Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Epsonian Institute

First of all, if you haven’t read the Introduction to this post, please do so. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it will help you better understand our search for the perfect printer. :-)

After years and years of purchasing printer after printer—some good, some bad, some so horrible you’d prefer a poke in the eye with a sharp stick—we were finally happy with our Brother HL-4070CDW for printing, Epson CX5200 for flatbed scanning, and HP OfficeJet 4315 for sheet-feed scanning. We also had our worse-than-a-sharp-stick Samsung SPP-2020 for photos, but since that only worked once before being in the shop for three years and then coming back still broken, we hardly even counted that. But the one thing we still required was a functional CD printer. I hopped online and, lo and behold, Staples just happened to be running an awesome sale on the Epson Artisan 835.

But did I want to risk another Epson all-in-one? Sure, my CX5200 was great, but it wasn’t a CD printer. The only CD-printing all-in-one I’d had, the Stylus R300, was a piece of junk. So, I made a trip to the brick-and-mortar. I talked to the employees. I confirmed that I could return it, if it didn’t work. And I took the plunge.

Omigosh I’m glad I did.

The results were nothing short of amazing. The CDs were gorgeous, but the other features are awesome, too. It includes a flatbed scanner; buh-bye, CX5200! It includes a sheet-feed scanner; buh-bye, OfficeJet 4315! And, most of all, it includes a 4″×6″ photo tray; die, SPP-2020! Die! (But I’m not bitter.) It also has an 100 BASE-TX full-duplex ethernet port, so I can just plug it into our network and be done with it. (It also has wireless capabilities, but since it’s already networked, we don’t need to use those.)

Suffice to say, I’ve really enjoyed having it on my desk, for these last four months—until today. I went to scan a document, and… nothing. The computer couldn’t see the scanner at all. On a whim, I tried to print something. Nada. I checked the network switch; it was working fine and recognized that there was a device attached to the appropriate port. I double-checked the cable, just to be sure; it was fine, too. I could use its built-in copy features, but nothing on the network could see it, at all. No matter what I did, the Artisan 835 was apparently dead.

I called tech support, but the automated message told me to try the web site. Of course, the troubleshooting steps on the web site are for people who don’t know what they’re doing to begin with, so they unfortunately didn’t help me at all. I headed to lunch, mowed the lawn, and went back to work, determined to talk to a tech before day’s end.

Thankfully, I was able to do so.

Lamentably… well, read on.

I’ve been in tech support, so I know how hard it is to troubleshoot some problems, especially when the user really does have a problem and isn’t just holding his mouse upside-down, or something. I also understand that when the tech obviously doesn’t speak English as his first language, it’s often difficult to get a straight answer. So, I tried to be patient with the guy. Honestly. I really did! But eventually, we got to the point where he asked me to shut off the router and printer, and I asked him if I should also shut off the switch. His response was that yes, I should shut off the switch on the router.

And that’s when I knew I was in trouble.

It took me a good five minutes to explain to him that a router and a switch are two different things. Once he apparently understood that, he asked me to hook the printer directly into the router, which would be fine, if they weren’t in different rooms. Thankfully, though, I do happen to have an ethernet cable that long, so I did so. When it still didn’t work, he asked me the question I’ve learned to dread:

Him: “Who is the distributor of your router?”

Me: “You mean, who is the manufacturer?”

Him: “Yes. Who distributes it?” (Oh boy. Do you not know the word “manufacturer”?)

Me: “It’s Apple.”

Him: “Okay. So it seems to me that you’ll need to call Apple about this problem.”

That’s when I got really perturbed.

Me: “Okay. So, I’m sitting here with a perfectly functional network. My router is providing connections to seven other routers, three hubs, eight computers, and another printer. All of these devices are working perfectly fine, but the Epson printer is not. And you’re telling me that it’s the router’s fault?”

Him: “Um, oh. You have computers on the network?”

Me: “Um, yes, that’s kind of the point.”

Him: “Could you please hold for a brief moment while I consult with someone?”

Me: “Sure. I can do that.”

Once he “consulted with someone,” it took us all of one minute to fix the printer.

Ah, techies… gotta love us.

The Epsonian Institute: a Background

When Anna and I first got married, we bought an HP printer. I don’t remember what model it was; I just remember that at the time, I wanted a nice printer that could handle 11″×17″. It cost us over $500, but we were happy—right up until we tried to print something. It was horrible. In the three months we owned it, we had no less than thirty different errors. It probably worked, about 2% of the time—no exaggeration. I remember one day, I needed to print a two-page, black-and-white text document, before I left for work. I was late, because I only gave myself 20 minutes and the printer took 32 minutes to complete it. We finally got HP to take it back, but they docked us $50 for the ink we used.  I decided it was time to find another manufacturer.

Shortly after the HP debacle, we got an Epson Stylus Photo EX. It was awesome, but when we got a new computer, a few years later, its standard 8-pin serial connection was no longer standard. We upgraded to another Epson, a Stylus CX5200 all-in-one. Again, it was awesome, but we eventually realized it didn’t meet all our needs.

Given our experience with Epson, I decided to get a Stylus R300 to handle CD printing. We didn’t need another standard printer, but it was the least expensive way to get the CD printer. It worked exactly once, and was very difficult at that. I was suddenly very jaded towards Epson.

A few months later, I needed a sheet-feed scanner, but quickly realized it was a lot less expensive to buy an HP printer with those capabilities. I held my breath and bought an OfficeJet 4315 and was surprised to discover it not half bad.

I then decided to get a photo printer, too, and bought a Samsung SPP-2020. Anyone who knows me particularly well knows how that turned out; suffice to say: if given a choice between a free Samsung product and a free kick in the groin, take the kick. Seriously.

By the time we moved to our current home, the CX5200—still our main printer—was showing its age. We decided that this time, we weren’t going to mess around. We were going to check reviews and get a nice, wireless-compatible, full-duplexing, double-tray, color laser printer. We wound up purchasing the Brother HL-4070CDW, which I would absolutely recommend to anyone. We bought the optional second tray, which holds an entire ream of standard paper; and use the built-in tray for card stock. It is niiiice. (To be fair , a couple of years ago, we did have a little trouble with the magenta ink cartridge leaking. A quick call to Brother, though, cleared that right up: they walked us through cleaning the drums, sent us a free replacement cartridge, and didn’t even ask for the old one back. Definitely customer service at its best.)

Finally, in December 2010, I needed a new CD printer. Rather than get another all-in-one, I decided to get a dedicated disc printer and purchased a used Dymo DiscPainter. Suffice to say: buying used was not a good choice, and my time constraints forced me to buy another new printer before I was able to get the broken one replaced (which, to Dymo’s credit, they did under warranty. Thank you!). (As an aside, if anyone needs a like-new, straight-from-the-factory CD printer, I now have one for sale—and for a lot less than the price at right. Contact me and let me know!) :-)

So after all that, in the time-honored tradition of the Empty Soda Can, I told you all that so I can tell you something completely different. ;-)