Printers can produce a love-hate relationship. We love the utility they provide and their low cost. But we hate the high cost of ink cartridges, sometimes priced at more than the printer itself.
I've been using the Epson Multi-Function Printer WF-4630 for about four months. The all-in-one inkjet printer scans, faxes, copies and prints, both single and double-sided.
It's one of the best home-office printers I've ever used. It addresses many of the objections of past printers, including being hard to set up, paper jams, low-capacity paper trays and the high cost of ink.
The WF-4630 paper tray holds 250 sheets of paper compared with others that hold just 50. Epson rates the cost per page at 1.6 cents for black-and-white and 8.2 cents for color, significantly lower than many other printers, including Epson's older models.
The printer is fast and quiet, and the quality of the printing is excellent.
The printer has what Epson calls PrecisionCore technology, which uses four sets of nozzles (actually on a microchip) to create more dots, resulting in faster printing and higher resolution.
The WF-4630 is also durable, with a 30,000-page monthly duty cycle. In four months, I experienced one paper jam that could have been user error -- the result of the paper not being properly stacked.
There's also a rear tray for holding 80 sheets of a different-size paper or envelopes. You can also stack up to 35 pages in the automatic document feeder for copying, scanning or faxing. And there's a choice of printing on one or two sides of the paper.
It handles paper sizes up to legal size.
I've been using it primarily to print Word, PowerPoint and other documents from my computers, and photos from an iPhone and computer. Text quality is as good as a laser printer and charts, tables and graphs are colorful and uniform.
Photos are also very good.
The printer was simple to set up and connect to my Wi-Fi home network. It can also be set up with a USB or Ethernet connection. It has a large 3½-inch color display for accessing many of its settings and providing status messages.
The printer is 13.5 inches tall by 18.1 inches wide by 16.6 inches deep and weighs 31½ pounds.
It is available for $199, making it a very good buy for all that it provides. Now if could just eliminate the junk faxes that keep showing up.
While Epson makes some of the best, small office printers, such as the WF-4630, it's also the acknowledged leader of large-format printers used by photographers and printing companies.
Epson lent me its latest large-format printer, the SC-P600 color inkjet, designed to print at the highest possible quality on paper up to 13 inches wide. It's typically used for making prints up to 13 inches by 19 inches, but also can print on a paper roll of 13 inches up to 129 inches long, perfect for panoramas, banners and posters.
The P600 is designed to produce professional-quality photos, artwork, prints and graphics. It uses nine cartridges of pigment-based ink: yellow, vivid light magenta, light cyan, vivid magenta, cyan, very light black, light black, photo black and matte black, all of which are fade-proof.
The printer is black with a 2.7-inch display and measures 24 inches wide by 14 inches deep by 9 inches tall (with the trays closed). Like the WF-4630, setup was easy, aided by the 2.7-inch display. You simply download and install the software and configure it for the way you want to connect.
In my week of use, I did a variety of printing: large photos, diagrams and artwork. I had recently created a 20-inch by 30-inch watercolor painting/poster.
I tried making 13-by-19-inch copies of it by photographing it outdoors and sending the file to Costco, one of the well-rated consumer photo labs.
The results were just fair. Colors were muddy, and there was an overall gray cast to the background.
I tried the P600 and printed directly on both Epson watercolor paper and photo paper. The results were best on the watercolor paper, nearly an identical copy of my original. Prints on photo paper were better than Costco’s, but not as good as the watercolor paper.
I also tried printing a large poster of a family tree that my wife was working on that included small photos. Again the results were excellent.
Last, I printed several of photographs at 8 by 10 inches and 11 by 17 inches on a variety of photo paper, performing color correction using Adobe Lightroom. Results were terrific and reminded me of when I used a darkroom — but this is much less work with better results.
This printer is ideal for an advanced or professional photographer or an artist, as well as for a small printing business. Many artists use watercolor paper and an Epson printer such as this model or its predecessors to make commercial prints of their paintings.
The P600 costs $799. Ink refills are costly at $31.99 for each of nine colors, but their capacity is huge, and I barely moved the needle after printing dozens of prints. The superb quality from this Epson printer is why printing companies charge as much as $50 for a print using this printer, compared with a few dollars by doing it yourself.