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Epson XP-345, a reminder of how bloody awful inkjet printers can be
Dave Higton is in the process of trying to get IPP printing to work.
I have, nominally, two printers to draw upon. My HP 3630 inkjet that supports IPP and AirPrint, and my Samsung ML-2022W laser that supports only AirPrint (the firmware predates IPP Everywhere and the PWG image format).
I say nominally as I have a little Canon inkjet of some sort. I'm not going near that as it would need new cartridges. That leaves the Epson XP-345 that I got a few years ago (2017) marked down as a "back to school" offer, and kept in its box because I shortly found the HP printer and while the cartridges were expensive, I felt that I could make some savings with Instant Ink.
Yesterday, I opened up the box and took out the Epson. After removing lots of bits of packing tape, I was able to plug the printer in and power up for the first time.
After some self checks, the little colour display asked me to insert the ink cartridges. There are four of them, so you only need replace the yellow when yellow runs low, rather than replacing a "colour" cartridge.
There appears to be some sort of optical mechanism for detecting the presence of ink, and the obligatory (these days) chip for cartridge DRM.
It took a while to do the next part of the set up. The installation cartridges print less than regular cartridges because a fair bit of ink is taken by the process of priming the print head. This only happens once, the very first time the printer is turned on.
So good so far.
Connecting to WiFi was a manual process. That means I had to enter a long string of gibberish into the printer using the panel buttons and the LCD. It actually went smoother than it sounds. The printer synchronised with the Livebox the first time. Actually, I lie. It failed the first time because I forgot to go push the button to authorise a new connection, but that was my fault, not the printer.
A new firmware was offered, so I downloaded and installed it. This is because I'm not sure if the firmware it would have had in 2017 would have been recent enough to understand PWG. The firmware was downloaded and burned into Flash by the printer. The screen gave dire warnings about not turning off the printer, so I left it, and the power indicator blinking all sorts of patterns.
Eventually it came back on. So I printed an alignment page which asked me to pick the best option of five or six different sets of boxes.
I decided to try printing a calendar. The printer has various built-in document types (lined paper, music score, calendar, etc).
This was the result (close-up of the month at the top left of the page):
Yup, the inks are smeared. Thankfully as it progressed across the page, the problem cleared up, but it doesn't insire confidence.
Neither does the smear of black ink at the bottom of the page. What the hell, it manages to spill ink into itself during the initial setup? FFS.
I printed a picture from my phone and it came up with many lines and streaks. It took three head cleaning cycles to fix that. There's a scan below, but I'm holding back for a specific reason.
I was actually printing with the Samsung Print Service on my phone, as the Epson is Mopria certified so it worked and offered various options.
I downloaded and installed the Epson Print Enabler. What a piece of shit. While the Samsung driver seemed to overprint and interleave, the Epson driver looked like it was only going to do a single pass. That's about an inch for the black ink (I think there's something like 180 nozzles) and a little under a centimetre for the colours (about 60 nozzles per colour). Without any overlap, the perceptual quality is lower and any stuck nozzles lead to very obvious streaking. Or, in the case of the black, a lack of capable distribution for patches of black, made worse by the printer's penchant for passing the print head as rapidly as the hardware can manage.
Essentially, the Epson driver seemed unable to print in anything other than "standard" mode to plain paper.
So I tried the Epson iPrint app. This seems to be the only way to scan, and it doesn't support preview or selecting a part of the page to scan. It's a full page (B5, A4, Letter, or maximum) or nothing. The resolution options are 75, 150, or 300dpi. I thought this device could handle at least 600dpi? Well, maybe using the Windows driver...
Printing from the app is a miserable experience. It will zoom up a photo to fit the page, which if it's not page sized means the top and bottom are going to be cropped. You can scroll before printing to select which part to print/discard, but there seems no option to "don't fit the page to the photo, fit the photo to the page".
There is WiFi Direct, which on the LCD said that I should go to epson.sn for more information. Turns out this is a real URL, and when connected to the printer there's no internet access (as is normal for WiFi Direct).
There is a really really simple set of minimal configuration pages if you point a browser at the printer's IP address.
Printing to the device wasn't actually that painful in operation... provided that I used the Samsung driver. The painful part was the drudge that the printer spat out.
I tried using AirPrint with the iPad Mini. This was an abject failure. It worked, don't get me wrong. But it worked in the context of throwing up a message about a paper type mismatch and do I want to continue? I said yes, so the printer started outputting a many-pass photo quality print to plain paper. There most be something wonky in the printer, as I can AirPrint to the HP with plain paper and it just does a regular style print. I rarely do though, as iOS 7 is utterly useless. There's a button to choose a printer, and a button to select the number of copies. That's it. There's sadly no preview so you can see before wasting paper and ink that it's going to do something utterly stupid like print a screenshot filling the entire page and cropping bits. Idiotic crap like this is why I'm not an Apple fanboy.
In short, while this printer seems to offer some nice features (a clear screen with information and messages, the ability to print from SD card, easy mobile device support...), the end result is absolutely shit. I'm sorry about swearing, twice, but even that awful Lexmark printer I had back in 2004(ish) was less horrible than this piece of... okay, I won't say it a third time.
There's more. Oh, yes. This is the printer that keeps right on delivering.
Today, I decided for my blog I'd use the scanner to make some scans of the prints that it made yesterday.
Yeah... About that...
This is a section of a RISC OS screenshot. You'll notice that the black isn't a sort of dark grey, and if you look carefully you'll see the banding that I mentioned. This was pretty much the first proper print after installing the printer.
But I'm sure you've noticed that fact that the scanner, which has never been used before, is faulty. Bloody great show there, Epson.
I'm far too late to consider any sort of return or refund, but if this is what I can expect from Epson, kindly consider yourself to be my new benchmark of what an awful printer is like. Go pat yourselves on the back...
The scanner is marginally better. I dismounted the scanner unit, opened it up, and reseated the ribbon cable. This made no difference whatsoever, so I took out the imager strip and applied some percussive maintenance which, given how much I despise this machine, was neither delicate nor gentle. The three main white strips are still there (dead pixels?) but the coloured mess isn't. Usually. There's less of it, at least.
Testing with Dave's IPP driver failed. I was using RemotePrinterFS to scoot the data to port 9100 and, well, it tried to literally print the image data. I think it won't be happy until IPP data is sent to the IPP port, which is fair enough. It's still a work in progres... ☺
I'll use this device for testing IPP, at least as long as the ink lasts. Once that has been done... I would be awfully inclined to ask my neighbour if he'd be willing to give it a pass with his flail. The one that can shred trees and would slice'n'dice this miserable excuse for a printer.
Honestly, while inkjets (especially the budget ones) tend to be varying degrees of bad, this Epson is like something from the turn of the millennium. It's like all the reasons inkjets suck rolled into one plastic case.
And, oddly enough, it makes me appreciate my HP all the more. I'm genuinely surprised the HP is still going, I kind of expected it to pack up after two or three years, but apart from HP trying hard to push their "you must be signed in" rubbish, it's actually been pretty reliable. With Instant Ink I don't have to think "can I print this?". Full page photo print of an advert for Chihayafuru? Sure, go for it.
Plus, as long as you can fool the printer into thinking you're using a real computer (which means Firefox in desktop mode, Chrome can't cut it) there's a webscan facility that will actually go up to 600dpi and with various quality levels.
Yes. My brief experience with an Epson had made me appreciate a bargain-bucket HP printer. That's... there should be some sort of award for how unbelievably awful this printer, the XP (Expression?) 345 is.
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|Rick, 10th March 2022, 11:32|
I should add, my old Brother used to do lovely prints because it had a built-in head that was capable of varying dot sizes.
This Epson also has a built-in head, but judging by the very conspicuous dithering, it appears to only be capable of one single dot size.
Good grief, these days? It appears that even the HP cartridges (heads in the cartridge) can manage at least two dot sizes...
|Rob, 10th March 2022, 21:22|
Epson inkjet printers are the reason why we've moved totally to Lasers. After using up an entire set of ink carts trying to clean the heads, I totally gave up. At least with HP, if you get a blocked head, then replacing the cart sorts it out immediately.
My take is that if you print things frequently, then an inkjet might work for you. If your printing needs a closer to "once in a blue moon", then you will have endless grief. Whereas I can turn the laser on for the first time in six months, and it prints first time.
|VinceH, 11th March 2022, 08:58|
One of my printers is an Epson XP-3something. Had it for years. It was fine at first - but I only really used it in the run up to shows for posters, so lack of use (which as Rob notes, isn't ideal with inkjets) pretty much saw it degrade. I occasionally use it now for the odd thing, but it's not useable for anything that needs to go beyond my front door.
(Prior to that I was using a Samsung CLX-something colour laser, but I moved that to the office and wanted a [smaller] printer at home. Eventually that one ran into problems, so the Epson went in, and I bought a b&w duplex laser - a Brother - for home).
If yours has been boxed up, unused for a few years, check the ink cartridges - you'll probably find a use-by date on them or the packaging, and it may have passed. That won't help - though it's not the be all.
A long time back, btw, I found a source of cheap compatible cartridges - ridiculously cheap. I ordered some and received a lot more than I expected, and still haven't run out of black and a couple of colours. The only issue with them is when using the Windows computer; the driver likes to occasionally remind me about them not being the real thing - when first replacing one, and at seemingly random intervals. No such problem, unsurprisingly, when printing from Linux.
The scanner worked okay, but that too started to become problematic recently - but that may be because it started to get used intensively at the office because of the process changes at work instigated by the new company owners (it's a cheap domestic device after all). Obviously, I'm no longer there - so nor are the printers.
|Rick, 15th March 2022, 21:53|
I got out the XP-345 today to do some testing with IPP transfers and PWG raster images.
The good news is that it worked. I got a colour printout, generated by RISC OS (from OvationPro) out of the printer.
The not so good news is that the printout was awful. It had to go through a head cleaning cycle, that took like six minutes to complete (walked across field, fed cat, stroked cat, walked back, it was still doing it).
The bad news is that when I tried to send a monochrome bitmap, the printer did not respond.
Why? Because it's dead. Tried plugging into a different socket, but nope. It don't turn on.
I will try again in a day or two (to let caps discharge) but we're clutching at straws here.
So... let's recap. It had lousy printout (not just because the inks might have been "old", it had really obvious dithering patterns). The scanner was defective from new. And... whoo! It managed to work for *TWO* evenings. Well, it died today, so it managed to work for one and a half evenings.
What a complete farce.
|Rick, 15th March 2022, 22:29|
The little power brick outputs 0v when connected to the printer, and +42v when disconnected.
Hooking the printer back to the power brick causes a little spark as the stored charge dissipates in a hurry.
Therefore, something on the main board has failed in a way that is shorting the power. Brilliant build quality, there, Epson!
(Felicity? Marte? Find out!)
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Last read at 13:23 on 2022/05/17.
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