Epson Stylist Color 500
Estimated Price: $299
Reviewed By Tim Robertson
Epson has a fine tradition of making high quality products. They have, of late, even entered the ZIP drive market, no doubt hoping to cash in on the most popular storage medium to come along in ten years. But Epson is best known for its printers.
The Epson Stylist Color 500 is the latest model from Epson. This less then $300 color printer is advertised as being able to print very high quality color prints. And it does indeed, when using the correct (very expensive) paper, just like any other high resolution color ink jet printer. But it’s the under $300 price tag that makes the Color Stylist 500 such a big draw. The salesman at a local computer store just fell all over himself with praise for this unit. And now, after using two of these printers myself, I write this review.
First, with a high quality pulp paper, this printer will indeed print out a high quality print. Resolution can be set as high as 720 x 720 dpi . However, while the printer itself does indeed do a good job for such a low price, it is in other areas that this printer fails.
Both units tested for this review had major problems that were first corrected with a call to Epson and then later by using the same advice again. It seems that there are two “modes” this printer operates in. For one, this printer is both Mac and PC native, shipping with drives for both platforms. However, like many other printers on the market that cater to both PC and Mac buyers, there are no cables included with the printer. If you want to use the Color Stylist 500, you must also buy whatever cable you will need, costing an additional $7 to $10 dollars. Now your under $300 printer costs more than $300. But, as stated above, many companies take part in this practice.
The problem with this printer, I was told by the Epson tech line, is very easy to fix. What was the problem, you ask? Half of my print jobs would come out as some strange AppleTalk-looking text. Epson tech support said that this simply indicated that the printer is operating in PC mode. (I learn something everyday, I suppose.) To correct this problem, simply hold down all three buttons on the top of the printer for fifteen seconds after restarting the printer. Then reselect the printer from the Chooser, and let the Chooser verify that it is the “Color Stylist 500” connected. When I told tech support that it only said “Stylist Color,” I was told I did not fix the “Mode Problems,” and must restart the printer and hold down the buttons for fifteen seconds. I did so, but this still didn’t work. First, tech support would say “Maybe you didn’t hold the buttons down long enough?” and then “You held them down too long.”
Needless to say, I was more than a little put off. However, this did indeed correct the problem after a few more tries. However, seeing the older Epson printers in action, I was a little upset that these new models did not seem to stack up too well. In fact, the older Epson printers work great. Not so this new one.
Both printers I used had the same problem. And the problem is a continual one. Every other restart, the user is forced to go through this “holding the buttons for fifteen seconds” routine. I would say that this would be a minor gripe with the printer, if that were my only complaint. However, there is more to dislike about the Color Stylist 500 than just that.
This printer cleans itself more than a cat! (No offense, Toby!) After every ten pages, the printer seems to go into a cleaning mode, which lasts for up to 30 seconds. Hey, I’ve got better things to do than wait for a printer to preen itself. The same is true every time you start up the printer. At startup, however, the cleaning time can last up to a full minute! I will tell you this, after all the cleaning this printer does to itself, it should never need any dusting!
Epson claims the printer can print up to four pages per minute. Even at the lowest dpi setting, the Color Stylist 500 was hard pressed to print 3 ppm. (This is with background printing off, printing a full page of black text only.) In Color mode, a simple blue 3×3 blue square at 360 x 360 dpi took well over three minutes. When I called Epson tech support with my figures, and complaints for how slow this printer is, I was told that I must have the printer configured wrong.
In fairness to Epson, I did download the latest Printer Drivers from the Epson home page. There was no difference in speed, cleaning time, or the persistent “PC Mode” problems.
My advice to you is simple. If you want a slow, problematic, inexpensive color inkjet printer, than the Color Stylist 500 is for you. If you can spend a little more money, do so. But shop around. There are many other printers on the market that would be worthy of your hard-earned money. The Epson Color Stylist 500 is not one of them.