Review of Epson L355 Continuous Ink System Printer
Colour Printing on inkjet printers is an expensive affair. Even well-heeled businesses find the cost concerning with Printer Manufacturer’s inks costing more than gold. As with everything, larger quantity supplies are cheaper, buying in bulk is cheaper. HP Cartridges carrying 15ml Inks work out cheaper than cartridges carrying 5ml ink.
One way to reduce cost of printing is to use cartridges manufactured by third parties that are compatible with your printer. Such cartridges are industrially manufactured with good quality components, cheaper than Printer Manufacturer’s cartridges and generally offer the same number of pages that can be printed. In practice, I have found that over a period of time, such cartridges end up clogging inkjet heads. Printers where printing-heads are separated from ink-tanks are at greatest risk and I ended up junking my Epson printer after using 4 – 5 such ink-tanks.
Another way to reduce cost of printing is to get the cartridges refilled or reconditioned. This process is even more dangerous and causes ink-leaks, head-clogging and immediate warranty invalidation.
For the techie armed with a syringe full of alcohol, another option exists where he can buy the refill ink (3rd party) in 500 ml / 1 litre quantities and perform the refill at home. So what if the printer-head gets clogged? Nothing like spending an hour or two flushing the cartridges with alcohol or progressively stronger solvents. A word of advice: Do not use Carbon Tetra-Chloride in closed spaces.
Continuous Ink Systems (CIS) have been a boon to those whose printing requirements and money making potential is far higher than the risk of junking the printer. I have known people who have purchased Epson printers and promptly performed the required surgery on them to install third-party Continuous Ink System filled with Third Party inks. Due to continuous printing and regular flushing, these printers do work long enough to recover their cost many times over.
When Epson launched a printer series featuring CIS, I was immediately interested. My client who requires full-page colour printing, was fed-up with buying ink-tanks every week. Since he was already done with futzing with the cartridges (with unsatisfactory results), he chose to bite the bullet and buy HP Tri-Color ink tanks and it was costing a pretty penny.
For the first time, a Printer Manufacturer was offering a Continuous Ink System Printer, capable of printing low-quality draft text to high quality 5000 dpi images. To top it, the manufacturer’s ink cost was unbelievable. Only Rs. 370/- for a bottle of 70ml ink (per colour, 4 colours). Compared to it, HP Tri-Color 678 Cartridge contains approx. 5ml ink and costs Rs. 450/-
At approx. 150 pages (according to HP) for Rs. 900, cost per page works out to Rs. 6/page. Epson CIS claimed 4000 pages for Rs. 1480, giving cost per print of Rs. 0.37/page. That’s an 8x reduction in cost.
HP claims Deskjet 2515 printer can print 150 pages from Tri-Colour 678 Cartridge (Rs.450/-) and 400+ pages from Black 678 Cartridge (Rs.450/-). Both are required for printing. Hence the assumption that maximum 150 Colour Pages can be printed at a minimum cost of Rs. 900/-
- Epson claims that L355 printer can print 6500 pages from 3 ink-bottles (Rs. 370/- each for Cyan, Magenta and Yellow) and 4000 pages from Black ink bottle (Rs. 370/-). All ink-bottles are required for printing. Hence the assumption that maximum 4000 Colour Pages can be printed at a minimum cost of Rs. 1480/-
Epson is currently the only one in the market offering such a product and there is a such a demand for this product, my local IT Market ran out of stock and I had to wait a full-week before I could get my machine.
- The printer’s single biggest USP is it’s Continuous Ink System and very very budget friendly inks. With inks so cheap and cost of printing being so less (high quality colour prints at half the cost of your neighborhood photocopy center’s bad quality B&W copies), who will ever have to consider buying third party inks or playing with syringes and swabs?
The device is almost entirely made of plastic and very light-weight (approx. 4.5 KGs). Easy to cart, easy to install. The device is also very compact. The CIS tanks do add to the overall width of the device but it is something I can live with.
- The printer features in-built transformer and does not require an external adapter that has weird combination of Voltage and Amperes (hint: HP Printer Adapters) or have really thin output power cables with non-standard headers (Hint: Again, HP). Just plugin the supplied AC cable (VCR Cable) and you are good to go. On the other hand, if you want to use the printer in a country with different voltage, you will have to carry a step-up/step-down transformer.
- The printer features a straight paper-path. Paper dropped in the tray at the top, slides in and emerges from the front, relatively unmolested. This should make it easier to print on card-stock without cracking the surface of the paper. The paper guide is not notched. As a result, it is easy to slide it to the right position.
- The printer supports WiFi (802.11n) and can be hooked into the network with a little effort. Once on the network, the printer enables Bonjour, LPPR etc. services and supports printing from Windows OS, Mac OS, iOS & Android. Apparently, Blackberry is already dead for Epson.
The Printer is no speed demon. Even draft mode printing is considerably slower than HP Deskjet printers (basic model like 2515).
- Print quality on Plain Paper in Standard Mode is inferior to HP Deskjets. The printout appears to be far lower density (180 dpi ?) and has faded colours (versus rich saturated colours on HP). Photo Printing is very slow (nearly two minutes for A4 size) but this is where the printer shines. Where HP prints tend to get really saturated, the Epson gives a very balanced image which looks detailed.
- The printer may fail to pick up thick paper or card stock unless you set the paper-size and paper-type correctly in the ‘Printer Settings’ dialog at the time of printing. The printer also has issues picking single sheets. You are advised to stock the paper input tray with more than a few sheets.
- The buttons on the printer seem delicate and must be handled with care. At my friends office, where employees typically take out their frustration by damaging company assets, I wonder how many days will pass before the buttons give way altogether and Epson claims that “buttons cannot be repaired, printer must be replaced”.
Setting up WiFi is complicated. Epson does not provide a software utility for it. The printer does not have an interface for that. It’s NOT like you can select the SSID of the network you want to join, type the WiFi password and you are good to go. The printer can only be configured via WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) and if your router does not support WPS, you are out of luck. The printer does not feature a RJ-45 LAN port as backup Network Interface either.
- The printer does not support common protocols like DPOF (print directly from camera), does not come with a automatic Duplexer option for printer or a Automatic Document Feeder for scanner.
- The in-paper-tray holds only 100 sheets and the output tray holds only 30 sheets. The printer also does not support a straight paper-path (for printing on cardboard, canvas, cloth) or continuous paper.
- The scanner on the printer is of CIS (Contact Image Scanner) type. Such scanners have the light source and the image-sensor elements placed adjacently. The advantage is the near instant start-up and good scans of paper that is placed against the glass. However, CIS is no good for scanning 3D objects. The Depth-of-Field of the image sensors is near zero and only scans surface that are held against the scan-bed.
My client purchased this scanner for the purpose of preparing Jewellery Certificates (on Card Stock), scanning jewellery and occasional photocopy. The printer performs admirably well in printing Jewellery Certificates and fails miserably in jewellery scanning. While the Epson L355 scanner is no worse than it’s predecessor (HP F4200), our inability to scan rings-bangles-necklaces is disappointing.
I have counter-argued that a $20 fixed-lens Digital Camera will any day take better images of our jewellery, the challenge that has been set for me now is to make a fool-proof setup for it.
One chapter (print at less cost) closes and another one opens (take better pictures of jewellery).