Hands on with the Epson C60 and C80 printers

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Although targeted to different markets Epson's C60 and C80 Inkjet printers share many of the same features. Individuals looking for a printer may like the C60s price and features, while the SOHO (small office/home office) will be drawn more to the C80.

Both printers work with Mac OS X and drivers are available from Epson's Web site. Once installed, you need to open the Print Center application and click add printer. You will find the Epson driver under the Epson USB pull down menu. Neither printer is PostScript compatible.

In addition to the driver, the installation program puts the Epson Printer Utility in your applications folder. The application has the same functionality in OS X as its OS 9 counterpart. Functions in the application include StatusMonitor; Nozzle Check; Head Cleaning; and Print Head Alignment.

The C60 uses Epson's four-color (CMYK) Micro Piezo Inkjet technology and can print at resolutions of 2880 x 720 dpi; 1440 x 720 dpi; 720 x 720 dpi; 360 x 360 dpi; and 180 x 180 dpi. Epson rates the print speed for the C60 at up to 12 pages per minute (ppm) black text and eight ppm color text and graphics. I was able to achieve a speed of 10 ppm with black text and seven ppm with color text.

The C60 is an attractive printer with a smoke colored translucent center section. The buttons have moved to the top of the printer instead of being on the front panel on the newest Epson models. Personally, I think the buttons look and work better on the top.

The font tray to catch the paper as it comes out of the printer is cupped, not flat like most printers, adding to the roundness of the overall design on the printer.

I didn't think the support tray holding the paper at the back of the printer was high enough. As with so many inkjets, the paper waiting to be printed hangs over the edge of the tray. This certainly isn't a big deal and it had no impact on the paper feed while printing, but it would be nice to have the paper fully supported.

The C60 has taken a step in the right direction to take care of my worst pet peeve when it comes to printers -- noise. I have said before that I hate having to schedule the rest of my day around a print job because the printer is so noisy I need to leave the room. Thankfully, the C60 isn't that bad, but it could still use some work in this area.

I had no problems with the C60 from installation of the OS X software, to choosing from the many options of a print job. The documents I printed came out fast and were of good quality, in both normal and high-quality mode. I had the same experience when printing pictures -- very good quality with reasonable speed.

I think at US$99, the Epson C60 is a good printer. There are a lot of features included -- not the least of which is OS X support -- like the many print resolutions. If you are buying a consumer printer, the C60 will not disappoint for this purpose.

If you want a printer with a bit more power for your home office, you may be better off spending a few more dollars and getting Epson's Stylus C80.

When I first unpacked the C80 I was struck with simplicity of the front panel -- actually the front panel is completely empty. Most printers have the buttons located on the front and with the relatively square shape of the C80, I thought it was missing something aesthetically in the design. The C60 was able to hide the lack of buttons in its rounded design.

However, the more I used the C80 and had it sitting beside me, the more I liked the simplicity of the design. The C80 is very easy to work with if you need to change ink cartridges -- the entire top of the printer opens allowing unfettered access to the inside, which means no more banged up knuckles.

The C80 is the company's first printer to use the DuraBrite ink technology. This technology more durability over traditional inks and according to Epson, output from DuraBrite color and black inks can be submerged in water without the ink coming off the page. I'm sure not many people will put their prints underwater, but it may help with the occasional spill or rainstorm. The C80 includes four separate ink cartridges -- one extra-large black ink cartridge and three-color ink cartridges (cyan, yellow and magenta).

Supporting resolutions of 2880 x 720 dpi; 1440 x 720 dpi; 720 x 720 dpi; 720 x 360 dpi; 360 x 360 dpi; and 360 x 180 dpi, the C80 boasts speeds of 20 ppm with black text; 10 ppm with color text; a 4 x 6 photo at 21 seconds and an 8 x 10 photo in 42 seconds. I was able to get very close to these print speeds when I printed text, but photos took significantly longer for me. The extra time printing a picture didn't really bother me, the end result was perfect. I would rather wait a little longer and have the colors look the way they did from this printer.

I found the back paper support good in the C80 and the front tray was long enough to catch and support the paper properly when it was finished printing. Unlike the C80 the front catch tray is flat, like most printers you see on the market today. I see no advantage or disadvantage to either design and assume it was simply for cosmetic reasons.

Now for my pet peeve of noise -- Epson has done it with this printer, no noise. The C80 is very quiet when printing; in fact it is the quietest Epson printer I have ever used. Even during startup, the noise from this printer wasn't overwhelming.

The C80 also comes in a networkable version called the C80N. Owners of the C80 can upgrade to the network version by purchasing the external Ethernet interface for $179. Unfortunately, the version I had was not network compatible, so I cannot offer any insight into how it works with this printer.

The Epson Stylus C60 retails for US$99 and the C80 for $179. Epson is currently offering a mail-in rebate of $30 on the C80, bringing the price down to $149. Epson is also offering a free USB cable and UPS ground shipping with any printer purchased before December 31, 2001.

I can safely recommend either of these printers -- they both performed very well for me. If you have the extra money I would go for the Stylus C80, because of the extra speed, quality and no noise.

This story, "Hands on with the Epson C60 and C80 printers" was originally published by PCWorld.

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