First Looks: Epson ME32 Inkjet Printer

The school year has just started, and along with tuition, books, materials and other expenses, parents would usually have to take care of learning tools. Kids today are increasingly becoming reliant on computers and the Internet in doing their research, writing reports, and the like. With two grade-school children, having reliable and economical equipment is a must for my household. This includes having a reliable printer for churning out pages and pages of reports, drafts, book labels and even the occasional photo.

My four-year-old HP all-in-one printer decided to conk out on me just as the 2012 school year was about to start. Printers are meant to last only for so long, or so we are told. As such, it would usually be more economical to buy a new consumer-grade printer than have an old, broken printer repaired. The high cost of genuine inks in these old printers usually surpass the savings one gets from buying the printer cheap. Printer manufacturers are supposedly selling their hardware at cutthroat prices, but recouping their losses from consumables like ink cartridges.

But with the popularity of third-party ink refilling businesses, the likes of Canon, HP and Epson — among others — have found ways to keep competitive, even with consumers choosing to refill their ink cartridges with third-party inks. HP has come up with its InkAdvantage series. Seiko Epson has its ME series — which stands for “maximum efficiency” — and is also the first consumer printer brand to come up with OEM continuous ink supply system CISS) models.

I decided to replace the aging printer with newer technology. Sure, it meant spending more for the initial expense, but I thought I would save on money from not having to buy expensive ink cartridges in the long run. Given budget constraints, I decided to limit my search from among the entry-level variants from HP, Canon and Epson. Prices ranged from PhP 2,150 (US$ 52) for the Canon Pixma i2770 and PhP 3,195 (US$ 76) for the HP Deskjet InkAdvntage K010A. The Epson ME 32 sat somewhere in between, at PhP 2,500 (US$ 59.50).

Each has its pros and cons. The HP was reportedly the most economical in terms of ink. a PhP 400 black cartridge gets you about 300 to 400 pages of printout. Canon had the cheapest offering, although it came with two cartridges: black and tri-color cyan, magenta and yellow.

The Epson, however, offered four separate color cartridges, which means you don’t go wasting an entire multi-color cartridge if only one color runs out, like with the HP and Canon. And so I decided to go for the Epson ME32.

A little research showed that this model had third-party CISS aftermarket conversion kits available. Though with ink cartridges costing only PhP 350 (US$ 8.33) each, and with some third-party sellers offering PhP 200 (US$ 4.76) original cartridges or PhP 500 (US$ 12) for a pack of four (CMYK), one might think twice about doing any conversion, if all you need is basic school- or small-office related printing.

Here are some initial thoughts.

  • The use of four separate color cartridges is a good idea. Each cartridge is nominally cheaper than having to buy the color ink in a set.
  • I was advised the Epson ME32 had a fixed printing nozzle, unlike with HP and Canon, whose head came with the ink cartridge. This meant that ink cartridges were each cheaper, but care has to be taken that the print head does not get damaged.
  • Availability of inexpensive but genuine ink cartridges is a plus.
  • Draft printing is pretty fast, but a bit too light for my taste.

Budget permitting, I would have gone for an all-in-one model. The Epson ME320 costs PhP 3,500 (US$ 83.33). But for a family with school-aged children, the entry-level Epson ME32 would be good enough if you don’t need scanning and copying. I can still use my old HP’s scanning function, so a standalone printer is adequate for our school and small-office needs.

I have yet to asses actual performance in terms of number of pages of output, although I was told that the black Epson 141 cartridge has an output of approximately 250 pages, which averages at PhP 1.36 (US$ 0.03) per page. The price of the Epson printer has actually been brought down from PhP 2,995 (US$ 71.30) to the current PhP 2,500, which is a good deal for an older (mid-2010) model.