The Epson B-310N is a colour inkjet printer built for business

On paper, the Epson B-310N colour inkjet printer looks a potential game-changer, promising strong output, high speed and low costs, and a host of other useful features. So can it live up to the promise?

Just as many of today’s laser printers try to take on the inkjets on their own turf, so inkjet manufacturers are regularly looking to make forays into traditional laser territory. Typically, lasers have boasted low running costs and have produced high-quality prints at fast speeds. Inkjets, though, tend to offer colour that sparkles that bit brighter.

Initial impressions of the Epson B-310N are mainly of slight bewilderment. Eschewing the clean lines and curves of the standard-issue 2010 printer, the Epson B-310N has a rather blocky design, with strange protuberances that make it look more like a Frank Lloyd Wright building than a printer – particularly given the stark cream and black livery.

One of these peculiar outgrowths on the Epson B-310N is the sizeable cartridge compartment. The front-mounted design here makes it very easy to change the consumables. The cartridges themselves look slightly dated, with a chunky design that makes them that bit more substantial than typical inkjet media.

The increased size is mostly to expand the capacity, and since even the standard cartridges generate between 3000 and 3500 pages a time, the Epson B-310N promises to be extremely low on running costs. First box ticked then.

The control panel of the Epson B-310Nis functional in appearance, and there aren’t a great deal of buttons to get excited about. Neither is there a colourful LCD, and the two-line mono display is rather faint and very difficult to read. If the printer is below eye level, expect to have to bend down to see what the error messages say.

The Epson B-310N will slot easily into a business environment, and its 10/100Mb/s ethernet interface is accompanied by a formidable range of printing and management protocols.

The Epson B-310N incorporates not one but two paper sources. The bulbous but well-built front tray takes 500 sheets, but you can fit another 150 into the rear tray, thus allowing you to work easily with multiple paper sizes.

We didn’t find that this system worked as smoothly as we would have liked though, and the Epson B-310N printer regularly got a little confused as to which of the trays it wanted us to load paper into. We also experienced a few problems while adjusting the paper size – the sliders inside the main tray are a shade flimsy, and we had to experiment a little before getting the paper to feed in smoothly.

In terms of performance, the Epson B-310N inkjet works rather more like a laser. Although you still have a choice of different quality modes (from draft up to photo), the printer works at pretty much the same speed regardless of the mode – many inkjets have very fast draft modes, but by the time you get to a decent quality setting you’ll be happy using on a regular basis, the rate has tumbled significantly.

In text, the Epson B-310N churns out pages at the rate of 14.6 pages per minute (take into account the few seconds needed to start up, and this rate goes up by another two or three pages).

For an inkjet, the Epson B-310N’s text output is relatively clean. There are a few blurred characters in contrast with a typical laser, so the text results aren’t quite good enough for businesses to throw out their lasers. Nonetheless, we quite like the performance, the text is dark, and the characters are clean enough for routine print jobs. The Auto Nozzle Check System should keep print quality pristine in the future.

The Epson B-310N is almost as fast at graphics, putting out results across most quality modes at the rate of 11.1ppm. The output is a little light, but colours are bright and full of depth.

It’s not the most stunning graphics quality we’ve seen, but it’s still very palatable. And given the speed at which the pages come out, the Epson B-310N is one of the better graphics printers out there. It’ll certainly make a good job of business presentations and booklets.

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Epson B-310N: Specs

  • Colour inkjet printer
  • 5760 x 1440dpi resolution
  • 32MB RAM
  • quoted print speed B=37ppm C=37ppm
  • actual print speed B=14.6ppm C=11.1ppm
  • USB 2.0, 10/100 BaseTx ethernet
  • 650 sheet input tray(500 sheets front, 150 sheets at rear)
  • 170 sheet output
  • Ink costs B=£33 C=£39 x 3
  • Print life (pages) B=3,000 C=3500 x 3
  • 480 x 420 x 312mm
  • 10kg
  • Colour inkjet printer
  • 5760 x 1440dpi resolution
  • 32MB RAM
  • quoted print speed B=37ppm C=37ppm
  • actual print speed B=14.6ppm C=11.1ppm
  • USB 2.0, 10/100 BaseTx ethernet
  • 650 sheet input tray(500 sheets front, 150 sheets at rear)
  • 170 sheet output
  • Ink costs B=£33 C=£39 x 3
  • Print life (pages) B=3,000 C=3500 x 3
  • 480 x 420 x 312mm
  • 10kg

OUR VERDICT

Epson has taken on a tough challenge here – and gets very close to succeeding. On the positive side, the Epson produces colourful graphics output, and text quality that’s sufficient for most purposes. Speed is good, and the running costs promise to be excellent. But you will still want a mono laser at the ready for important text documents, while features like the multiple paper trays don’t work as smoothly as they should. We experienced quite a few errors and problems while testing this model. And the small LCD display doesn’t help either. While its street price may turn out to be more appealing, the list price of £293 makes it a rather expensive initial proposition.

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