Epson’s WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer

Epson recently announced a new line of printers (new to North America, anyway) known as EcoTank. In most ways, these all-in-one (AIO) printers are much like their Epson Expression and WorkForce counterparts. For example, the topic of this review, the $499.99 MSRP WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer, is essentially the entry-level $129.99 MSRP WorkForce WF-2650, which strongly resembles the WF-2660 reviewed here a few months ago, with the EcoTank ink tanks attached to the right side.

The ET-4550 is one of five initial EcoTank offerings announced today. (For a description of the five models and a more detailed discussion of EcoTank in general,check out this About.com article.)

Read entire review at About.com

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Lenovo Tab 2 A8-50 Review and RatingsLooking back over our Android-tablet reviews for 2015, we realized that we haven’t reviewed a new 7-inch tablet all year. (Indeed, the number of new Android tablets on the whole seems to be way down.) The low end is taking on a new shape, too: As we thought in 2014, 8 inches has become the new standard for compact Androids. You might say 8-inchers are the new 7-inchers, in terms of both popularity and price.

Case in point is last year’s $179.99-MSRP Lenovo Tab A8, which we reviewed in July of 2014. At that time, the Tab A8 was one of many entry-level compact Android tablets available, with most of the 8-inch models selling for just under $200 and most of the 7-inchers going for a bit over $100 ($129.99, or thereabouts). Here we are, just a year later, and Lenovo’s sequel to the Tab A8, the Tab 2 A8, raises the quality level for the price over last year’s model (even though both slates use the same processor). And it also lists for $20 less: a $159.95 MSRP. (Plus, as we wrote this in August 2015, it was selling at shop.lenovo.com and several other places for $40 less than that, or $119.99.)

Lenovo Tab 2 A8

Plenty of things about this slate place it firmly in the “entry-level” column, such as its relatively low-resolution, 1,280×800-pixel display, a mediocre 16GB of storage, and a relatively slow 1.3GHz MediaTek processor. Even so, its better-than-adequate display panel and Dolby-enhanced sound make it a good device for watching videos and for other kinds of not-so-resource-intensive media consumption.

Its shoulder-shrug-at-best performance on our benchmark tests suggests that this little slate might be somewhat sluggish, compared to other competing 8-inchers. The numbers suggest that perhaps you might notice it even when performing some everyday tasks—such as composing and responding to e-mails, Web browsing, and social-media interaction. But that was not the impression we got from our hands-on trials. As long as we didn’t try to push the Tab 2 A8 too hard, as we’ll get into in our Performance section later on, the Tab 2 A8 performed just fine.

That said, it’s also important to point out that the Tab 2 A8 simply could not complete a few parts of our cadre of tests. This, in turn, relegates this slate to a not-small group of entry-level- and midrange-performing tablets capable of most of the basics, but not up to the stresses of the most demanding Android games and apps.

In short: It’s dressed in fine accoutrements for media consumption—a good screen and speakers—but at the core this is a basic tablet. It’s ideal, we think, for first-time tablet buyers, for children (to keep their hands off Mom’s and Dad’s much pricier iPads), and anybody else looking for an inexpensive-yet-capable compact Android to help them keep in touch friends, family, and the world.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper

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Canon’s Color imageCLASS LBP7660Cdn Laser PrinterNot every small or medium-size office requires laser output, but many do. If you’re looking a good color laser printer, Canon makes several, including the print engines for many HP laser printers. And, like most Canon imaging devices, the topic of this review, Canon’s $499 MSRP Color ImageCLASS LBP7660Cdn Laser Printer (now there’s a mouth-full) is no exception. It’s a top-notch entry-level/midrange single-function color laser printer with average print speeds and above average output.

Before going on, though, keep in mind that the LBP7660Cdn has been on the market for a few years now; hence I found it at a few outlets for well below $350. As with most laser printers in this class, my main objection is its high cost per page, especially compared similarly priced (and often cheaper) inkjet models that print what are often better-looking pages for a lot lower ongoing operational cost. But then they’re not lasers…

Read the entire review at About.com

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Canon’s imageFORMULA DR-C240 Office Document ScannerI have to admit that prior to this gig; I honestly didn’t know that there were so many document scanners in the world—proof, of sorts, that the human race is still printing at an impressive rate. All of the major scanner manufacturers—Canon, Brother, Epson, and HP make several document scanners, ranging in different volumes and prices from a few hundred dollars to upwards of a thousand and beyond.

The good news is that most of them do a decent job, and most come with impressive bundles of optical character recognition (OCR) and document management software. Many Canon models, such as theimageFORMULA DR-M160II Office Document Scanner reviewed here last week, come with the company’s CaptureOnTouch software, as well as several third-party titles from Kofax and document management software from Nuance. Here, though, we are looking at a slightly lower-end machine, Canon’s $799 MSRP imageFORMULA DR-C240 Office Document Scanner.

The DR-C240 is a little slower DR-M160II mentioned above, and it lacks a document management program, per se (though it does come with PDF Pro Office for creating searchable PDFs), even so, it’ll get all butthe most demanding scan jobs done.

Read the entire review at About.com

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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.
Read the entire review at About.com
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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.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper

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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.
Read the entire review at About.com
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Visioneer RoadWarrior 4D Duplex Mobile Color ScannerThe Printer / Scanner section of About.com has looked at mobile scanners from three of the top imaging companies (Epson, Canon, and HP) recently, and while they all worked well enough, feature sets and capabilities were somewhat diverse. In addition, considering how small they are and what they’re capable of, unless you have an application that requires (or benefits from) the ability to setup and scan in seconds—no matter where you are—there are better choices.

If you do need to scan on the road, though, here’s another good choice, the $149.99 MSRP RoadWarrior 4D Duplex Mobile Color Scanner from a Northern California company that specializes in scanners, Visioneer.

Read entire review at About.com

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If you’ve ever looked at the scanner sections of HP’s, Canon’s, Epson’s, or Brother’s Web sites, then you know that there are literally hundreds of models available, ranging in prices from around $50 up to and beyond $2,000. Then too, some specialize in scanning photos, while others excel at document scanning, and some even tout “multipurpose” scanning.

Even so, if you plan to scan a lot of one particular type of document, for the best results you should choose a matching scanner type.

When scanning and cataloging documents, for instance, few scanners work as well as Canon’s imageFORMULA document scanners. And when it comes to midrange machines, I found the company’s imageFORMULA DR-M160II Office Document Scanner, the topic of this review, to be quick, thorough, and accurate.

Read entire review at About.com

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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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