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Geekology

Death by 1000 paper cuts

About 6 years ago, I was in the market for an all-in-one photo printer. It needed to print, scan, copy, fax, and print on photo paper. After reading many reviews, I chose the HP Photosmart 6150 (this is the Costco version of the 6100).   HP makes great calculators and logic analyzers, so I was ready to buy.  By the way, a quick check on Amazon shows that they still sell this printer (!!!).

This was an XP install (because back then, that was what was available), and everything initially looked like it was working and the print quality was good, but after working with it for a while, its software (and hardware) deficiencies began to rear their ugly head.

  • The memory leaks like a sieve.  Every time you print something, it leaves behind 2 processes that never close.  I was constantly going into the task manager to kill these tasks.
  • The sheet feeder broke the second time I used it.  The gears are plastic and it it just started clicking when they would not properly mesh together
  • Could not get colour scans to scan at 600 dpi or higher.  It kept on complaining of not enough memory, even though I had the maximum amount of memory for XP (2.75 GB).  A quick math check shows that a 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper at 600 dpi should consume around 100MB of memory.  The fact sheet claims 4800×4800 dpi optical resolution with a maximum 1200 dpi scan resolution.
  • Going through the fax log is agonizingly slow.  As in, many tens of minutes to retrieve an old sent fax.
  • HP update never worked.  It just keeps on popping up reporting an error.  Firewall allows it, no updates were ever made available by HP, yet the error continued to annoy.
  • Network connection became completely non-functional after installing the DynDNS updater.  I was able to create an IP alias and get the printer working again, but none of the other functions.  I finally had to install DynDNS on another machine that I knew would never use the printer.  Truthfully, this is probably the fault of DynDNS (I think it may have been trying to set up my printer for internet printing).
  • Periodic network connection failures which would require not just powering down the printer, but also unplugging it and replugging it.
  • The UI for scanning multi-page documents was terrible.  Multiple clicks to get it to scan each additional page (yes I want to scan another page, new scan, accept, repeat).  If you were busy changing pages in the scanner (because the sheet feeder didn’t work) or walked away for a coffee, you would have to remember where you were in that process.  Have I accepted the current page that I am viewing right now, or am I ready to scan a new page?  Failure to remember would mean dropping a page in the middle of your document, or getting 2 identical pages.
  • Photo prints never quite matched what I saw on the screen, they would always be too dark and I would always have to brighten the image by a lot before printing (this is with the basic photo fixing enabled).
  • Ink cartridge capacity was very low.  I could get around 20 8.5″x11″ photo prints before having to change a colour cartridge.  From observation I am led to believe photo printing uses K (black), Y, LM, and LC, and regular printing uses K, Y, C, and M.
  • [Sidebar: HP 02 black cartridge retail cost: $35, colour cartridge (of which there are 5 of them): $15 each.  Cloned ink cartridges from www.123inkcartridges.ca, the entire set of 6 for $20]
  • [Sidebar: all colour printing will print yellow tracking dots identifying your printer serial number (as an anti-counterfeiting measure), even if you are printing a black and white page, so your yellow cartridge will always drain much faster.  To save on yellow ink, when you print a b&w page, set to only use the black cartridge with grayscale printing in your printer properties.  It would be nice if it automatically did this]
  • And the final straw: for no good reason and out of the blue, photo prints started printing out way too warm.  I could change the colour tone to cooler, but it still wouldn’t look right.  Reboot computer, unplug and reboot printer, complete HP software uninstall and re-install did not fix the problem.

By the way, going to the HP website to download the latest software doesn’t help, since they’ve never actually updated the software.

As a former driver software developer, these problems were not just bad software, they are unacceptable.  So, out goes the 6150, and in comes the Epson Artisan 835 ($160 at www.canadacomputers.com, as I recall this is about 1/2 the price of the HP).  [Sidebar: The only difference between the 835 and newer 837 is that the 837 can print directly from your mobile device]  Print, scan, copy, fax, CD/DVD/BD printing, photo printing, duplex printing, wireless connection.  So far every element is superior to the HP.  It is much shorter than the HP, but it is deeper due to the duplexer on back (the HP didn’t have a duplexer).  The front panel touch screen UI is much nicer, the paper tray and output trays are well designed and unobtrusive, the sheet feeder is nicely integrated.  It is sleek and svelte and doesn’t have random plastic bits sticking out everywhere.  The software doesn’t leak and its much more intuitive.  The print quality is as good or superior to the HP, photo print speed is much faster than the HP, though regular printing is slower.  Photo prints more closely match what I see on the screen than the HP and I don’t have to brighten anything.  OEM ink cartridges are a bit cheaper than HP, but I’ll still be getting clone cartridges thank you.

I’ll continue to update this blog post if I run into any problems with the Epson.  But I don’t think I’ll ever buy an HP printer again.

  • I’ve only printed out a few photo prints so far with the new Epson, but I believe the ink cartridge capacity to be low also, in the same range of around 20 8.5″x11″ prints.
  • Black and white printing is a manual setting, similar to the HP, so I’ll be buying more yellow ink cartridges than any other colour.
  • Scanning is much faster on the Epson than the HP.  The Epson has a much better UI also, but also has a similar flaw where you have to click twice to scan an additional page.  The HP has a feature that the Epson doesn’t, which is to select the clip box of the scan before saving to a file, which can be useful when scanning documents of a non-standard size.  Overall, I still prefer the Epson.
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