Hands-On Test Report: Epson’s B-510DN Business Color Ink-Jet Printer Gives Color Lasers A Run For Their Money

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Wirth Consulting has just completed a Hands-On Test Report on what we feel is a really important digital imaging device, the $599 Epson B-510DN Business Color Ink Jet Printer.  It hasn’t gotten a lot of marketing support (when was the last time you saw an Epson commercial?), but it is a ground-breaking product. What’s that sound?  It’s the sound of you all murmuring to yourselves, “$599 for an ink-jet printer?”  Before you go apoplectic, we suggest that you ponder the following points:

Feature Set – The B-510DN is office-ready out of the box with standard automatic duplexing, Ethernet networking, and two media sources for a total 650-sheet capacity.  Most (if not all) low-priced color laser printers, either do not have these capacities or must be upgraded to meet or exceed them resulting in a total acquisition price that meets or exceeds $599.

Print Speed – Epson advertises that the B-510DN prints at 37/37 ppm in B&W/color draft mode, the quality of which is more than acceptable for internal business correspondence and archival purposes.  ISO prints speeds for the B-510DN are 19/18 ppm in B&W/color.  Single-pass color laser printers in this price range are rated in the range of 21/19 ppm, while four-pass color laser printers are rated in the range of 20/5 ppm.  Although print speeds in ISO mode may be slightly slower than a comparably-priced color laser printer, the time saved in changing and adding supplies/media (see below) more than offsets this minor differential.  On top of that, unlike other business-class ink-jet devices, with Epson’s MicroPiezo® imaging technology, there’s no drying time required in duplex mode–the printer does not have to pause before printing on the second side of the media.

Image Quality – There’s not much to say here other than that in our tests, the B-510DN produced image quality that was superior to that of most desktop color laser printers.

Raw TIFF photo taken of the B-510DN’s continuous-tone output.

Raw TIFF photo taken of the continuous-tone output of a workgroup color laser printer that costs in the neighborhood of $4,000.

Supply Yield – The B-510DN’s Extra High Yield black ink cartridge yields 8,000 pages, while each High Yield color ink cartridges yields 7,000 pages.  Color laser printers in this price range typically use toner cartridges that yield 2,000 pages.  With these lower-yield toner cartridges, users will have to spend more time replacing supplies–and laser-printer supplies can be more time-consuming and involved to replace than ink cartridges.

Maintenance – The B-510Dn’s ink cartridges are wrapped in a plastic bag and are simple plastic boxes with an embedded chip.  There’s a Maintenance Box ($17.99) for the disposal of ink removed during a cleaning cycle.  Changing these supply items is as easy as it gets and we contend that in the history of imaging, it’s among the easiest of color devices to maintain.  (If the average user can’t perform these duties, we’re all doomed.)  That can’t be said in regards to color laser printers that have a minimum of four toner cartridges that must first be unboxed, removed from a foil pouch, rotated to distribute the toner evenly, and have a strip or seal removed.  Then, the user must delve into the heart of the unit to remove the old cartridge and install the new one.  Quite frankly, many office users can’t be trusted to perform these duties without the risk of some type of mishap occurring.

Maintenance Items – As stated, the B-510DN ships with four large ink cartridges and a maintenance box.  Color laser printers have a minimum of four toner cartridges and a fuser unit that must be replaced, typically after 30,000 prints.  Some color laser printers also use a transfer belt, developing/drum units, and maintenance kits that must be periodically replaced in order to keep them running.

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