlett-Packard
    • High print speeds, potentially matching Officejet Pro speeds
    • Well thought-out, high specification for business

This is where we have to split this article, however. In this argument we’ve introduced the A3 format, which gives us a problem – they are not ideally compared with A4 now that there is a three-way choice of A3 inkjet multifunction device.

To add to Brother’s A3 family, Hewlett-Packard introduced the Officejet 7500 18 months ago and late in 2011 Epson introduced the WorkForce Pro WP-7525.

So, what we’re going to do is to treat A4 and A3 separately – considering the A4 devices in this article and the A3 in the next. A further article will make comparisons between these A4 devices and the competing low end of the laser AiO market.

In creating a selection of A4 inkjet AiO devices to compare, it has been considered that all machines should be 4-function with Automatic Document Feed (ADF), automatic duplex printing and WiFi connectivity – but we’ll come to detailed specification benefits or disadvantages later.

Firstly, it is much more interesting to see the cost comparison. There are massive differences in cost of supplies between the machines in this category and it is this that provides the basis for a nominal Cost Per Page calculation for mono printing and for colour printing separately.

These differences provide a very valuable insight into the market approach from each manufacturer. What we see in general is that there is an accelerating emphasis on low cost business inkjet devices for the general office based on immensely high ink yields from the latest cartridge sets.

It is my personal opinion, often written and spoken over the past couple of years, that inkjet will prove to be the office printing technology of the future. This does not in any way mean that laser will cease to exist, in just the same way that the advance of colour printing has not meant an end to mono printing and printers. But, while more and more printer sales are colour devices, I believe that more and more office printer sales will be inkjet. This is partly due to the fact that these inkjet devices work out to be around, or at least, 50% less costly to run than equivalent laser devices – but that is the focus of the coming article.

Essentially, what we are seeing in the office inkjet arena is that more printer manufacturers are getting the vision for a breed of low Total Cost of Printing inkjet All-in-One devices for the office environment.

For years Hewlett-Packard has stood alone with its Officejet Pro range, blazing the trail and encouraging businesses to throw off the old prejudice against inkjet and consider a different approach to office printing. Ink yields for the Officejet Pro 8500 series (HP940) was 2,200 pages for black cartridges and 1,400 pages for colour cartridges. Yields on the Officejet Pro 8600 Plus (HP950/951) are increased a little to 2,300 pages for black and 1,500 pages for colour.

One year ago, Brother jumped on board with a new family of A3 office inkjet AiOs that offer a much lower Total Cost of Printing than previously available to Brother customers. Unfortunately, use of the LC-1280XL cartridge set (with 2,400-page black and 1,200-page colour cartridges) is restricted to the A3 range and does not translate to its A4 devices.

Brother MFC-J625DWBrother MFC-J625DW

What Brother desperately needs in its A4 range is a family that not only offers duplex printing and wireless connectivity on a 4-function device – as does the MFC-J625DW used in this comparison – but also allows for a healthy paper capacity and a model with twin paper feeds (as seen on several A3 models), an auto-duplexing DADF (as seen on the A3 MFC-J6910DW) and the ability to accept the LC-1280XL cartridge set. This would create a really solid office multifunction device that would seriously compete hard against these Hewlett-Packard and Epson devices on Total Cost of Printing as well as specification.

Epson WP-4535WDF inksEpson WP-4535WDF inks

In addition, we now see Epson on board with dramatically slashed ink costs for A4 office AiO printing, even undercutting the newly launched Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8600 Plus on both black and colour ink costs – by 7% and 6% respectively. This is achieved through the use of massive 2,400-page black and 2,000-page colour cartridges.

As a slight aside at this point, it is worth noting that Epson has transferred the principle of user-replaceable ink absorption pads from the B-510DN and B-310N single-function inkjet printers. What this means is that there is no danger of the machine being ‘killed off’ by excessive cleaning and maintenance cycles – as may be the case with other Epson models and many models from other manufacturers (see for background).

Although, at 50,000 pages life expectancy, it is unlikely that many users will need to change the pads, it is a valuable safeguard and represents a responsible approach on the part of the manufacturer. Epson is the only manufacturer to take this approach.

Supplies Cost – Nominal Cost Per Page

Based on Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

At the other end of the scale, we notably see Canon with a model that demonstrates very commendable specification characteristics that compete well with the Epson and Hewlett-Packard models. But, Canon has completely failed to appreciate the need for low cost of supplies to accompany a serious office inkjet contender.

Neither Canon nor Lexmark have got the vision for low-cost business inkjet printing yet. They are still too fixed on their traditional consumer inkjet business model and failing to recognise the advances and changes occurring in the business inkjet arena.

This leads to the complete anomaly in the group being the Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901. Having made several miserable attempts to push into the office inkjet market (dating as far back as the mid-90’s! – Lexmark J110), Lexmark introduced its Pro range a little over two years ago with the option to use the #105XL black ink cartridge.

This cartridge is no larger than the #100XL black cartridge – it’s just that it is much, much cheaper to buy. A quad-pack of #105XL (Return Program) cartridges can be bought for 35% less than a single #100XL (Return Program) cartridge!! Four times the ink at a 35% lower cost. This means that the nominal Cost Per Page of black ink falls from 4.57 Euro cents to just 0.75 cents. Incredible! And, it is 28% lower even than the nominal black CPP from Epson’s new cartridge set.

Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901

Unfortunately, that is where Lexmark’s commitment to low-cost office printing ends. Despite the fact that it was Lexmark that made the prediction in 1996 that all printers would be colour within 10 years, clearly the company recognises the importance of black printing as a sales driver. As a result, the nominal CPP on colour printing is extraordinarily high – not quite reaching the height of the Brother LC-1240 colour printing or the Canon level but still double that of Epson and Hewlett-Packard.

Also interesting are the hardware purchase prices. As almost universally observed, the most expensive models to run are the cheapest to buy. Note the significant inverse trend in the two charts below showing hardware purchase price and long term Total Cost of Printing over three years (calculated for printing 800 pages per month; with 70% pages printed in mono and 30% pages printed in colour). Again, the Lexmark is noted to be a slight anomaly due to the exceptionally low cost of black ink – just resulting in it having a Total Cost of Printing that is rather lower than the Brother MFC-J625DW, which is where we might have expected to find it given a purchase price at about the level of the MFC-J625DW.

Hardware Purchase Price

Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

Total Cost of Printing (70% Pages, Mono)

Based on Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

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 800 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.

Often it is worth constructing a chart that shows Total Cost of Printing against a variety of monthly print volumes. However, in this instance, it would show us nothing. There is no change in competitive positioning from a low 200 pages per month right up to 1,500 pages per month.

More interesting is to note the change in positioning and cost when reversing the balance of mono to colour pages printed.

Total Cost of Printing (70% Pages, Colour)

Based on Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

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 800 pages per month; 30% pages in mono and 70% 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.

Now, we see that the Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901 is right up there close to the cost of the MFC-J625DW and PIXMA MX885, very close to the position that would be expected as being the inverse of the hardware purchase chart (pulled down a fraction only by the low cost of #105XL black ink).

Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4535DWFEpson WorkForce Pro WP-4535DWF

This gives us a clear picture of the Total Cost of Printing advantage that both Epson and Hewlett-Packard have achieved in this sector of the market. We’re looking at almost 50% advantage over the Canon PIXMA MX880 and even of 41% over the Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901.

So, quite clearly, Epson has laid down a massive challenge to Hewlett-Packard’s pre-eminence in the office inkjet printing market with a device that is highly specified, well thought-out as a business machine and positioned with a slightly lower Total Cost of Printing than the new Officejet Pro 8600 Plus.

In terms of specification, the WorkForce Pro WP-4535DWF claims a print speed that is slightly lower (ISO 16ppm black / 11ppm colour) than the Officejet’s 20ppm black and 16ppm colour. However, while testing by CharisCo Printer Labs shows that the previous generation of Epson office inkjet (Stylus Office BX925FWD) amply lives up to its claims (ISO 15ppm black and 9.2ppm colour), the previous generation of Officejet (Pro 8500A) does not (claim: ISO 15ppm black / 11ppm colour >> Tested: ISO 12ppm black / 9.6ppm colour).

What we must balance against this though, in order to be thoroughly fair to both manufacturers, is that the print quality from the Officejet 8500A is clearly better than that from the Stylus Office BX925FWD.

Print quality comparisonPrint quality comparison

It would be reasonable to assume that the current generation from each manufacturer will probably perform to roughly the same factor relative to their specification claims. So, it could be that the WorkForce Pro WP-4535DWF is actually faster in practice than the Officejet Pro 8600 Plus.

Taking the other machines in the group into account, both Brother and Canon devices are just a little slower than the Epson. Lexmark appears not have started to measure print speed according to the ISO 24734 standard yet – the expectation from the ‘maximum’ figures quoted is that it is unlikely to be significantly faster than Brother and Canon machines and could be slower. Come on Lexmark, what’s keeping you?

Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
ISO – 12ppm black / 10ppm colour
Draft – 35ppm black / 27ppm colour
ISO – 6cpm
Fastest – 22ppm black / 20ppm colour
100-sheet standard feed
4.9cm LCD display with touch panel
LC1220 series (K=300 pages; C/M/Y=300 pages)
LC1240 series (K=600 pages; C/M/Y=600 pages)
Ships with LC1220 series
CD/DVD printing
Brother iPrint&Scan mobile printing
Nuance PaperPort; Reallusion® FaceFilter Studio
Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
ISO – 12.5ppm black / 9.3ppm colour
ISO – 6.7cpm
150-sheet standard feed, 150-sheet rear feed
35-sheet auto duplex
7.5cm TFT display
PGI-525PGBK (341 pages)
CLI-526 series (K=3,005/C=520/M=500/Y=515 pages)
Canon Easy PhotoPrint mobile printing and scanning
WorkForce Pro
Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
ISO – 16ppm black / 11ppm colour
Not quoted
250-sheet standard feed, 80-sheet rear feed
30-sheet auto duplex
6.3cm TFT display
T703x series (K=1,200; C/M/Y=800 pages)
T702x series (K=2,400; C/M/Y=2,000 pages)
Maintenance box (50,000 pages)
Epson iPrint
Officejet Pro
Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
ISO – 20ppm black / 16ppm colour
ISO – 13cpm black / 12cpm colour
250-sheet standard feed
50-sheet auto duplex
10.9cm touchscreen display
HP950 Black (1,000 pages); HP951 C/M/Y (700 pages)
HP950XL Black (2,300 pages);
HP951XL C/M/Y (1,500 pages)
Ships with HP950 and HP951 C/M/Y
HP ePrint, Apple AirPrint, Web app enabled
Pinnacle Pro901
Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
ISO – not quoted
Fastest – 33ppm black, 30ppm colour
ISO – not quoted
Fastest – 25cpm black / 21cpm colour
150-sheet standard feed
10.9cm touch screen display
#100 series (K=510/C=600/M=600/Y=600 pages)
#100XL series (K=170/C=200/M=200/Y=200 pages)
Ships with #100 series
Web app enabled

All models chosen here include one primary paper feed. There is a twin cassette model available from Epson (WorkForce Pro WP-4545DTWF), and from Lexmark (Platinum Pro905), while Hewlett-Packard has a second paper feed available as an option for the Officejet Pro 8600 Plus.

Brother and Canon, on the other hand, do not.

Canon PIXMA BX885Canon PIXMA BX885

However, Canon and Epson have both continued their traditional trend of utilising a rear paper feed. Historically, both companies only provided a rear feed but, more recently, Canon has provided both front cassette feed and rear feed on its high-end AiOs but Epson’s Stylus Office BX925FWD provided two front cassettes without a rear feed. This return to the rear feed means that two paper sources are available on each of the PIXMA MX885 and WorkForce Pro WP-4535DWF (150-sheet and 80-sheet rear feed respectively) while only one feed is accessible on these Brother, Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark models.

Similarly, the Canon PIXMA MX885, Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4535DWF and Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8600 Plus are each equipped with an auto-duplexing ADF. It is not absolutely clear from the specifications whether these are full duplex ADF units (double-sided in a single pass) or may be reversing duplex units (double-sided in two passes). However, sight of the Officejet Pro 8600 Plus indicates that it is a Reversing ADF (RADF) and the likelihood is that the Epson is the same (the Stylus Office BX925FWD was equipped with a RADF). The assumption is that the PIXMA MX885 ADF will also be a reversing unit, while Brother and Lexmark provide only simplex scanning through their ADF units.

HP Officejet Pro 8600 PlusHP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus

To conclude, with very high capacity ink tanks offering Total Cost of Printing figures in both black and colour that are so much lower than the competing models, up to 52% in black and 49% in colour, and specifications that have been very carefully thought out for office applications, it is clearly the Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4535DWF and Officejet Pro 8600 Plus that stand out from the crowd as being the most serious A4 office multifunction devices.

Lexmark would fall close as a contender if ink capacities were increased, the cost of colour ink were reduced and the device were fitted with an ADF capable of automatic duplex copying, scanning and faxing. For its part, Brother needs to build a beefed up A4 model as described earlier in the article to present a serious contender – after all, its A3 models demonstrate all the technology, functionality and high capacity inks required to produce a highly competitive and cost-effective machine. Then, Canon mostly needs to develop its vision for the future of office inkjet printing with an increase in ink yields and reduced cost of ink, together with a beefed up specification similar to that required from Brother.

So, finally, I can stop repeating my comment, “there is no small office A4 multifunction device cheaper to own and run than the Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro series”! There is now some competition! Epson has issued a massive challenge to Hewlett-Packard’s dominance of the segment and, raising the profile of inkjet in the office environment, presented users with a great opportunity to reduce office printing costs.

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