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The Printer As Print Shop

Epson WorkForce Enterprise WF-C20590 finisher  bridge unit and high capacity paper unitEpson dives into new printer territory with its WorkForce Enterprise WF-C20590, an inkjet printer that can do all the printing a school (or district) needs. Capable of delivering 100 pages per minute, the system has ink cartridges capable of creating 50,000 color and 100,000 black and white pages. The system can not only hold more than 5,000 pages of a variety of sizes and thicknesses but can collate and staple documents. The best part, rather than a laser printer that requires a dedicated electrical line, the C20590 tops out at 320-watts of power and can adjust its ink nozzles to make up for clogs.

Prints Without the Cartridges

ET-2600_2Love the silent printing of inkjet machines but hate the expensive ink cartridges that always seem to be empty? Epson’s Expression ET-2600 EcoTank can create a variety of documents without an ink cartridge in sight. Instead, it uses high-capacity ink tanks and bottles of ink that hold the equivalent of dozens of cartridges. Think of the ET-2600 as the ET-16500's little sister. The ET-2600 comes with enough ink to print at least 4,000 pages, has a 1.4-inch view screen and can connect via a USB cable, wired LAN or WiFi for incredible flexibility. The ET-2600 printer will be available later this year for $280, including ink. 

Epson Goes (Really) Big

Et-16500aAs if the ET-4550 EcoTank printer wasn’t economical enough for classrooms, Epson is thinking big, really big. The follow-on ET-16500 printer takes the replacement of ink cartridges with economical ink bottles to new heights (and widths) with the ability to print on anything from note cards to 13- by 47-inch banners.

 What separates it from ordinary printers is that rather than snap-in ink cartridges, the ET-16500’s EcoTank has basins for several ounces of black, cyan, magenta and yellow inks. You can see the ink levels on the side and when the printer runs out of ink, instead of putting a new cartridge in and throwing the old one away, just pour in a new bottle of ink.

The good news is that the box includes two sets of ink bottles, which Epson says is the equivalent of 50 sets of ink cartridges or as many as 11,000 pages – plenty for a full school year of printing maps, worksheets and letters home. The high-capacity black bottles cost $20 while the smaller standard size ones for cyan, magenta and yellow cost $13 each. That adds up to about $59 per set.

To start, the ET-16500 is one big printer at nearly 51-pounds and takes up 26.2- by 32.2-inches of table space. It is 16.5 inches tall. When setting it up, it’s a good idea to have two people on hand to unpack and put in place. That said, it’s best kept on a counter, big table or cart. Unfortunately, Epson doesn’t sell any stand-alone bases for the ET-16500 that could have added paper storage or an extra paper tray.

You can put the printer any place that’s convenient because the ET-16500 can connect via USB cable, Ethernet wired networking as well as WiFi. All you really need is an AC power outlet.

Et-16500bJust don’t be in a hurry to get the first prints. That’s because between carefully pouring the inks into the four reservoirs and priming the printer’s pumps, it takes about 25 minutes to get going. Inside, the ET-16500 uses Epson’s PrecisionCore inkjet technology that tops out at a resolution of 4,800 by 1,200 dots per inch. The printer can squirt out droplets in three sizes as small as 2.8-picoliters, depending on what’s being printed.

It comes with a pair of adjustable paper trays that each hold 250-sheets as well as a rear feeder for banners or heavier paper, like card stock for art work.

The printer works with anything from 3.5- x 5-inch cards to 13- by 47-inch banners. Oddly, one thing the ET-16500 can’t do is print letter-sized documents width-wise for increased speed.

The printer has a 4.3-inch touch screen control panel that lets you directly copy, scan or fax items. In addition to showing the printer’s settings, the you can add presets for popular tasks and use the system’s Eco Mode to make a bottle of ink go that much farther.

In real-world use for printing a variety of material on cards and envelopes as well as letter, legal and tabloid sheets, a set of the ET-16500’s bottles of ink were good for 9,400 pages.

My advice is that when you run out of ink, be careful. Filling the ET-16500’s ink tanks can be messy. You might want to wear a pair of rubber gloves if you just had a manicure. There’s a  chance you’ll not only get some of the pigment-based ink on your fingers but some on the floor as well. Plus, if you ever move it, you’ll need to keep the ET-16500 level so as not to spill the ink it holds. With that in mind, I set the printer up over a cookie tray to catch any spilled ink.

Et16500 maintenance screenThe printer’s network interface runs on any recent Web browser to allow the checking of everything from how many pages have been printed and which tray holds which paper to the details of the network connection. It shows approximately how much ink remains, but I suggest periodically looking at each tank’s window to see the actual level.

Inside, there’s an Ink Maintenance Box that holds the waste ink leftover after each print. It holds several ounces and should last for a few years before it fills up. Unfortunately, you can’t just empty when it’s filled, but it only costs $15 and takes a minute or two to replace.

In addition to the expected PCs (up to Windows 10) and Macs (up to OSX 10.11), the ET-16500 works with Google Cloud Print, Apple Air Print, Android printing, Fire OS printing and those that use the Mopria Print Service. Epson lets you print right from or scan to a flash card or thumb drive and has phone and tablet apps for iOS and Android systems.

A big step forward is the ET-16500’s ability to use email. You can not only scan images to an email account but print items as well. 

Using an HP EliteBook Folio G1 connected to the ET-16500 via WiFi, the ET-16500 churned out 13.5 ppm of single-sided letter sized documents. That drops to 7.1 for duplexed documents. This is slightly off Epson’s claim for 18- and 8.7-ppm, respectively, but impressive nonetheless.

It printed a tabloid size Excel spreadsheet full of numbers and words in 13.5-seconds while it took 58.7 seconds to produce an 11- by 17-inch image print at the printer’s best setting. 

Overall, the type is well formed, sharp and generally looks a lot like laser printer output. While I like that documents are uniformly matte rather than the annoying shinny appearance of the output from color laser printers, the documents can appear to be too light with colors that aren’t quite saturated. Sometimes the sheets soak up too much ink and pucker and the ET-16500’s blues are less vibrant and rich than other printers.

Et16500 status monitorStill, the ET-16500 is one of the most economical printers to use. In my three months of daily ET-16500 printing, I got 9,400 pages out of a set of ink bottles for an average of 0.6-cent per letter size page; double that for tabloid sheets. Either way, it can make printing less of a burden on the budget.

The Epson ET-16500 does everything it should and more by including a scanner that can not only create images from a 11.7- by 17-inch scanning bed but has an automatic document feeder that digitizes both sides of a two-sided document in a single pass. It tops out at 1,200- by 2,400 dot per inch resolution in 48-bit color. It has a copier and fax machine built in, but can work with Remark grading software.

All told, the ET-16500 is a fabulous piece of technology that can deliver high-quality documents and artwork of all sizes for less. Every school should have at least one and many will only need one.


Et 16500 c

Epson WorkForce ET-16500 EcoTank Wide-format All-in-One Supertank Printer


+ Prints letter, legal, tabloid and up to 13- by 47-inch banners

+ Pour-in ink

+ Large format scanner

+ Two sided printing and scanning

+ Ethernet and WiFi

+ Phone and tablet apps


- Big

- Can’t print letter sheets width-wise

The Do-it-All Printer

HP LaserJet MFP 227dfwPrinters have evolved from paper processors into connected devices that do it all: scan, fax, copy and –- of course -– print assignments, reports and homework. HP’s LaserJet Pro MFP M227 fdw is all a classroom or even entire floor in a small school needs. Based on HP’s latest monochrome laser printing technology, it’s easy and mess-free to change toner cartridges and the M227 prints up to 28 pages per minute in super-sharp 1,200 by 1,200 dot per inch resolution. It can print directly from a USB or networked connection as well as an Android or iPad sources. You can even initiate a print by tapping a Near Field Communications (NFC) phone or tablet on the printer’s front. The printer’s JetAdmin software lets the IT staff see how many prints remain in the current toner cartridge, while monitoring and controlling who’s printing what. The MFP M227 fdw sets the pace in simplicity with an innovative window up front to see how much paper it has left. It costs $329.

Big Sheet, Small Price

Epson WorkForce ET-16500_Left AnglePrinting on huge 11- by 17-inch sheets is just the start for Epson’s WorkForce ET-16500 all-in-one printer. Like its EcoTank cousin, the ET-4550, the ET-16500 is an inkjet printer that skips using expensive cartridges in favor of bottles of ink. When the printer’s reservoirs run dry, just squirt some more ink in. This not only cuts the cost but the printer comes with enough ink for over 10,000 full-size prints.

It’s a little big, but the $1,000 ET-16500 is a workhorse of a printer, scanner, copier and fax machine that can hold a ream of paper and has a 35-sheet document feeder. It can produce 4,800- by 1,200 dot per inch documents, prints and spreadsheets, cover up to 13- by 19-inches per page and it’s easy to switch from good old Epson WorkForce ET-16500_Head On8.5- by 11-inch sheets to 11- by 17-inch paper, making it just as appropriate for producing class worksheets as for a small art class or a number-heavy science lab. The printer can pump out monochrome sheets at 18 pages per minute, which drops to 10 for those with color content. The best part is that the ET-16500 can work with just about any computer connected with cables or with WiFi, including PCs, Macs, iPhones and iPads and Androids.


A Printer That’s Cheap to Keep

J985dw frontalIf $300 for an inkjet printer seems excessive these days, it is, until you realize that the Brother MFC-J985DW XL Work Smart All-in-One with INKvestment Cartridges not only has a scanner, fax machine and copier, but comes with something other printers don’t: three sets of ink cartridges (12 in all) that the company says are enough for two years of printing.

That might be a bit optimistic, but it’s impressive, nonetheless. That translates into paying $100 for roughly $130 of ink. Not a bad deal, but if you’d rather pay retail, there’s also a $200 version of the printer that comes with a single set of the same ink cartridges.

Overall, at 6.8- by 16.5- by 13.4-inches, the J985DW is about the same size as other multi-function printers and can fit on a shelf, dedicated table or even on a milk crate. Unlike more commercial printers, there’re no bases available that can hold a larger paper tray or other amenities and raise the unit to waist height.

That’s unfortunate, because the J985DW’s tiny 100-page paper tray is just too small. During two months of daily use, I found myself refilling it all too often. On top, it has a 20-sheet document feeder for scanning, copying or faxing pages.

Front and center is a tilt-up 2.7-inch color touchscreen that controls the printer’s settings. There’s a handy instant tap area for seeing how much ink remains in the printer’s cartridges as well as places to print from online storage services, like DropBox, set up faxes, copies and scans. You can create shortcuts to sequences that are used frequently.

With the ability to connect with the J985DW via a USB cable, wired LAN, WiFi, thumb drive or SD card, it offers freedom of choice for printing. Plus, it can tap into Apple’s AirPrint and Google’s Cloud Print to print wirelessly.

There’s another printing method that’s rapidly becoming the de facto choice for phones and tablets: Near Field Communications or NFC. Just tap the phone to the NFC spot to the left of the screen and use Brother’s iPrint & Scan app to put anything on paper.

J985dw screenThe hardest part of the setup is that the USB and Ethernet ports are hidden inside the printer. You need to open the machine up, snake the cables in before plugging them in. It takes an extra minute, but is worth the effort.

Inside, the J985DW also has a high-quality flatbed scanner that can turn pages into 2,400 by 1,200 dot per inch images and .pdf Acrobat files. They can be saved on a PC, thumb drive or emailed. It took 52 seconds to scan a sheet on the printer’s flatbed, but if you want to scan a stack of two-sided originals, the J985DW lacks a one-pass scanner so you need to manually turn the stack over and scan them again.

The printer creates super-sharp 6,000- by 1,200 dot per inch documents and is rated to deliver 12- and 10-pages per minute (ppm) of black and white and color output, but it struggled to get close to that. The first page came out in 5.5 seconds and the J985DW produced color documents at the rate of 4.3 ppm. If you use the printer’s duplexer that drops to 3.4ppm. It’s slow, but not nearly as loud as a laser printer.

At 22-watts, the J985DW doesn’t use nearly as much electricity as a laser printer does and it drops to 2-watts when it goes to sleep. The J9895DW has a Quiet mode that most schools will like. It not only silences the printer but uses less ink.

The printer allows you to choose between Normal, Fast and Best quality printing modes as well as Natural or Vivid color. Its output is bright and sharp and characters come out well formed with little bleed through, even on photographs, although areas of dense printing tend to pucker a little.

J985dw inkWith nearly 4,000 pages printed in a variety of modes, the J985DW is economical with per-page costs of 3.4 cents per page for color and less than 1 cent per page for monochrome text documents. That’s quite a bargain compared to the cost of HP’s much more expensive OfficeJet Enterprise Color MFP X585 as well as most laser printers.

While the J985DW can’t stop rogue firmware from running, it does come with a nice network monitoring program. The BRadmin Professional lets you see what going on inside of Brother printers as well as some HP devices. You can see if a printer is running out of ink, how many pages and printed and make key changes to its operations. At any time, you can type in the printer’s IP address and see what its settings are and make key changes.

Getting the J985DW also gives you access to Brother’s Creative Center, a library of software and templates that can help with school projects. In addition to making brochures and small booklets, the printer can help create flash cards, posters and coloring pages.

With a two-year warranty, the J985DW’s $300 price is roughly that of HP’s Color LaserJet M452dw printer, but it cuts the price of printing to the bone, allowing classrooms to use this valuable teaching resource without thinking about the costs.




Brother MFC-J985DW XL Work Smart All-in-One with INKvestment Cartridges


+ Can print via USB, WiFi, SD card, LAN, NFC or thumb drive

+ Includes three sets of ink cartridges

+ Touch screen

+ Phone and tablet apps

+ Two-year warranty


- Slow

- Small paper tray


Clean, Simple and Fast Printing

M452dw aIf you listened to the futurists and educational pundits, by now we’d have paper-free schools where everything is assigned, completed and handed in digitally. Happily, this isn’t the way the history played out and there’s still room in the curriculum for everything from paper quizzes to hand-in worksheets. HP’s Color LaserJet Pro M452dw fits into the scheme perfectly with fast, moderately-priced printing that is as good as it gets these days.

While the base M452dw is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, it still takes up 11.6- by 18.5- by 16.2 inches and weighs in at a hefty 41-pounds. It can sit on a table, a shelf or you can add several trays to it, making it the equivalent of a high-end printer station that a small school or department at a larger one can share. Like other mid-range printers, the M452dw lacks a finisher to fold or staple its output.

The white printer has a tilt up 3-inch color touch-screen and a 250-page paper tray. You can quickly add a 550-sheet base for $150. It’s about as flexible as a printer gets these days with the ability to monitor a school- or district’s worth of printers with HP’s Jet Admin software.

Able to connect via cable (USB or Ethernet) or wirelessly (with built-in WiFi), the M452dw is versatile and flexible. Alternatively, you can put what you want to print on a USB thumb drive and insert it into the printer’s USB port. It works with Word and Acrobat documents, PowerPoint slide shows and .jpg images. The touch screen shows a preview and there are size and orientation options. 

M452dw screenIn a magic trick that few printers can perform, the M452dw has a Near Field Communications (NFC) spot to the left of the printer’s top. Set up your image or document in HP’s ePrint app, tap the phone or tablet onto the NFC zone and the printing process starts. Be careful because the NFC spot is in an angled portion of the printer and if you place the device there you run the risk of your device sliding off.

You can also email items directly to the printer via HP’s eprint with apps for Android, iOS or Windows Phone; it can also print items from Chromebooks via Google’s Cloud Print. The app can directly print Acrobat and Office files from any of these devices.

Inside, the printer has a 1.2GHz processor along with 256MB of RAM and 256MB of flash storage. It puts 600 by 600 dots per inch documents, charts and images onto paper, although the output can be enhanced to the equivalent of 38,400 by 600 dots per inch. It’s about as secure as a printer gets these days with the ability to only start up using its unaltered firmware, reducing the chances of a backdoor attack on the school’s network.

Inside, the M452dw uses HP’s latest low-temperature toner that’s housed in cartridges that also contain the printer’s photo drum. In a move that I hope others follow, changing the printer’s toner cartridges is a non-muss affair that takes less than a minute. You don’t even have to pull a tab: just open the box, remove the module from the plastic case and put it into the printer’s tray. After closing the tray, the cartridge sets itself up; the printer is ready within a minute.

M452dw usbTo save paper, the M452dw has duplexing built in, although the non-duplex equipped M452nw version lowers the price to $200, but instead of the color touch-screen, there’s a two-line monochrome display. Rated to print 28 pages of single side documents per minute (ppm), the M452dw was able to deliver its first page in 10 seconds and produce large documents at 24.6ppm. Printing on both sides of a sheet slows this to 23.7 ppm.

Still, the M452dw has a very efficient paper path. It doesn’t wait for the first page to be finished before starting on the next one. In fact, watching the duplexing pages emerge and drop back into the printer is a hypnotic treat.

The printer uses 500-watts of power when it’s printing, but won’t dim the lights as is the case with some of its competitors. Still, it consumes more power than the inkjet-based HP Officejet Enterprise Color MFP X585. Its power use drops to 2.4-watts in sleep mode.

After more than 5,000 pages printed – from worksheets, maps and quizzes to reports and Web pages – the M4452dw worked with a wide variety of papers including inexpensive copier stock, envelopes and cards. It jammed a few times, but this was mostly due to the corner of a page being bent or curled. Its output is second to none with razor sharp type, excellent color balance and only a slight shininess to its surface.   

M452dw screen aThe M452dw comes with a set of introductory cartridges that are capable of producing 1,200 sheets each. In other words, you’ll need to get replacements soon. While the basic cyan, magenta and yellow can print 2,300 pages and cost $110, the black one is $85. There are also high-yield color modules produce 5,000 pages and cost $190, but the black one can print 6,500 pages and costs $142.

All told, it cost an average of 13.4 cents per page to deliver a variety of full color documents and monochrome documents, including image prints, worksheets and reports in a mix of high quality and EconoMode settings. Monochrome prints cut that to a little over 3 cents per page, making it one of the cheapest printers to use.

At any time, you can check on the status of its supplies through its IP address or by printing one of its preset internal reports through its touch screen. There are also pages for seeing how many pages have been created, the network status as well as the devices current settings.

With a one-year warranty, the M452dw costs $300, hundreds less than comparable printers and roughly what you’d spend on a classroom-ready inkjet printer. It shows the power of the printed word and is the best way to put high-quality documents in the hands of students and teachers.


M452dw bHP Color LaserJet Pro M452dw



+ Inexpensive

+ Large toner cartridges with no mess changes

+ Print from USB, LAN, NFC or thumb drive

+ Fast

+ Inexpensive


- No finisher

Bottomless Ink Cartridges

Mfc985dwxlTired of paying for ink cartridges for your classroom printer? Brother’s latest MFC-J985DWXL printer will not need new ink for two years, assuming you print 200 pages a month. That’s because the it uses Brother’s INKvestment system and comes with three sets of ink tanks. That should be enough for more than 7,000 black and 3,600 color pages, by Brother's estimates, or two years of typical use. The printer itself is no slouch with not only a built-in scanner that can put images onto a variety online storage systems, but a 2.7-inch touch screen. The printer has free apps for phones and tablets, can print with near field communications and create documents on both sides of a sheet. 

Everything in Black and White

M5000 WF ProIf you’re tired of paying for color printing when all you create are black documents (like quizzes, worksheets and puzzles) on white paper, Epson’s WorkForce Pro M5000 Series Monochrome Printer can save some money. The $400 WF-M5694 uses the company’s PrecisionCore technology and has an input tray that holds 580 sheets at a time. It can scan, fax and copy as well as print, but its huge ink cartridges allow the WF Pro M5000 family to deliver up to 10,000 pages on a tank. It connects to a wired or WiFi network and prints as many as 20 pages per minute and prints on both sides of the paper.

Big Ink

2-HP PageWide Pro 577dw MFP PrinterIf you thought that HP’s OfficeJet Enterprise Color MFP X585 was the last word in big inkjet printers, think again. The HP PageWide Pro 552 uses HP’s latest PageWide technology that eliminates the back and forth of the printing head with a series of printing elements that span the entire width of the page. The 552 can deliver up to 50 pages per minute, has an automatic duplexer and with its optional paper trays, it can hold up to 1,500 sheets of paper. It’s got NFC and WiFi built in, has a 4.3-inch touchscreen and starts at $700.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.