Review: Epson L655, quality meets excellent value for money

Review: Epson L655, quality meets excellent value for money

 

ACCORDING to market research firm, International Data Corporation (IDC), the worldwide hardcopy peripherals market declined 10.6 percent year-over-year on shipments of 23.11 million units in the first quarter of 2016. Inkjet printers experienced a year-over-year decline of 11.1 percent, while the laser market declined 10.5 percent year-over-year.
 
This is definitely not good news for printer manufacturer Epson, who introduced their Ink Tank System printer L655 last year. It needs to be something special to help the company boost sales.
 
Features and Setup
 
At first glance, the L655 looks like just another multifunction printer aimed at the SOHO market. In addition to colour printing at up to an A4 size, it also has fax, scan and copy capabilities. Although it might look 'ordinary', Epson has big hopes for this printer due to its refillable ink tanks. Also, if you wish to save on paper, the L655 has duplex printing capability.

Review: Epson L655, quality meets excellent value for money
 

The refillable tanks are located as a separate detachable unit on the side. A thin ribbon runs from the external tanks to the internal one. To setup the printer, you need to fill up all four tanks - black, magenta, cyan and yellow. This is not as easy as the traditional cartridge-based inkjet printers. You need to be really careful not to spill the ink or end up mixing it with the ink in the nearby tank.
 
It took us around 20 minutes to complete the task. And after that, the printer takes more than 20 minutes to get ready for printing.
 
Connecting the Epson L655 to a PC or wireless network is a much less painful task. The Epson printer driver guides you through the whole process, at the end of which you need to complete the setup using the 2.2-inch mono LCD panel on the printer itself. Unfortunately, the LCD screen is not touch-enabled. So you will need to stoop over and use the keys around it. In addition to Wi-Fi connectivity, the L655 is equipped with RJ45 and USB ports.
 
One word of caution about the Epson driver. During setup, it automatically connects to the company's servers to check for an updated version. This includes a check for the latest printer firmware. If you choose to download the new driver or firmware, be ready to spend another 30 minutes to complete the software update.
 
Performance
 
The Epson L655 is playing in a field dominated by very good products from printing leviathans such as HP and Canon. So it needs to perform well in all departments to stand out.
 
And that is exactly what it does.
 
In terms of printing speed, the Epson L655 is on par with many other cartridge-based inkjet printers that we have seen. Printing a colour page at its highest quality setting takes just over one minute while duplex printing takes more than two minutes. Printing using glossy photo paper takes about three minutes per page.
 
While slower than a printer like the HP OfficeJet Pro 6970, it is faster than other cartridge-based multifunction printers such as the Canon E560.
 
With the L655, Epson maintains its reputation for high print quality. We printed our reference pages on different types of paper ranging from 70 grams to thick photo paper. Whether it is colour images or black text, the quality is among the best we have seen from an inkjet printer.
 
But what about total cost of ownership (TCO)?
 
While the L655 matches the competition in printing speed and quality, it ends up in a completely different league when you include TCO in the comparison.
 
The refillable ink comes in bottles which are available for RM20 each. Therefore, you can completely fill up all the tanks for less than RM100. This is an impressive achievement when you consider that other four colour cartridge-based printers will set you back by RM300 to RM500 each time.
 
On top of that, the L655 boasts the lowest printing cost per page of any printer that we have seen so far - inkjet or laser. In our tests which use pages with more than 80 percent ink coverage, the L655 printed over 350 pages before the first ink tank (yellow) ran dry. The other colours lasted over 500 pages. This is a very impressive achievement.
 
To put this in perspective, compared to the HP OfficeJet Pro 6970 that we had reviewed previously, the Epson L655 has almost four times the print capacity per colour. If that was not good enough, the cost of refilling each tank is over eight times cheaper than the HP printer. There is little doubt about it - Epson is redefining TCO in the printing industry with the L655.
 
Amidst all this good news, there are a few niggles. Firstly, the L655 is not the quietest printer that we have tested. At times, particularly during duplex printing, it sounds like a mini locomotive trundling into a station. The printer driver does offer a quiet mode which reduces the noise. But this does not help while the ink is being siphoned from the tanks.
 
Secondly, if you use paper with a thickness below 100 grams, duplex printing is not advised. In our duplex printing tests, we experienced repeated paper jams with 70 gram and 80 gram paper.

Review: Epson L655, quality meets excellent value for money
 

When ink is low, the printer driver does provide a clear warning. But after refilling the ink, you still need to reset the ink levels using the LCD screen keys - there is no option to do it from inside Windows.
 
To be fair, these are minor niggles. For years, consumers have complained about the high cost of printing. With the L655, Epson is propelling the industry into a completely new territory where quality does not automatically mean high cost. For this, the L655 deserves DNA's first Editor's Choice award for inkjet printers.
 
Rating: 5 out of 5

Review: Epson L655, quality meets excellent value for money
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