Printers and Ink

Our Epson printer (a two-year old Epson Stylus NX420) is a printer-scanner combo. It's been a very useful flatbed scanner, but its track record as a printer is mediocre. It's quite the thirsty little beast, drinking up ink and howling for more.

This afternoon I tried to print a half-page form allowing UPS to deliver a package while I'm at work on Monday. The printer was out of cyan ink. It didn't care that the page was in black. It was out of cyan ink. And it told me so over and over again. It was out of cyan ink.

To the Internet! I searched for a way to convince my stubborn electronic companion that it was okay to print in black alone, and Epson's own support pages had an answer (which I happened to find in the printer settings on my own about the same time). There is a driver option to allow the printer --temporarily (and this was emphasized)-- to print in black only. Just check a hidden box, set the page to print in grayscale and simplify every other possible setting. I followed the instructions, but the printer would have none of it.

Perhaps there's a way to change those settings on the device itself? Maybe it just needs hardware and software to agree at both ends? No. Once the printer is convinced it is out of any color ink, that sole idea consumes its digital mind. I pressed settings. It was out of cyan ink. I pressed clear. Can't do that. It was out of cyan ink. Even if I lifted the lid, as if I were about to replace said ink, it persisted in proclaiming it was out of cyan ink. After a few go-arounds with this, it would grudgingly slide the cartridges over for inspection and replacement, but there was no fooling it. I could try all the old tricks that once worked: take out the cartridge and put it back it, take out the cartridge and shake it in the hopes the ink would pool near the nozzle, turn it off and on again, try to manually feed a sheet of paper in. Nothing worked. It was out of cyan ink.

Reading reviews online (in the hopes that someone had stumbled across a solution and posted it in a grumpy review), I saw the Amazon page for this printer. The ratings were overwhelmingly ⅕ stars, and most of them had titles that started with things like "beware" or "scam." That's not very consoling. Some pointed out (and I verified this myself) that you can't even scan a document from the device when any of the ink is out. (Yes, you can still scan from the computer, but not by pressing the "Scan" button on the device's panel. It will tell you, as before, that it is out of cyan ink. Of course.)

This is like having a car that won't let you turn on the stereo if it's out of gas. Or perhaps it's like a car that won't start unless its stereo can pick up a radio station. Foolishness. One activity does not depend on the ability to do another.

So I'm done with this printer and its $15 vials of ink. My old printer (a Canon Pixma iP4200, four years older than the Epson) likely hasn't been used more than twice since we bought the printer-scanner. I wasn't sure it had any ink, either, but it printed the page on the first try.

Canon won me all over again, and Epson can bite me.