By M. Gondek
on 2018-01-10 Okay only if you must have large format, best in B&W
I've had a half dozen printers over the last few years, with my current favorite being the Brother MFCJ5830DW Inkjet All-in-One Color Printer, Wireless, Duplex Printing, and Mobile Printing, 2DayDeliver Dash Replenishment Enabled
. I'll compare this machine to that one, as a benchmark at about the same price (the Epson is $20 cheaper at this writing).
1. Unboxing. The Epson arrives in a box with minimal packaging, which is nice for ease of disposal. But there's also nothing else in the box, despite the description's claims - no quick-start guide, no CD of drivers or user manuals, nothing. There's the cord, four ink cartridges, and the printer. You're on your own to figure out how to set it up. The Brother, on the other hand, came extremely well packaged, with four complete sets of ink, and a very complete wifi setup and quickstart guide.
2. Setup is lousy. After you plug it in and turn it on, the Epson sort of guides you through setup with its horribly outdated push-button/LCD screen combo. This is the same lousy LCD screen that Epson has been using for at least 10 years, and they've made zero improvements. One line of text scrolls s-l-o-w-l-y, so you have to wait for the scroll to read full instructions. The instructions, themselves, are brief and unhelpful. For example, the second thing you're greeted with is Settings. Push the OK button and it asks if you want to print the Print Counter, whatever that is. There's no way NOT to print these pages. If you hit No (down arrow), it ignores you. You have to print it (up arrow) or choose Back to get out of this. Then manually scroll through Ink Levels, Maintenance, and Paper Source. These settings, their order, and the nesting are not at all user friendly - for example, you have to scroll and click 6 times to find the Thick Paper setting, which isn't under Paper Source but under Maintenance. Huh?
Wifi setup is similarly tedious. First you'll need to scroll to decide whether to use the wizard, push button setup (WPS), PIN code setup, Auto connect, or Direct Setup. With no information on any of these, I'm glad I was able to just use the wizard, which found my network on its first try. Once the machine finds your network, you'll need to use the endless clicking method to enter your password. Since my unit came with no instructions, I clicked forever to figure out that I have to click the Refresh button to switch between capitals, lower case, and numbers. It then told me I had a firmware update available, but gave no option to install it or not, nor information on how to check this. So maybe it updated in the background - I really have no idea.
If you haven't set up a printer in the last few years, Epson's approach may be completely lacking for you. By contrast, the Brother came with an excellent quick start guide, plus the screen easily walks you through setup with clear instructions and easy language. But more importantly, it uses a touchscreen that has useful information, is well laid out, and is incredibly easy to use. Winner: Brother, no contest
2. Driver installation. What drivers? My Windows computer recognized the printer first try, without any need for discovery. But since the print settings weren't complete (just paper size and paper quality), I went to Epson's website to download the drivers. I did NOT install the utility package, because I hate all the excess junk Epson installs whenever I install one of its printers. For example, the utility package includes fax and copy utilities... for a printer that does neither of these things. The new drivers sadly installed a second copy of the printer on my computer, but that was easy enough to fix. They do give a decent suite of print options, including presets, multiple two-sided settings, multi-page settings, etc., so I recommend installing them. I believe I went through a similar process with the Brother printer, although I did install that utility package because it came with less bloatware and is actually useful. So winner: Brother, only for the utility package
3. Printing. Here's what really matters most, right? The Epson is very, very fast, nearly spitting "fast" pages onto the floor with impressive force - it's much faster than the Brother at the "standard" quality. High-quality printing is also reasonably fast, but about the same as the Brother. Two-sided printing is also faster than the Brother, which is *incredibly* slow (it's the single thing I like least about the Brother).
That said, the print quality at the highest levels is noticeably worse on the Epson. I wouldn't consider using the Epson for anything where graphic quality was a top priority, while the Brother easily replaces my professional printer in a pinch. The color settings in the Epson's setup are also much more limited than the Brother's, where you can make a large number of color tweaks to get the best possible home-printer output.
Winner: Epson for B&W standard printing. Brother for color and high quality.
4. Versatility. Epson has double paper trays plus a rear input; Brother only has one tray and a rear input. Epson's real advantage here is its large format printing capacity. It can print pages up to 13" x 19", while the Brother only goes up to 11" x 17". If large format is your top concern, the Brother isn't even an option for you. That said, the Brother does allow faxing, scanning, and copying, while the Epson does not. So for the price, you'll get that trade-off of large format for fax/scan/copy. Interestingly, Epson does have large format printers with fax/scan/copy that are cheaper than this printer, so I'm not sure what the advantage to this one is there. Winner: depends if you need large format
5. Ink. Epson's cartridges are smaller than Brother's, although I can't find any info on page count estimates for the Epson. I've found with past Epson printers, though, that they run through ink very, very quickly. Having the black cartridge be the same size as the color cartridges is a real drawback, since they all seem to drink black ink like it's free. The Brother uses a black cartridge that's (visually) about three times the size of the color cartridges, so I replace the black ink a lot less often. It's worth noting that the Brother came with four complete sets of ink in the box, which greatly decreased its working cost. I can't tell from the current product description if that's still the case, however.
6. Minor details. The Epson is HUGE for a home office printer, a few inches bigger even than the Brother (which is pretty big in its own right). Both are energy star compliant, both seem sturdy enough, both have all the usual places for paper to jam, and otherwise have little to distinguish them.
Overall, this printer feels like a step back to the early 2000s for me. I appreciate the large format, but the other trade-offs are significant and potentially costly. If you must have 13" x 19" prints, I'd recommend it only with reservations.