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Having decided to replace my ageing Canon BJC-210 my attention was drawn to the Epson 680, it has received rave reviews and with the price having dropped to less than £70 it seemed like a bargain. First impressions on getting it home were mixed, it comes with no cables (as usual), more annoyingly there is no paper pack to test out the 2880dpi it is capable of, nor is there any bundled software, though you can send off for 3 programs (from a list of about 15) which you only have to pay P&P for. Maybe looking for a paper pack and software is asking a bit too much when the price has dropped so far. The paper tray is laughably flimsy and time shall tell if it is up to the job, but it is better than letting the print drop to the floor (like my old printer did). They also claim the paper tray doubles up as a dust cover, which is a bit of a joke, true, it does fold up and attach to the front but it is hardly a dust cover. Otherwise construction quality seems to be acceptable, but not impressive. Installation is clearly explained (in a multitude of languages) for both parallel and USB connection, but strangely they never actually tell you to plug in the power cable at any point. I had some problems at this stage as the installation program did not seem to recognise the printer was there, borrowing a friends cable showed my old parallel cable as the problem (even though it had been working fine with my old printer for 5 years). I eventually bought a USB cable and re-installed everything without any problems. Print quality on plain inkjet paper is very good for plain text, however graphics and pictures do suffer from some banding. On higher quality paper, output of all types is amazing for such a cheap printer - text looks as good as a laser printer and photos look like, erm, photos. However these results nare the work of higher dpi settings and, as other reviews have mentioned, the higher dpi settings really drink the ink at an astonishing
rate. If you want to save some ink (and paper) the driver allows you to print multiple document pages to one printer page. You can also adjust the quality/speed settings, choose from a range of pre-defined modes, or if you really want fine control you can tweak all the settings individually. In general I find the speed very satisfactory, especially for plain text. If peace and quite are important to you, then you should probably look elsewhere, this machine is not a smooth operator. It makes an alarming array of mechanical whirls and clonks when first switched on, and during printing it doesn't get much better. Whether this crude nature will have any negative long terms affects on the printer itself only time will tell. The printer comes equipped with smart ink cartridges (they have a built in computer chip) that tell the printer how much ink they have left and this information is displayed on screen during printing (along side a progress indicator), it will also tell you how many more pages like the last one it printed can be produced from the remaining ink. Following installation this software, rather surprisingly, told me that my black cartridge was practically empty despite only having printed about 4 pages of text. My cynical side would suggest that they deliberately put a near empty cartridge in with the printer to force you to buy another really quickly. A downside of these smart cartridges is that once they think the cartridge is empty the printer will stop until you replace it. And once a cartridge thinks it is empty you cannot just re-fill it to convince it otherwise - no doubt a ploy from Espon to force you to buy their replacement cartridges. Replacement cartridges are not cheap, at £25 for black and £18 for colour, as mentioned above re-filling is not as easy as it is with most other cartridges, and 3rd party re-cycled cartridges are not as widely available. However, things are slowly changing and there a
re now some available on the web, though I haven't tried them myself (see bottom of review for web addresses). You can also buy a gadget that will re-program the cartridge chip allowing you to re-fill them as normal (again I haven't tried this). The physical changing of cartridges is really easy, and as both the colour and black cartridges are held in the printer at the same time you only need to change them when they run out. For a home user this is a great printer, it produces quality output and it is cheap to buy. A small office or a higher volume home user will probably want something quieter with lower running costs. Addresses for refill cartridges http://www.inkjetcartridgesuk.com/index.html http://www.inkjetuk.com/inkjets P.S. you can also get a "Transparent" version which is mechanically identical but has a naff translucent and blue case.
Having had an Epson 600 for a couple of years and installed 640s and a 440 for other folk, I have been used to the high quality of this manufacturer's machines. I could never work out how they could provide such capable printers for the price - they seemed to knock spots off the competition. Well, it seems that Epson realised they'd made a rod for their own back - they were selling them cheaply, but couldn't increase prices due the competition in the marketplace. There was no going back, but they needed a plan to increase their revenue and a way that their resellers could make a few more quid by stocking their products (there's not much dosh to be made from selling a printer). Enter the cunning Epson plan - the "intelligent" ink cartridge. A way to make purchasers buy Epson carts instead of third-party replacements and a nice incentive for resellers to stock them (the captive-market scenario). Each ink cart has a chip on board, which remembers how much ink has been used. This tells your computer when a new cart is required and gives a readout of the ink level, but also "halts" the cartridge when it has become empty, preventing the owner from refilling the reservoir. Presumably, the software contained in the chip is also copyrighted, preventing the "cloning" of chips for third-party manufacturers' own carts. I must admit, I didn't realise this before I bought the printer. Let's face it, no reseller in their right mind is actually going to tell you about this situation, in case you decide not to stump up the dosh! Instead, they'll just mention the speed (the 7.7 pages a minute relates to "economy mode" though, which is unusable for prints you actually need people to read) and the amazing 2880 DPI resolution (only using very expensive photo paper). Well, it didn't take long for some ingenious bloke (the manufacturer is Jet Tec) to come up with th
e answer....the chip reprogrammer! You can now buy a third-party kit for the 680 which allows you to re-use the chip on a non-Epson cartridge - it's really easy to use and it's around half the price of the original product! Proving that.... 1)Where there's a problem with a potentially money-making solution, someone somewhere quickly solves it 2)There were no technical reasons why Epson couldn't provide this interchangeable chip facility - only greed! There's nothing stopping me from heartily recommending this printer now. Sure, it feels just a bit flimsier than previous models and looks a tad like a breadbin, but the print quality is lovely (even on copy paper), it's quite quick and has both parellel and USB interfaces. The only problem now is that Epson will probably replace the model in a short while - they do love moving the goalposts. In the meantime, this £69 bargain-basement marvel has become even better value for money!
I bought my Epson Stylus Color 680 only 6 weeks ago and thought it was great. Prior to that, I'd had a Canon BJC 250 and, although it gave a reasonable quality printout, the ink cartridges were far too expensive and I always found colour prints to be very "bandy". So, along came my wonderful Epson printer and very pleased I was with it too. The print clarity was superb, it was much faster at most jobs than the Canon, and it has a super plastic flap on the front for catching the paper once it's been printed on. That is, until I recently had the misfortune of running out of black ink. The wonderful printer driver told me the black ink cartridge could print 7 more pages. And then, after that, I couldn't do any more. "Aha", I thought, "I can just use one of those super refill packs that come with a hyperdermic needle and a pot of ink." A bit of ink cartridge surgery if you will :) Now here comes the problem. These cartridges have a little chip on the back of them which tells the printer how much ink there is. When this reaches zero - no matter what you do (according to the literature), you cannot refill or re-use the cartridge. I found this out after using one ink-bottle full of black ink. So, overall, even though the printer is quite good, a big old "BOOOO" to Epson for giving us a printer where you can't refill the ink cartridges (unless you find something on the Internet that will reset the chip - I'm still looking).
I bought my first Epson Stylus printer about 6 years ago on the recommendation of a friend that was in the PC retail business. I specifically asked for a Canon and he recommended Epson instead. Am I glad I listened! The one that I bought was the first in the series, the “Epson Stylus Color”. It was big and bulky compared with the Canon BJC range and the HP Deskjet range. However, even back then it had greater advantages. It had a separate black ink cartridge (the HP & the Canon used all other 3 colors to “simulate” a black) hence it was cheaper to run. But the main thing I liked about it was the 720x720 DPI (dots per inch) print quality. The others were no where near this. I used that printer for 5 years without any problems and then sold it along with my computer. I now have the Epson Stylus Color 680. The mid-level printer in their “80” range. I have had it for 4 months now and am quite happy with it. This new series of printers are capable of 2880x1440 DPI. That is still the highest print quality of any printer on the market. It uses the standard A4 paper, but is adjustable to print on anything smaller and also on envelopes, as you’d expect. The print quality is great on normal paper. However, if you’d like to print out photographs I suggested you purchase Epson Stylus Photo Paper. If your image is perfectly scanned, than you’ll not be able to tell the difference between the photo and the printout. The printer comes with all the Epson drivers for Win95/98/NT/ME & Win2000. They do not include any special software in the pack anymore, however, they give you a list of free software that you can order and Epson pays for it, all you do is pay for the delivery. In March, the choices were: - Photosuite 3 SE (by MGI) - Videowave 3 SE (by MGI) - Photosuite SE (Mac) (by MGI) - Custom Photo (by Corel) - Print Office 2000 (by Corel) - Print House Magic Sel
ect Edition (by Corel) - Dance eJay 2 (by eJay) - EJay MP3 Station (by eJay) - FIFA 2000 (by EA Sports) - Need for Speed Porsche 2000 (by EA Sports) - LEGO Friends (by LEGO Software) - LEGO Loco (by LEGO Software) You can pick 3 of these titles for free (p&p will cost £8.99 for 3 titles) and get any extra titles for about half the retail price. Be warned though that these titles do not come with proper instruction manuals. Epson also always provide you with some test printing paper. You get a few sheets of “High quality Ink Jet Paper”, “Photo Paper” and also paper that you can print on and iron the printout on to your t-shirts. The first thing I do when I get an Epson printer is to print out the image that comes with the software they provide. Those images are supposed to be the best test for the printer. If you print one of those out on the “Photo Paper” and are not satisfied with the print quality, take the printer back. There must be something wrong. The images always should come out as the best print out you have ever seen. There was no printer cable in the box which disappointed me a little. However, I see the reason behind it. The printer is capable of working from a Printer Port (LPT) or via a USB connection. So, you buy the cable according to what suits your needs the best. I use the USB cable. Much better. The ink cartridges cost about £15 for the black and £25 for the color - depending totally on where you buy them of course. The installation is easy if you follow the instructions. The software controlling the printer is Epson Print Manager and you can do things like calibrate & clean the print head or check the ink nozzles through software. There is the normal 12 months warranty and the printer prints about 5 pages per minute in black & white mode and about 4 pages per minute in color mode. However, a proper photo in the “be
st” settings will take about 3 minutes. I find that it is worth the wait.
The Stylus Colour 680 is one of the latest printers in Epson's range and is the follow up to the Stylus 640. The design of the printer has changed quite a bit, becoming more curvy, although it has a very odd looking paper out 'tray' which is very flimsy. The 'tray' clips to the top of the printer when not in use, but it just looks odd when it's down. With both USB and parallel port interfaces this printer will connect to any recent PC, but as with all printers you don't get a cable. I find this incredibly annoying. It's a little like buying a television without an aerial lead. Neither use nor ornament. The printer drivers are easy to install and very easy to use in practice, although it does seem that they are aimed at novice users, because there is very little option to tweak the settings. The Stylus Colour 680 can print at a maximum resolution of 2880 dpi, but I could discern very little difference between that setting and the 1200 dpi that my old Canon BJC 4400 printed at. I used the same picture in both printers, using the manufacturers ink and the manufacturers own photo paper. While my Canon did show signs of banding, this is more to do with the printhead than the resolution. Experiment with the settings if you want to print photos as the top resolution gobbles ink at a phenomenal rate. You definitely won't need to print out text using this setting. On the whole the Epson Stylus Colour 680, is a well specified inkjet printer that prints great quality photos, but at 2880 dots per inch, don't expect your cartridges to last very long. It is also a little slow when printing large text documents (50 pages plus). It should also be noted that, as of yet, there are no compatible ink cartridges available, although it shouldn't take long before they are on the market. Currently this printer is available for between £90 to £120 depending where you shop. Mine came from a shop I loathe, but
it was £90 so I swallowed my pride.