As a teacher and mum of three young girls, I find I use a LOT of printer ink. It always seems to run out just when they have a project or I need to print a shed load of resources for the next day. I have spent lots of time visiting lots of different shops to find one which stocks the correct ink. Which is why I was really keen to try the HP instant ink challenge. There must be a solution to a decent home printer which has ink whenever you need it.
The Ink Challenge
The challenge was simple. I was sent two printers: The HP ENVY 5540 All-in-One Printerand the Epson L355. Both claim to fit my brief of being a low-cost home printer which has ink whenever you need it. The HP does this with its Instant Ink service. This is a subscription service where ink is delivered every month when you when you need it. The Epson claims to have 2 years of ink in its ink cartridges and then you can refill.
The Epson is a lot more expensive to buy initially. It costs £249.99 RRP. The HP Envy is much cheaper and I was really surprised by how affordable it was. It costs £64 RRP although you will need to factor in the cost of ink. If you use the cheapest plan of instant ink, costing £1.99 a month for around 50 pages of printing then this will cost you £47.76 bringing the total cost to £111.76 which is the lower cost and excellent value for money.
OK, I know this probably isn’t the main thing you look for in a printer. In lots of ways it doesn’t matter what it looks like, or at least it’s not the main thing. The Epson is a bit more compact and looks really neat. It would fit really well in a home office. The buttons are large and clear to use. I was really disappointed it didn’t have a touchscreen. For the price of the printer, I would expect that to be standard. The HP Envy is larger and although a more pleasant shape is bulkier and takes up much more space.
The thing I hate most about getting a new printer is setting it up. I put it off for ages. I was really pleased with how easy and straightforward it is to set up the HP Envy 4500. The wizard takes you through the whole process and from start to finish it took about ten to fifteen minutes, including installing the ink and setting up a membership with instant ink.
The Epson was much fiddlier. The ink tank is a brilliant idea but it is really hard to fill. I made the school boy error of not using gloves and ended up with inky hands. I added the ink in the kitchen but then had to move it to the computer. It is really easy for the ink tank to become unattached and I was worried it would fall off and spill everywhere. Although this didn’t happen, if you moved it quickly it would be easy for it to spill. This is fine if you are keeping it in one place. Once the ink is added it takes around fifteen minutes for the inks to prime the print head. Then it is really easy to see when the ink needs to be refilled and you can simply refill them. After this I ran into the biggest problem was that it is really not easy to use an Epson printer with a mac. It can be done but you need to install a new driver for it to work.I found this really hard and ended up using a Windows laptop instead of the home computer
Once set up it was really easy to use both printers to print from my phone using the wifi. This is a fantastic innovation as it is so easy to send pictures to your printer. As a side note, I also reviewed the HP ENVY 4500. I found lots of improvements from this model. The touch screen made it much easier to use and I found the paper trays to be a big improvement. You could easily add different sizes of paper, including a dedicated space for photo paper. After a few months of use, I found the 4500 would occasionally jam, this problem doesn’t seem to happen. The print quality is also greatly improved.
Disclaimer: I was sent the printers, accessories and a subscription to instant ink for the purposes of this review.