I wanted the following in a printer:
- Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X support
- Print-to-CD ability
- Low cost ink cartridge replacements
- Low printer cost (less than $100)
That was really about it.
Support for the 3 operating systems was a fairly important pre-requisite. Just about every printer supports Windows, and most of them seem to support OS X. As far as Linux printing goes, http://www.linuxfoundation.org/collaborate/workgroups/openprinting is just about the best place to go to determine whether a particular model has available Linux drivers. HP and Epson models seem to be the best supported, so I narrowed my search to those brands.
Printing to CD was the next thing I looked for. Since we already have a Laser, Inkjet, and Multifunction printer, I wanted the next to actually “add” something in usefulness to our current setup. I’d already done printing to labels, and quite frankly, it was a lot more trouble than it needs to be. Not only is it time consuming to peel the labels from the sheet and put them on the CD, but labels vary drastically in quality, can be quite pricey, and different types will require different print setups that can take awhile to configure. Add to that the fact that labels can start to peel or damage the written portion of the CD/DVD, and you’ll start to see why printing directly to inkjet-printable CD/DVD’s is much more preferable.
The costs were the final factor. Not only did the printer have to be cheap, but there had to be available replacements available on eBay, etc. I would have preferred cartridges that could be drilled and refilled, but all the manufacturers have been taking steps to make it difficult for the end user to refill cartridges. Therefore, low-cost no-name replacements were the next best thing.
Factoring all these requirements together and checking the local Futureshop and Best Buy websites, I found a printer that seemed to be a good fit. It was the Epson Stylus Photo R220. It showed Windows and OS X support on the side of the box, had direct print-to-CD, had 6 separate color cartridges, and was relatively low-priced (just under $100 after the rebate).
I bought it, brought it home, and opened the box. Inside, was the following:
Basically, the printer, ink cartridges, manual, install CD, power cable, and CD tray (used only when printing to a CD or DVD).
You’ll see there are 2 trays. One is for regular printing (paper or photos), and the 2nd is for the tray used when printing to CD/DVD’s.
When printing to a CD or DVD, you simply place it in the tray, then slide the tray in. There are arrows on the sides of the tray to help you line it up to exactly where it needs to go. There is also an adapter which you can see just below the tray which is used when printing to mini-cd’s.
Windows XP Machine
Set-up was your typical printer installation procedure. They even have an insert which gives you step-by-step instructions. Basically, you run the installer from the CD (I happened to download the newest driver from the EPSON website which is usually a better idea, as the driver is often newer). At one point during the setup, it asks you to plug in and turn on your printer. Once everything is said and done, you can start printing immediately.
Included on the CD is an application called “Epson Print CD”. It is an application that allows you to print to a CD (surprise, surprise). It’s ugly enough that you’ll think you’re back in the early 1990’s running a Windows 3.1 application. However, it’s simple, easy to use, and fully functional. You can add a few effects to shapes and text to make your CD look all “hip and cool”, and can import your own images to use. Once you’re done, you print. Simple. I made a few nice CD’s with it which each took only a minute or two.
As far as sharing over the network goes, all the Windows XP machines didn’t have any trouble. If you’ve installed a network printer before, this one is no different.
All in all, I’d give the Windows install a 5/5.
Mac OS X 10.4.7 (Intel) Machine
I pulled the latest Mac OS X Intel drivers from the Epson website. To my surprise, the Mac install was less user-friendly than the Windows one. Whether this is because Epson was a little more lazy with the Mac end (which wouldn’t surprise me), or whether it’s a limitation of OS X (which also wouldn’t surprise me), I’m not certain. However, you have to run the installer, and THEN manually add the printer. It’s not particularly difficult, but I was a little puzzled when after the install, I went to print, and there was no printer listed. Going to System Preferences, Print & Fax, and then adding the printer was relatively painless though, and I was up and running in no time.
There is an “Epson Print CD” program on the CD for the Mac as well. I installed it, but when I tried to run it, it gave me a message about EasyPrint not being installed. I browsed the CD, and found an EasyPrint folder, where I was able to run the installer. After what seemed like forever-and-a-day, it installed. I tried running Epson Print CD again, and after a long initial start (presumably configuring itself with EasyPrint), it fired right up and was working perfectly.
All in all, I’d give the Mac install a 3/5.
The printer itself works quite well, and quality seems to be very good (a good bit better than my 3 year old inkjet anyway). Since I don’t have any other newish printers, I won’t try to make any comparisons.
I do have a few qualms about the R220 though.
- First, you have to lift the top cover of the printer slightly to open/close the CD tray slider. Not a big deal.
- The next is in regards to the CD tray itself. I really wish they would have somehow incorporated a storage space for it (maybe a space below and/or within the printer), as well as for the mini-CD adaptor. I like being able to print to CD’s. I don’t like having more desk space taken up though, or the near-certainty that the mini-CD adaptor will get misplaced, and the one day I have a mini-CD I want to print on, I won’t be able to find it. There’s just got to be a better way.
- Finally, my biggest complaint is the lack of OS X support. I assume things probably go better on the PPC Macs, but the Intel-based Macs have been out for quite some time, and it was disappointing to see that Epson is so far behind the times in this area. The installer not actually adding the printer to the list of printers I suppose I can deal with. The problems getting their included software to run though was just a kick in the pants. Searching through their website, I see that they do include a version of Discus EP for Mac OS X with the Epson Sylus Photo 900. Disappointing that it’s not included with the R220 (it’s certainly not that old), or that Epson doesn’t offer new versions of the Epson Print CD software through their website.
There. I’m done complaining. All in all, the Epson Stylus Photo R220 is a good printer. I’d certainly see no reason not to recommend it. If you’re running on an OS X Intel machine though, understand that installing the software is possible, but not as painless as it should be.