Brother’s MFC-J4320DW, a Multifunction Wide-Format PrinterThe Printer / Scanner section of About.com has recognized Brother’s Business Smart series of multifunction printers for a number of reasons, often including relatively fast print speeds, overall print quality, a relatively low cost per page, or CPP, and support for wide-format (tabloid, or 11×17-inch) paper. However, the level of support each machine has for tabloid paper varies from model to model.

This brings us to the subject of this review, Brother’s next generation entry-level Business Smart model, the $149.99 MSRP MFC-J4320DW. Like the MFC-J4000 series models before it, such as the MFC-J4420DW I looked at a while back, it takes tabloid-size paper via an override slot on the back of the machine. Hence, you can print only one 11×17-inch page at a time, limiting this particular Brother to an occasional-use wide-format printer—and an all-around great little standard, letter-size machine.
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HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw Review and RatingsLaser printers are as staid as modern PC technology gets. We’ve been saying for some time now that, aside from tacking on the occasional new productivity and convenience feature, or increasing speeds a smidge on occasion, we haven’t seen any heavy-hitting improvements to the laser printer in ages.

If something is going to change in lasers, though, HP is as predictable a source for that innovation as printer makers come. And what the company has done is not so much change the printer, as much as its diet.

That would be the toner. HP’s recent toner reformulation, dubbed ColorSphere 3, is part of an overall toner-cartridge and print-engine revamp that it is calling “JetIntelligence.” According to HP, between the toner reformulation and logic built into both the “new Original HP Toner cartridges with JetIntelligence” and the printer, your LaserJet will use up to 53 percent less energy, take up to 40 percent less space, as well as wake up and print duplex (two-sided) pages faster.

HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dwIn fact, in a recent press release, HP’s vice president and general manager of LaserJet hardware and technology, Tuan Tran, claimed, “Today’s announcement represents our most significant laser printing re-engineering since the introduction of the first LaserJet in 1984.”

The biggest thing to hit the laser in 30-plus years? That’s worth a closer look to see whether there’s heft or hype there. HP sent us one of these initial printers based on JetIntelligence and the new toner tech, the $429.99-MSRP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dwBest Price at Amazon. Again, many of the JetIntelligence benefits come from reformulated toner and reengineered cartridges, which we’ll discuss in some detail in the next section.

What we will say here, though, is that HP’s JetIntelligence promotional material makes a lot of the idea that you get significantly more prints per cartridge (33 percent more, according to its estimates), rather than more prints for your money. And this is a key distinction: While that may mean fewer toner-cartridge swap-outs over the life of the printer, the technology doesn’t necessarily mean more money in your pocket. While this is a great little printer, as you’ll see in our Setup & Paper Handling section later on, it is somewhat pricey to use, especially for color pages.

HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dwHence, as we’ve said about many an entry-level and midrange printer, no matter how attractive and up-to-date it is, this model just doesn’t compute for environments with heavy print loads. HP does offer some uncharacteristically high-volume toner cartridges (up to about 2,400 pages) for a printer this size. But, again, the actual per-page cost of using the Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw is too high for all but small and home-based offices with print loads of, say, just a few hundred pages per month.

Again, we’ll discuss why this makes sense as a low-volume, personal color laser printer later on. In the meantime, though, know that the M277dw is a sharp little color laser all-in-one (AIO), well worth taking a good look at if you’re not trying to outfit a business that prints all day, every day. As we wrote this in early August 2015, HP was offering a $100 discount off the MSRP, trimming the price to $329, so this model could make good sense for environments that need modest numbers of color-fast prints.

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HP’s Envy 7640 e-All-in-One PrinterHP’s Envy line of printers have gone through a transition over the years, from somewhat high-end (price-wise) and elegant, if not all that practical. Over the past couple years, though, Envy printers have evolved in to sensible entry-level and midrange all-in-one (AIO) machines designed for home based and small offices, as my recent review of the Envy 5660 e-All-in-One Printer illustrates.

Today, though, we’re looking at the flagship Envy printer, the $199.99 Envy 7640 e-All-in-One Printer, which, by the way, I found for as low as $124.99 while writing this review.

In any case, of the entire Envy line, this one is the most full-featured. However, also like the other Envy AIOs, without HP’s value-added Instant Ink program, which we’ll look at in a minute, it’s too expensive to use.
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Epson WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One Review and RatingsHow many industries can you think of that offer their products at a lowball price and make their profits on refills or replacement parts for those products—other than the printer industry, that is? One that comes to mind readily is the shaving razor business, perhaps because replacement razor blades are infamous for prices nearly as steep as those of printer ink cartridges. In fact, barring certain pharmaceuticals and perfumes, printer ink is one of the world’s most expensive liquids, and one of the more profitable.

Perhaps that’s the reason buying printer ink is so annoying to so many people: Many of us suspect that there’s no good reason (other than profit, a strong incentive indeed) that printer ink should cost so much—it’s not warranted from a raw-materials standpoint, anyway. Well, printer and imaging giant Epson, with its new (new to North America, that is) EcoTank ink delivery system, has set out to change all that, starting with a few of the company’s business-oriented WorkForce models—printers that cost more up front, but that won’t need ink refills for a long time.

To get us started with EcoTank, Epson sent us the topic of today’s review the $499.99 MSRP WorkForce ET-4550. In actuality, this is the WorkForce WF-2650 All-in-One Printer—a close cousin to the $149.99 MSRP WorkForce WF-2660 All-in-One we reviewed a few months ago—with a bulge on its right side for EcoTank ink tanks, as shown below. The WF-2650 lists for $129.99, but at this writing in early August 2015 is on sale for $79.99 at Epson.com and everywhere else.

Epson WorkForce WF-2650 and ET-4550

Epson’s WorkForce WF-2650 (left) and its EcoTank sibling, the ET-4550.

Yes, you’re reading this right. Essentially, the new ET-4550 is an under-$80 printer transformed into a $500 machine by the inclusion of the EcoTank system. Well, make that the inclusion of the EcoTank system and, according to Epson, “up to two years'” supply of ink. In this case, keeping in mind that the WF-2650 is a low-volume printer, that’s about 5,000 black-and-white pages and 8,500 color pages. On top of that, Epson throws in an additional “bonus” 6,000 monochrome pages, for an in-box yield of 11,000 monochrome and 8,500 color pages.

Spreading that across two years comes out to just over 450 pages per month, which, while far below the WF-2650’s 3,000-page maximum monthly duty cycle (the manufacturer’s recommended volume without undue wear on the machine), is plenty for this low-volume printer. (Frankly, if you need to print much more than that, you should consider a higher-yield machine.) Even so, while EcoTank itself is a step in the right direction, when it comes time to purchase refills, you should be pleasantly surprised there, too.

We’ll look at EcoTank, the technology and how it changes the cost-per-page equation, on the next page, in the Design, Features, & EcoTank section. Before moving on, though, we should also mention the other EcoTank models, starting with two lower-yield Expression consumer-grade models, the $379 MSRP Expression ET-2500 EcoTank and the $399 MSRP Expression ET-2550. As for the WorkForce business-oriented models, they are the $429 MSRP WorkForce ET-2500, the $499 WorkForce ET-4550 (our review unit), and the flagship $1,199 MSRP WorkForce Pro WF-R4640.

The smaller and cheaper ET-2500 comes with less capacity and less ink (4,000 monochrome, 6,500 color), and the high-volume WorkForce Pro model comes with ink for 20,000 monochrome and 20,000 color pages (and, of course, replacement ink is less expensive on a per-page basis). We will look at these other EcoTank models as soon as Epson makes them available.

Epson WorkForce ET-4550 angle

Of the pre-EcoTank WorkForce models, the 2000 series were the smallest and least capable, in terms of volume—and, like most under-$100 printers, their cost per page (CPP) was too high to support all but a modest print volume. From a cost-of-operation perspective, EcoTank (as you’ll see in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on) all but eliminates the excessively high CPPs incurred by users of low-volume models, and it greatly reduces the cost of using high-volume machines, too.

Granted, there’s a huge gap between the volume capabilities of this EcoTank model and the next one up, the $1,199 WF-R4640, which might, we suspect, convince some small and home-based offices to try to coax more pages from the ET-4550 rather than spring for an additional $700. In any case, now you can push your low-volume business-oriented AIO to its limits—without it costing you a small fortune in ink.

Other than that, the ET-4550 is your typical entry-level printer, complete with features you’d find on a typical beginner’s WorkForce AIO.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Epson’s New EcoTank SystemTwo of the most common complaints about inkjet printers, especially the smaller, less-expensive models (Epson’s WorkForce WF-2660 All-in-One Printercomes to mind), is that they run out of ink too quickly and that replacement cartridges themselves cost too much, on a per-page basis. Well, Epson has invited us to put our money where our mouth is—with its new EcoTank ink system, announced today, August 4, 2015.

That printer makers make most of their profit from selling replacement cartridges is common knowledge. With EcoTank, Epson now offers customers a new way to buy ink, with the understanding that if you’re willing to make a meaningful investment upfront on the initial price of the printer (and a substantial amount of ink), the company will provide you with plenty of ink at a very reasonable cost per page, or CPP.

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Epson’s WorkForce WF-7620 All-in-One PrinterAbout a year ago, About.com reviewed several of Epson’s PrecisionCore-based multifunction printers (MFPs), including the notable wide-format WorkForce WF-7610 All-in-One. What impressed me most about it, aside from it being an excellent

It’s an excellent size for posters and oversize spreadsheets, and much more. Aside from a slightly too-high per-page cost of operation, the only thing we really didn’t like about the WF-7610 was that it had only one paper drawer, which really isn’t practical for an oversize printer, unless you plan to print only wide-format pages, that is.

Epson, of course, offers a solution in its $299.99 WF-7620—essentially the same wide-format printer with an additional 250-sheet paper cassette tacked on at the bottom, for (when you include the rear 1-sheet override tray) a total of 501 pages from three input sources, which isn’t bad for an under-$300 wide-format inkjet.

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HP Scanjet Enterprise Flow 5000 s2 Sheet-feed ScannerA while back, the Printer/Scanner section of About.com looked at HP’s highly capable Scanjet Enterprise Flow 7500 Flatbed Scanner, which was rated at 50 pages per minute (ppm) simplex, or single-sided, or 100 images per minute (ipm) duplex, or double-sided, as well as a 3,000 pages per day recommended duty cycle.

Overall, that Scanjet was a highly impressive document scanner—fast and accurate—with tremendous optical character recognition software (OCR) for converting scanned text to editable text, and then sorting, cataloging, and saving it, much like the topic of this review, HP’s $799 MSRP Scanjet Enterprise Flow 5000 s2 Sheet-fed Scanner, but on a smaller scale.

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Dell E515dw Multifunction Monochrome PrinterI’ve looked at several monochrome printers recently, and a few of them were multifunction (print, copy, scan, and fax) printers, or MFPs. One that stood out was OKI Data’s MB492 Multifunction Printer. It printed good-looking black-and-white pages quickly and at a highly competitive cost per page—less than 1-cent per page in some scenarios.

That, of course, was a high-volume machine; even so, with its $599 MSRP, it was a darn good value.

This review, though, is of a low-volume monochrome MFP, Dell’s $219.99 E515dw Multifunction Printer. If yours is a low-volume monochrome printing volume with the occasional need for copying, scanning, and faxing, you should definitely take a closer look at this printer.
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HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M177fwA category of printers that has lost some ground recently is the entry-level, or “personal” laser printer, due primarily to pressure from highly competitive, high-volume inkjet multifunction printers (MFPs) that print faster, with higher print quality, and lower (a lot lower) per-page cost of consumables. In other words, in several ways, the inkjet model has snuck up and become superior.

If you’ve read any of my reviews here on About.com or elsewhere, then you know that I’m a proponent getting the actual cost of using your printer down; therefore, if for security or some other reason (even personal) you are required to produce laser output, here’s a good little laser printer for doing just that.

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HP Envy 5660 e-All-in-One PrinterStarting with 2010’s HP Envy 100, the Envy line of inkjet all-in-one (AIO) printers—which can print, scan, and copy—has been one of the more interesting to watch evolve over the past few years. After the 2010 debut machine, consecutive models, such as 2011’s Envy 110 and 2013’s Envy 120, concentrated more on style and home-fitting elegance than on the more practical pursuits of what a printer needs to do.

As we pointed out in our July 2013 review of the Envy 5530 (one of the first Envys to break with the Envy-printer trend of style before substance), those first Envys, especially the Envy 120, were more fashion statements than nimble office appliances. When it came to capacity and practicality, they were really no more than entry-level AIOs, despite their elegant appearances and relatively high prices.

What we liked least about the early Envys, though, was how much they cost on a per-page basis to use. But then this has been true of all Envy-brand printers, including the much less costly Envy 5530 AIO. The good news here is that, as you’ll see in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on, the latest Envy AIO (and topic of this review), the $149.99-MSRP Envy 5660 e-All-in-One Printer$74.99 at HP, doesn’t have the same ink-price issue anymore—at least, with the advent of HP’s Instant Ink program, and assuming you sign up for it.

Even so, understand that this is a low-volume printer designed to churn out only a few hundred pages—at most—each month. HP’s ink program allows printer users who don’t print much to realize reasonable per-page ink costs, compared to the off-the-chart-high cost per page when buying ink cartridges off the shelf. And that’s a big feather in the value cap of this Envy model, as well as most (or all) of HP’s other low-volume, entry-level printers.

HP Envy 5660 e-All-in-One Printer (Printing)

Still, like its predecessor the Envy 5530, the Envy 5560 has no automatic document feeder (ADF) for feeding multipage documents to the scanner without user intervention. Instead, you must load your originals one page at a time, scan each one, and, if they’re double-sided, turn them over by hand and scan them again, repeating the process for each page.

A problem, then, for this Envy model is that some of the other major inkjet-printer makers, such as Epson with its comparably priced WorkForce WF-2660 All-in-One Printer ($99, factoring in a $50 discount that was available when we wrote this), offer ADFs and more in some of their like-priced models. As you’ll see later on, though, this HP model does print somewhat better photos than most business-oriented AIOs, in the event that’s important to you.

Really, though, if you need to do heavy-duty document processing, with the Envys you’re looking in the wrong place altogether. In the past, our main objection to this Envy would have been its high cost per page (CPP), but as mentioned, HP’s Instant Ink program makes buying ink a much more reasonably priced prospect. In fact, it goes a long way toward evening up the playing field between this entry-level model and higher-volume inkjets designed to print thousands of pages each month (at, of course, a much lower cost per page).

The savings that Instant Ink can bring—under the right circumstances—make this budget-minded Envy much easier to recommend, more so than any previous Envy, to users who don’t print much, or make many copies. It has a secret weapon when paired with Instant Ink: super-cheap printed photos.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper

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