Few peripherals are as convenient as portable document scanners, and few portable document scanners are as fast and capable as the Epson WorkForce ES-300W Wireless Portable Duplex Document Scanner ($299.99). Like the Canon imageFormula P-215II Scan-tini Personal Document Scanner, the ES-300W has a built-in automatic document feeder (ADF), but the Epson model is faster than the P-215II, and it supports Wi-Fi, for completely cable-free operation when combined with its built-in battery. Like most Epson WorkForce scanners, the ES-300W comes with a complete suite of software, including document and business card archiving programs. A generous software bundle, fast performance, including quick PDF file conversion, and wireless connectivity are enough to unseat the P-215II Scan-tini as our Editors’ Choice for portable document scanners.
The HP OfficeJet Pro 6978 All-in-One Printer ($179.99) offers a wealth of features, including an auto-duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF), which many of its competitors lack. Should you opt for HP’s Instant Ink ink subscription service, it delivers competitive running costs. These perks, along with good output quality for text, graphics, and photos, elevate the OfficeJet Pro 6978 to our new Editors’ Choice midrange all-in-one printer (AIO) for low- to medium-volume printing in small or micro offices and workgroups.
Nowadays few of us would consider “roughing it” in the wilds without taking along at least a smartphone, and perhaps even a tablet or laptop. The problem with that is, when we get too far away from civilization — or our cars, at least — for more than a day or so, there’s no way to keep our mobile devices charged. You can take along a portable battery pack, but if you’re off the grid for very long at all, then the issue becomes keeping it charged. The answer, of course, is a solar power charger, such as the Aukey 20-watt Portable Foldable Solar Charger ($50) we’re reviewing here today.
There are scores of portable solar power sources available, ranging from $30 to $300 and beyond. Some, such as the Kogalla Solar Storage Bank ($200), come with rechargeable batteries that allow you to store power for when the sun is not shining. Others, including the ECEEN Foldable Solar Charger ($34) and today’s review unit, the Aukey 20W solar charger, do not. Many come with only one USB port, though, whereas the Aukey model comes with two. Designed with the backpacker in mind, it’s the only $50 solar charger we know of that generates enough juice to allow you to charge two mobile devices at full power at the same time.
The HP ScanJet Pro 3000 s3 Sheet-Feed Scanner ($429.99) is a good value as a moderately priced desktop document scanner. An upgrade in capacity and features from the entry-level HP ScanJet Pro 2000 we reviewed recently, it is faster than the Editors’ Choice Canon imageFormula DR-C225 and the Brother ImageCenter ADS-2000e. The ScanJet 3000 includes a well-rounded software bundle, and, in testing, the hardware performed well. Optical character recognition (OCR) accuracy is about average, and speed is excellent. All this makes the ScanJet 3000 our new Editors’ Choice personal desktop document scanner, though it’s also good for a small or micro office or workgroup.
We remember, about four or five years ago, when the first Epson Small-in-One printers appeared on the market. Then as now, their key selling point was, of course, size: You could buy an all-in-one (AIO) machine with a very small footprint that printed, copied, and scanned, and tuck it on the corner of your desk. The Expression Home Small-in-Ones have been a mainstay for many years, like the Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One we reviewed back in 2013, a distant predecessor to the $99.99-MSRP Expression Home XP-440 Small-in-One we are reviewing here today.
The XP-440 is the one on the right; the XP-410 is on the left. Making a few tweaks to a product, up-ticking the name, and releasing it as a new product is common practice among printer makers. Not only does releasing slightly iterated machines with incrementally higher model numbers, year after year, keep the products themselves fresh to an extent (generating new reviews, like this one!), but it also gives us technology journalists something to do. We’re not complaining.
Like the first XP-400 series model, the XP-440 delivers top-notch quality across all of its prime functions. It churns out stellar prints, especially photos, and it scans quite well. This is, however, an entry-level, low-volume AIO printer designed for home and family use. It’s meant for environments that will demand only light usage, and that’s evidenced by its lack of an automatic document feeder (ADF) for sending multipage documents to the scanner without user intervention. That omission is expected in this price range, but it severely limits your scanning capabilities.
Like most other entry-level AIOs of its class, this one, like its predecessors, costs a lot to use, in terms of the per-page price of ink. That’s always a critical issue for us. Historically, we’ve always recommended expensive-to-use machines like this one with the caveat that, because of the running cost, they are practical for only minimal use (say, no more than a few hundred prints or copies per month). Our beef is that the buyers of these entry-level AIOs who actually use their printers day to day end up getting taxed, and heavily, for doing so.
Nowadays, though, with the advent of “supertank” printers like Epson’s own EcoTank models and Canon’s MegaTank AIOs (such as the Epson Expression ET-3600 and Canon Pixma G3200), users have more choices. If you need to print hundreds of pages on your entry-level AIO, you can opt to pay more for the printer itself, with the aim being to pay less for the ink to keep it going. If, on the other hand, you need a printer but will use it little, you can spend less than $100 on a small AIO like the XP-440, in exchange for higher per-page ink costs over its life. If you print only a few pages each month, then the cost of ink is less important. Hence, our perspective on the cost per page typically seen in low-cost entry-level AIOs like this one has changed with the times.
That said, the Epson Expression XP-440’s running costs are, as you’ll see in the Cost Per Page section later on, quite high. Even so, if all you need is to print and make copies on a small scale, the XP-440 is designed to do just that, and it does it quite well.
We’re seeing an increasing number of network-capable sheet-feed document scanners lately, including the $399.99 Epson WorkForce ES-500W Wireless Duplex Document Scanner we’re reviewing here. But the ES-500W is somewhat different in that it’s not often that we see network functionality on an entry-level scanner like this one. (Epson does offer a non-Wi-Fi version of the ES-500W, the ES-400, for $50 less.) The ES-500W is fast for its class, and it saves to image and searchable PDF at a good clip for the price. Optical character recognition (OCR) accuracy is a bit below average, though, but it comes with a well-rounded software bundle that includes document and business card archiving software.
Overall, we found the ES-500W impressive, but its mediocre OCR accuracy dinged it just enough to cause it to come up short in dethroning the Editor’s Choice Canon imageFormula DR-C225 as our go-to low-to mid-volume document scanner for a small or micro office. We also like it as a personal document scanner, though in that capacity its OCR accuracy falls short of the Editors’ Choice HP ScanJet Pro 3000 s3 Sheet-Feed Scanner.
The hype around gaming mice makes it difficult to see the reality for the hyperbole. You can spend $60 or more for industry-standard pointing devices, such as the Razer DeathAdder Elite, or choose less costly alternatives like Logitech’s G602. Yet there’s an even less expensive, highly customizable, lesser-known alternative — $36 Aukey KM-C4 Gaming Mouse, which regularly retails for as little as $20.
The Aukey gaming mouse might seem a little too humble if you’re into impressive specifications like 16,000 DPI sensors and tracking speeds of 450 inches per second. However, most gamers don’t need incredible hardware in a gaming mouse. Aukey’s not the only company that knows this. It faces competition from Logitech’s G300 and Corsair’s Harpoon, a pair of well-known mice from major brands.
Here we are a year and a half (or so) after Epson first released its consumer- and small-office-grade EcoTank “supertank” printers in the United States, It’s a product introduction that, if you believe what the Japanese electronics giant tells us, has met with huge success.
While we complained for years about inkjet-printer makers selling ink for exorbitant per-page prices (and like to think that we did our bit to spur change), when EcoTank printers came out, we wondered whether U.S. consumers would recognize the benefit of paying more for the printer up front to save on the ongoing cost of ink. EcoTank printers, like the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank All-in-One, after all, are priced at four or five times more than their non-“supertanker” counterparts.
If what Epson told us about EcoTank printer sales is accurate (and we have no reason to believe that it’s not), consumers indeed have embraced this new way to buy printers. The release of the $279.99 Expression ET-2600 EcoTank All-in-One (today’s review model) and its $20-more-expensive ET-2650 EcoTank sibling marks round two in what we have recently dubbed the “big ink” wars. (Both are upgrades to the Expression ET-2550.) Epson, by expanding the EcoTank product line, has co-signed this pay-more-now-to-pay-less-later approach to selling printers, while Brother, with its INKvestment product line, came onboard a while back. And Canon recently joined the fray with its new MegaTank Pixma G-series machines. It’s clear: This battle of the ink bottle is on.
Instead of using standard ink cartridges, Epson’s EcoTank printers, like Canon’s MegaTank machines, deploy relatively large reservoirs that you fill with ink from bottles. (Brother’s INKvestment products continue to use cartridges.) In either case, the idea is the same: lower running costs, higher initial purchase prices.
Which brings us back to the Expression ET-2600. As mentioned, Epson offers two Expression ET-2600-series models. The difference between them: The Expression ET-2650 comes with a slot for printing from SD cards, and it supports Wi-Fi Direct (a peer-to-peer protocol that allows you to print from and scan to mobile devices without a network). If you need either of these features, spending the additional $20 for the Expression ET-2650 seems like a no-brainer to us.
Aside from rock-bottom running costs, what the Expression ET-2600 and ET-2650 have going for them is excellent print quality; we’ll discuss that in more detail in the Output Quality section later on. In fact, graphics and photo quality are exceptional, with only one caveat: The Expression ET-2600, like its predecessor, can’t print borderless documents or photos. We’ll look at why that’s important, also, later on.
As we’ve said about other EcoTank (and Canon MegaTank) models, don’t let the price fool you. This is above all else a low-volume, entry-level printer priced to save you money on the ongoing per-page price of ink. And from that perspective, it works. It prints well and costs very little to use, and it provides the ability to scan and copy, also on a low-volume basis. If that’s all you need, the Expression ET-2600 should serve you well.
While devices that extend your Wi-Fi signal to eliminate dead zones in your home or office abound, you won’t find many that double as home security hubs. But that’s exactly what you get with Zmodo’s $49.95 Beam Alert. By itself, Beam Alert is just one more way to make your home network and Internet connection accessible in the back bedroom or upstairs, but with the addition of the company’s multiple accessories—door and window sensors, motion and smoke detectors, video cameras, gas and carbon monoxide detectors, and alarms—you can turn your wireless network and smartphone into a home security system.
If all you need is simple Wi-Fi extension, it’s easy to find less-expensive solutions, such as Netgear’s AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender. And yes, there are devices, such as D-Link’s Wi-Fi Audio Extender, that do more than merely extend your wireless signal. There’s also several wireless security solutions, including Stack Lights BeOn bulbs and the iSmartAlarm. However, Beam Alert is the only combined Wi-Fi extender and security system we know of. When you think about it, though, the matchup makes a lot of sense.
While there are plenty of innovative wireless pointing devices available, few are as light, compact, interesting, and mobile as Microsoft’s Arch Touch Bluetooth Mouse. It’s designed primarily as an accessory for the company’s Surface Book PCs (it’s the same light-gray color), but since it’s a standard pointing device, it also works with most laptops or tablets running a recent version of Windows (and some MacBooks) that support Bluetooth. The Arc Touch mouse is, when turned off, ultra-thin, making it easy to slip in to your pocket or some other tight spot.
The Arc Touch mouse is unique in design. Even so, just about any other small wireless “travel” pointing device, such as Logitech’s M535 Bluetooth Mouse ($39.99) or Microsoft’s own Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 ($29.99), is a direct competitor. You can pick up the Arc Touch mouse for about $40, which is a bit high for a small mouse like this, especially considering that you can buy the EasyGlide Wireless 3-button Travel Mouse, and several others, for as little as $20. That said, you’ll have trouble finding a mobile mouse as easy to carry around with you than the slim and petite Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse, and like most Microsoft peripherals, it’s well-built, durable, and somewhat elegant.