Deciding On InkJet Printer Replacement For Home, Mixed Use

Jul 28, 2014
Hi all -

I'm new to this forum. Trying to get informed opinions from manufacturers and even sales guys is difficult, particularly when they haven't actually used the products (Calling Epson, for example, I get reps who merely read off what promo materials they are given, as opposed to having hands on experience with the printers.).

Anyway, I'm glad I found a forum such as this and hope you can chime in with some opinions.

I am in a home environment with just my wife and myself. I am an actor and musician, and sometimes amateur photographer with an artful eye. My Canon Pixma ip4500 broke down after several years of fairly light use and am replacing it. Here are several thoughts and questions to ponder:

1) I'm trying to narrow down brands. Of the HP/Brother/Canon/Epson, I keep hearing durability and DOA issues with HP and have for several years, so I think I'm eliminating that brand.

2) I want to spend under $200, preferably in the mid-to-lower $100s. I want to get a durable, quality printer that won't be a headache to own.

3) Between my wife and I, we do very little printing -- probably about 5 printouts per week, sometimes less. She tends to print out knitting patterns and accompanying photos of the finished product (on plain paper). As an actor, when I go for an audition, I need to print out 1-page acting resume on plain paper (Casting people are just getting a brief idea of your experience. The resume needs to be legible, but not the level of quality that you might need for a traditional job interview.). As an amateur photographer, I might print out something on an occasional basis (once per month) to see how it looks. But I'm not one to spend hours fiddling on getting it just right at home. If I really wanted a gallery quality copy of a photograph, I'd probably send it out to a good printer like Aspen Creek or the like. Occasionally, I might copy and print out some music, or I might even print out some music I have written from a program like Sibelius.

4) I am looking at the Epson WF-3620 and the Epson xp-810, both similarly priced at Best Buy. I'm open, though, to another brand of printer. I don't need a fax capability. I have an older scanner, but it would be nice to have one integrated to allow seamless copying an printing.

5) Regarding ink type, I do have a concerned about overall ink cost, but it won't be the only consideration.. There are obviously pros and cons about different ink types (pigment/dye) as well as brand formulas. The 3620 uses the 4-color DuraBrite pigment inks. The xp-810 uses a 5-color Claria set of dye based inks, with the 5th being a pigment black. I have been reading that pigment inks can be more likely to clog a printhead if not used regularly (but how regularly is that?). With our infrequent use, it could be days, even a week or so between printing. I read that if you turn the printer off, that helps, but it means more ink wasted because of the purging done when you turn back on the printer. If that's the case, that may offset the less expensive costs of the DuraBrite ink (Pigment black Claria ink runs about $45/1000 prints vs. $35/1100 of the Durabrite, if using the high capacity cartridges.

6) Speaking of the high capacity cartridges, is there any disadvantage to using them, particularly for the first few years of owning the printer ? If you buy the high capacity ones just before the printer goes kaput, you'll be stuck with more unused ink, I suppose.

7) The new PrecisionCore based printers, such as the wf-3620, are supposed to be faster than previous print heads. As the wf-3620 is designed to be used a LOT, I sort of figure that it would be more durable, but then again, if the DuraBrite inks are going to end up clogging the printer heads more, then perhaps it's not a good choice for the spartan printer user.

8) I have actually taken a wf-3620 home to try (I am in the trial period and can return it for a refund). I have found it both easy as well as a bit more tricky to use (in that there are more configurations than on the Canon I had). I have not had the chance to try Epson brand paper (photo or otherwise), so that might affect the results I'm getting. It seems to do fine with text and graphics are very good on paper, but really if you use it on the high setting for plain/bright paper. If you use a normal standard setting, it defaults to high speed, resulting in some slight to somewhat noticeable banding. Turning off the high-speed setting, you lessen and sometimes eliminate the banding. I did try fiddling with the print head alignment tool in the printer. While that helped, it didn't eliminate it entirely in the standard setting. Going to high resolution, the grainy quality of the printing gets eliminated and there is absolutely no banding. Clearly, if you're concerned with getting a seamless print, at least on a non-Epson paper (this is Staples bright white), you need to set the quality setting to high. Colors on the standard paper are pretty spot on, even getting black to be fairly deep.

Photos are another story. On Staples Premium Glossy Paper (bright 95), colors seem muted and blacks are more dark brown, it seems. I don't get the depth. But of course, pigment inks aren't supposed to do as well on glossy paper. Still, Epson advertises that one of the breakthroughs on their DuraBrite pigment ink is supposed to be the ability to look great on glossy paper, but perhaps it's formulated to look good on THEIR glossy paper.

Overall, ratings from users on Amazon rate the wf-2620 printer quite high, getting about a 4.5 out of 5. The xp-810 gets about a 3.8/5, almost a whole rating lower. A lot of it has to do with users complaining how much ink the xp-810 uses, but then again, some users seem to be getting opposite results. Overall, the users of the xp-810 are happy with the output results. I think the users of the wf-3620 are happy with the reliability of the printer, but clearly many of those users are using it far more than my wife and I will. Text and graphics on plain white paper seem to be really good (for me, as long as you're doing either only text or text and graphics on the high setting). The response on photos seems to be decent but no one is overwhelmed. The previous incarnation, the wf-3520, was supposed to be one of the best all-in-one printers of the last couple of years. And with the inclusion of the PrecisionCore chips, these are supposed to be an improvement with regard to detail and speed. Feedback from long-term users, of course, is very important as different issues come up vs. those who may or may not be impressed initially.

If you have gotten this far, thanks for your patience. I can't seem to get any really useable feedback from Best Buy or Staples in terms of actual experience and feedback.

So to sum it up, I'm looking for a multi-functional printer to be used for a variety of purposes, but, all-in-all, we'll be very light users. I'd like to balance output quality with ink costs, initial printer price and durability.

Any informed thoughts or suggestions will be appreciated.
FIRST UPDATE: One thing to add here. I talked to another person at Epson. He said that once opened, an ink cartridge will last about 6 months before essentially drying up. Because of that and my pending light usage, he recommended not getting the xp-810 because the photo black, only used for photos, will be a relatively useless added expense if I'm only going to print out 1 or so photos per month with it. The yield of the photo black cartridge is estimated at 200 4x6 prints. If I only do a couple per month, I clearly won't get my money's worth out of it.

He also suggested NOT getting the high-capacity ink cartridges for the same reason, as I'll just have to replace them after six months or so; and I certainly won't be doing 1100 prints over a six month period. The downside is that the per print cost (cpp) rises highly with standard cartridges

Agree here?

SECOND UPDATE: Went ahead and committed to purchasing more of the DuraBrite inks following the conversation from the Epson person. I'm leaving up this post because I think it brings up some interesting issues and that for posterity, any discussion here will be useful to others going forward.
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