GCN LAB REVIEW—Printers
Epson B 500DN
The B-500DN might use inkjet, rather than laser, technology to print pages, but the results are good
Pros: Extremely easy to install, good color accuracy
Cons: Text is not as sharp as a laser printer’s output, speeds are slightly slower than most covered in this review
Color accuracy: A-
Color Speed: B
B&W speed: B-
Government price: $485
Epson always seems to march to the beat of a different drummer, and the B-500DN is another example of this. Every other company submitted a laser printer model, but Epson delivered an inkjet printer with the B-500DN. Now before you pooh-pooh inkjets as being more fit for the realm of home computers, know that the B-500DN is extremely fast and can produce nice color images, if you don’t look too closely.
Products in this review:
When color matches quality and price
Hewlett-Packard Color LaserJet CP3525x
Panasonic KX MC6040
Xerox Phaser 6280
A huge advantage of the B-500DN was its easy setup. The printer is extremely light and can easily be lifted into place by one person, even with one hand. The ink cartridges are easily installed, and they can’t be put into the printer incorrectly. Each cartridge has a key-like pattern so that cyan can’t go into magenta or be placed backwards or upside down. Even if you can’t read, trial and error should allow you to set up the B-500DN in just a few minutes.
Likewise, when installing the software, there is a huge button labeled “Easy” that will take care of getting the B-500DN ready to go, though you can choose to customize the installation if you prefer.
When printing, the B-500DN is surprisingly fast. Given that inkjet technology is generally slower than laser printing, we expected a long wait. However, the B-500DN crunched our text and graphical test documents in identical times of 1 minute, 56 seconds — a bit poky for straight text printing but a good time for color. In either case, no lines should form around the printer during heavy use.
Its quality was a mixed bag. Photos looked good, even when printed onto plain office paper. Epson sent us some special Bright White Paper to use in the testing. The funny thing is that images looked better on standard office paper, though just barely. The problem is that although the colors are accurate, the images lack extreme definition. Very fine images tend to blur a little because inkjet technology sprays the image onto the paper.
It’s the same story with text. It looks fine from a distance, but the letters are very jagged when you look closely. Most people probably won’t be going over your documents with a magnifying glass or photo loupe, but if they do, they will notice the distortion.
The B-500DN had some slight problems with paper handling. Pages, which are printed with the last one in a document coming out first, tend to shoot out of the middle of the printer with incredible force. You can get a paper cut if your hand is near the output tray. And this force means that pages don’t stack neatly on top of one another. Our 30-page test documents came out in a jagged pile, with a few pages off kilter. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it's something to look out for. A little more passive pressure in the return tray might fix that problem for the B-500DN and knock down some of those paper flyaways.
The B-500DN certainly is inexpensive enough and performs well for most office tasks. If you print photographs and use photographic paper, it’s the obvious choice. Had the Brother HL-4070 not been in this review, the Epson B-500DN might be the best value. Even so, it’s worth a second look if you need an inexpensive color printer that a small workgroup will share.
Epson America, 800-463-7766, www.epson.com