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Printing on the Cheap

B-500dn a

If the typical classroom inkjet printer is too slow and color lasers are too expensive, think big, really big. Epson’s B500DN is a $485 inkjet printer that has been designed to quickly and cheaply put whatever is on a computer screen onto paper. 

Don’t let its large size fool you. It’s big but the B500DN is all muscle that provides access to paper, ink and the waste box from the front. While most printers are small and can hold a couple hundred sheets of paper, the B500DN is a behemoth whose paper tray can handle more than a full ream of paper. There’s a rear paper tray for specialty media like card stock and envelopes. Its ink cartridges are the size of candy bars and hold 100 milliliters (ml) of ink compared to 3 to 5 ml for the typical printer. Because of this you don’t have to replace the cartridges as often and the ink is less expensive. 

That works out to significant savings for the typical classroom. For example, the printer’s high capacity black ink cartridge is rated at 8,000 pages and costs $70, versus a $16.50 Canon black cartridge that’s rated at 500 pages. In other words, the per-page costs of the Epson B500DN are about one-quarter that of other inkjet printers. 

For those who want to save on paper as well, the B500DN is unique in its class by providing a duplexer for printing on both sides of paper. There is a little bleed through and it slows the printer down, but it is a great way to make every sheet of paper count.  

B500DN-l inks

The B500DN can also save on electricity as well. When it’s working, the printer consumes about 30 watts of power, a pittance compared to the 300 watts that color laser printers, like HP’s Color LaserJet CP1518ni, use. Plus, it has an economical sleep mode that uses just 4 watts, compared to 5 watts for the CP1518ni. This can significantly lower a school’s power bill over the year.  

On the downside, it can take 10 or 15 seconds for the printer to fully wake up from its sleep mode, but once it wakes up, it is a fast printer. Using a USB connection to a PC, the B500DN was able to pump out 4.2- and 5.9 pages per minute to produce Word and Acrobat documents, or about 15 percent faster than the CP1518ni. It took a slow 1 minute and 9 seconds to deliver an 8 by 10 photo versus 45 seconds for the CP1518ni.

While the printed pages are sharp with well formed type, its forte is not photorealistic color prints. Even set to Photo mode, the output has a faded and unsaturated quality to images. It’s fine for printing Web pages, class projects or reports, but is second best for art-room work.

Over the course of nearly 10,000 sheets of paper, it never jammed but occasionally it picked up two sheets of paper at a time when I used Epson’s special inkjet paper. Bargain paper and HP Multi Purpose paper worked fine. The printer is a bit loud, so I recommend stashing it in the corner of the classroom or out in the hallway so that it won’t be a disruptive influence.


Epson B500DN


     + Low ink cost

     + Economical on power

     + Large paper tray

     + Duplexer

     - Slow to wake up

     - Unsaturated colors

     - Noisy


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