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Our Canon BJC-6200 was finally binned this week. Whooppee! The Canon BJC-620 died about two months ago and was replaced with an Epson Stylus C64. We liked it so much we bought... no, not the company, but we did buy another one! The new one arrived today, and I thought it would be good to write the review of this printer as I unpack the box and plug it in, then tell you a bit about why I like it so much. Here goes...
THE PACKAGING The first thing to notice is that as the sellotape is removed from the top of the box, a good amount of the pretty green external colouring comes with it. This reassures me that the box hasn't been opened before. The outer carton is sturdy, and inside there is a small piece of cardboard and the usual unrecyclable polystyrene packaging. The packaging was good enough to see the printer delivered to me in perfect condition. The printer itself is wrapped in polythene, and all the extras are individually wrapped in polythene bags or bubble wrap. This should keep everything dry in our damp climate.
THE CONTENTS - in the order they emerge... A sealed sample pack of 2 sheets of 4" x 6" photo paper (I'll play with that later...) A CD labelled "Printer software for Epson Stylus C64 series" (glad that's there!) A mains lead with a standard 3-pin plug. A sealed small package of documents containing an A2 printed Setup sheet (printed in English on one side and French on the other), and a warranty. The Setup sheet has instructions for unpacking the printer, installing ink cartridges, installing printer software and accessing the online reference guide. Sadly, this means there is no printed manual. A 4-pack of full size ink cartridges (separate ink tanks for black, cyan, magenta, yellow). Paper support and finally....
the printer! There is a notice stuck to the printer warning you to remove some packaging from inside - must read this!
The printer is lightweight and I had no trouble removing it from the box by myself (even though I'm just a weak woman :-). It's beautiful. A lovely silver and black design with rounded corners so there's nothing hard to bash yourself on.
There are protective plastic sheets over the printer covers, with nice little blue tabs making them easy to remove. Inside was a small piece of polystryrene with another friendly blue tag. It would be hard to miss these!
THE PAPER SUPPORT According to the instructions, I have to install the paper support and plug the printer in. The paper support is a very aesthetically pleasing semicircular pice of dark grey plastic and was a dream to slot into place. The instructions are clear and concise with informative diagrams. The paper support on my old Canon BJC-6200 had a habit of dropping into the printer on one side and letting the paper flop. It's nice to see that the paper support on this Epson sits on top of the printer with little slots inside the back of the printer. It shouldn't be possible for the support to drop.
It doesn't say anything yet about a printer lead, and there wasn't one with the printer (but I have a parallel printer lead from my old Canon-BJC 6200 which should do the job). Following the instructions, I won't connect the printer to my PC at this point, just plug it in and go on to the next stage.
- A USEFUL TIP Under my desk there is a 6-gang plug. At some stage the bright chap in our office labelled all the plugs with the names of their corresponding appliances, so I easily find the one for my old Canon printer and unplug it. After another couple of minutes, I have the lead untangled and my old printer out of the way. Before plugging the new one in, I label the plug.
INSTALLING THE INK CARTRIDGES As instructed, I press the power button. I am left with a flashing green light on the power button, and a permanent red light on the ink button. I wonder if this is right, but it doesn't say (and of course, with no manual yet you can't check the error codes (please can we have printed manuals back???).
Installing the ink cartridges, there are good instructions with clear pictures, but the ink cartridges do not push home with a satisfying click. And I can't get the cover on. Then I realise it's because I haven't pushed hard enough (I'm always scared of breaking things - I don't seem to have a good track record with electrical equipment!). After a good hard push on each of the cartridges, there are 4 loud clicks. My colleague on the other side of the office comments "I don't like the sound of that"... so I figure I've got it right this time. Now the cover on the ink cartridges closes properly. I put the cover down.
...the green light's still flashing and the red light's still on...
CHARGING THE INK The next step is to "press the ink button". So this I do. At first, I didn't think anything was going to happen. Then the red light went out and my printer started making a lot of noise. The instructions say the printer is "ink charging" and that it takes about one and a half minutes. I don't know what it is, but I'm timing it... it's just over a minute. The printer's gone quiet. The green light has stopped flashing. I think it's finished. There is a warning in the instructions that says some of the ink in the cartridges is used up charging the print head, so this initial set of cartridges won't last as long as the next set.
INSTALLING THE PRINTER SOFTWARE Turn off the printer (seems sad since I've just got the friendly green light to come on). Now the light starts flashing again. I'm worried. Oh, it's OK, it's gone out after a few seconds.It says to connect with a USB or parallel printer cable. My previous printer was attached to a parallel printer cable, so I just attach this one where I disconnected the last one, and plug my old cable into the parallel slot. Luckily, the USB & parallel slots are on the left of the machine, in the same place as for my last printer, so the leads don't need moving about.
Now it says to install the printer software. It warns me to turn off my anti-virus protection first (I don't like doing this, but you have to switch off any programmes that might be running in the background when you install new software, so I'll need to.)
The CD is inserted in the drive and it autoruns. It asks me to confirm that the anti-virus software is switched off, then opt for a language (you can choose from English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch). It informs me that the following will be installed:
Next, the software reports "Click on install", which I do (I think it's best to follow the instructions in these situations ;-). There is a message asking for the printer to be switched on... I switch it on... lots of hard drive activity...XP messages "Found New Hardware: Epson Stylus C64" and "Software installed" (which it isn't yet). I do nothing for a few minutes and the rest of the sofware installs itself with no further action from me until an Internet connection is requested. I connect to the internet (my connection box has helpfully appeared all by itself).
I fill in my details on the Epson website to complete Epson's Online Registration, and I'm left with "Launching EPSON online registration" on screen. I've finished. I wonder what to do...
...while I'm wondering, I close Internet Explorer and disconnect from the internet... I twiddle my thumbs for a few seconds...
...the CD starts up again and it says "Congratulations! Installation is complete".
REFERENCE GUIDE The setup guide informs me to "see the "Reference Guide" for detailed information about printing from your computer for the first time". So I set about finding it. Actually it's not too difficult because there are two new icons on my desktop - "ESC64 Refere..." and "ESC64 Software Guide". I assume it's the first one I want and double click.
The Reference Guide has sections titled:
How to Print Various Printing Options Printer Software Settings Replacing Ink Cartridges Improving print quality Problem solver Other information
It is simple to use and helpful, but I would prefer a printed manual - they are so much easier to read.
PRINTING FOR THE FIRST TIME Loading the machine with paper for the first time, two things strike me as great ideas. The first is that the paper is almost upright, so the printer takes up very little space on my desk. The second is that the sheet feeder holds a huge 120 pages of premium inkjet paper. This is much more than any other inkjet we have owned. There are helpful tabs on the paper guides to stop you overloading the paper, and to show where the paper goes.
I can't find a test page to print, so I go ahead and print something of my own. Brilliant! It prints perfectly first time. The whole setup process took about 30 minutes in total.
COLOURS The colours are bright, clear and intense. The Epson's Durabrite inks are certainly superior to either of our old Canon inkjet printers.
PRINT QUALITY The print quality is superb for an inkjet: crisp, clear fonts with good deep colouring. The black is a really good deep black and you really could mistake this for laser printing.
INK TECHNOLOGY The new Epson Durabrite inks are claimed to be waterproof and smudge proof.One of the most annoying things about our old Canon BJC-6200 was the way the ink had a tendency to smudge on newly printed labels. We print labels for some software that is supplied on a floppy disc, and it is really annoying to have to wait for ages for the ink to dry before applying labels. Epson claim their new Durabrite ink is smudgeproof, so I put it to the test. Immediately a label sheet printed, I rubbed my thumb along the ink and it didn't smudge. It even passed the "licked finger" test :-) Without a magnifying glass, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between this printer and a colour laser, high praise indeed!
Smudgeproof printing also makes it possible to perform double-sided printing without having to wait for inks to dry. When printing double-sided on our Canon BJC-6200, I had to place a piece of scrap paper in the sheet feeder behind the printing sheet because ink from the first side would rub off onto paper in the sheet feeder when printing the second side. There is no need to do this with the Epson - an added bonus!
Epson claim their Durabrite inks are light resistant for up to 80 years on their own brand heavy matte paper. Wow.
RUNNING COSTS Separate ink tanks for magenta, cyan and yellow reduce running costs since you only need to replace ink cartridges as they run out. Having said that, the ink cartridges are fairly expensive at £19.37 for the black ink and £7.62 for each of the colours (prices correct at Viking Direct on 27th November 2003). Hopefully, the prices will come down as they produce higher quantities. At the moment, the Epson C64 (and Epson C84 which takes the same cartridges) are fairly new on the market, so replacement cartridges are only just becoming widely available.
At £42.23 (inc VAT) for a complete set of ink cartridges, it would be tempting (although not environmentally acceptable) to throw away the printer and buy a new one when the ink needs replacing. It certainly doesn't seem worth repairing printers these days, which is probably why so many printers on the market seem tacky, plasticky and not built to last.
RELIABILITY We have had one of these machines running in our office for about two months now. It is hard to comment on reliability after such a short space of time, but we have had no problems so far and the machines seem more robust than many similarly priced models. We have had no need to contact Epson support, so I cannot report on how good (or otherwise) they are.
PAPER HANDLING The Epson, like our Canon-BJC6200, has very good paper handling. We have had no misfeeds thus far and have used it for printing on a variety of media including premium inkjet paper, A4 label sheets, photo paper, T-shirt transfers, CD-R labels and insert labels for CD covers. The colours on all media are bright and consistent.
REPLACING INKS Ink cartridges are straightforward to replace; full instructions are in the online reference guide.
PRINT SPEED Slow on high quality printing, but the standard text printing is of a standard speed and still has good quality printing. Photos can take a couple of minutes to print, but are printed with excellent results.
PRINT TO EDGE OF PAPER Along with the waterproof inks, the Unique Selling Point for this printer is the ability to perform "borderless" printing. This means that your prints can come out looking like real photographs.
WEBSITE The official Epson website page for the C64 with all the technical information you could want is
PURCHASE COST £61.10 (inc. VAT) + P&P for the basic Epson Stylus C64 from Dabs.com, ordered last night at 4 p.m. from their website, and arrived here in rural Cornwall before 11 a.m. this morning (and just before Christmas too!).
EPSON STYLUS C64 PHOTO EDITION The only difference between the standard edition and the photo edition is that the photo edition includes "Print Image Framer" software and a 20 sheet 10 x 15cm DURABrite media pack.
If you've managed to read this far, thanks and go for it!