Epson Printers Lose CR Recommendation Over Reliability Issues
Survey data covering more than 100,000 printers owned by CR members also reveal problems with some HP models
About a year ago, Arlin Huseman, a retired mechanic from Vancouver, Wash., bought an Epson XP-830 all-in-one inkjet printer to use at home. The print quality was fine, he says, “but after 40 or 50 pages, it ran out of ink.” That was far short of the 400 to 500 pages he expected after going to the Epson website.
“The refills cost pretty close to $30, plus tax,” Huseman says. “For 40 or 50 pages, that seems awful expensive to me.”
Huseman’s printer was one of 113,959 we heard about from Consumer Reports members who responded to a recent survey. And he wasn’t alone in expressing frustration with printers from Epson, HP, and other major brands.
Data from the new survey are leading Consumer Reports to remove our “recommended” designation from 14 printers already in our ratings. These include Epson regular and all-in-one inkjets (which, in addition to printing documents and photos, can perform tasks such as scanning and making photocopies), HP’s regular inkjets, and Samsung’s regular and all-in-one color laser printers.
In addition to printers, Consumer Reports uses member surveys to calculate predicted brand reliability and owner satisfaction across many other categories of products, including cars, major appliances, and electronics.
A subpar reliability score doesn’t indicate that you’ll have a problem with a brand’s products or that a model delivers bad performance. However, the score is a useful factor to consider in making your next purchase, to boost your odds of having a hassle-free experience.
Currently, there are more than 200 printers in our ratings. As with everything Consumer Reports tests, these models were bought at retail.
Ink Costs High on List of Complaints
Respondents to CR’s printer survey were asked about the two newest printers in their homes, as long as the printers were bought new between 2011 and 2018. To derive our reliability scores, CR uses a statistical model that estimates how likely a particular brand and type of printer is to experience problems by the end of the fourth year of ownership. That’s about halfway through the life span that consumers say they expect from their printers.
Consumers reported a number of problems. The most common complaint was the high cost and hassle of replacing ink cartridges—and that affected every inkjet brand in our survey. Twenty-eight percent of all inkjet printers need ink replacements too often, according to respondents. The figures ranged from a low of 21 percent for Brother all-in-one inkjets all the way up to 42 percent for Kodak all-in-one inkjets, with HP regular inkjet printers and Epson all-in-ones falling near the middle of the range, at 31 percent.
Some CR members also said their printers dropped their network connections or produced poor print quality. And a small percentage reported that their printer suddenly stopped working with third-party ink or toner.
Additionally, paper jams or misfeeds affected around 10 percent of all printers.
Zack Rubin, an engineer who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., says he experienced this problem with his HP regular inkjet printer right out of the box.
“Half the time the paper wouldn't feed correctly,” he says, and sometimes paper would get jammed. Online, he discovered that the problem was an issue for lots of owners. Rubin got a “paper feed cleaning kit” from the manufacturer that was very helpful, but he says the problem still crops up.
"I bought it because it was an HP printer, which I thought was a good brand," Rubin says, "but this printer was clearly not well designed."
HP, which recently purchased Samsung‘s printer business, declined to comment on CR survey results regarding either brand.
What Consumers Can Do
No inkjet printer brand earns high ratings for reliability from consumers, but some are more trustworthy than others. And many regular and all-in-one laser printers fare well for reliability, with some earning Excellent scores.
Black-and-white laser models from Brother, Canon, and HP earn top marks for reliability, as do regular color lasers from Canon and HP.
And, in the long run, some laser printers can save you money. That may seem counterintuitive, because laser printers tend to be more expensive than inkjets, and toner can be pricey. But toner cartridges last much longer than ink cartridges.
Consumer Reports estimates the cost of ownership over two years for every printer in our ratings, combining the up-front price with what you might pay for ink or toner. When you consider the total cost associated with each model, laser printers may match or even beat many inkjets.
“If you can afford to spend more up front, a laser printer is the best choice for many people,” says Rich Sulin, who leads the printer testing program at Consumer Reports. “That’s especially true when you factor in the reliability problems we’ve uncovered with inkjets.”
Laser printers still don’t match the best inkjets for photo quality, however. For consumers focused on printing photos, Sulin suggests an all-in-one inkjet printer that scores well in our ratings.