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My old (only just over 3 years) HP Officejet Pro L6780 has finally decided to not print decent anymore.  The ADF of the scanner have been giving problems for the last year, but with a little TLC and patience we could still get our scanning done.  I started to look for replacements, but they were all expensive and most lacked a critical feature that we use: scanning to folder. This was the original reason why we purchased it.

We are running a Linux and Mac shop.  No Windows PCs for the software that most scanners required 3 years ago to be workable, especially for ADF functionality.  So the L6780 was like a miracle machine.  It sat on the network and could scan to a SAMBA share.  No need to set up anything. 

A few months ago a friend's very old HP scanner died and he asked me to help him look for a new one.  He liked my L6780 so I did some research and came up with two possible units that had similar functionality.
The one was the HP Officejet Pro 8500A e-All-in-One Printer and the other the Epson SX620FW.  He opted for the HP as and he purchased one, but had some initial problems with it and exchanged it for the bigger model which worked mostly fine.  He had some problems with IP adresses that kept changing between the printer and his Mac (the printer was not the cause, but a faulty dhcp server).  This caused that the scan to folder function would not work and the management software on the Mac lost connection to the printer.  We managed to resolve the issue by fixing the incorrect setup of his router.  So now the HP unit seems to work quite fine.

I have always liked Epson Inkjet printers, since the first one I bought back in the 90's.  I think it was a Stylus Color 360.  It had the interchangable black and colour cartidges.  I was impressed with the quality and the fact that I could print photos with it.  Later on I replaced it with another Stylus (720) and that one again with another (C86).  All these printers served me well and gave very good print results.  I also printed photos and my business cards with it.

The HP L6780 also gave me good service, but the printing was just not as good as the Epsons. My friend asked me if we could help him with the design of his business cards after he was let down by a print shop (They threw away his logo and card design that was done by a graphic artist after they promised him that they would keep it forever).  My wife designed his logo and business card again from scratch and we were looking at options to get it printed. I showed him one of cards and he was impressed, so we said we can print it for him.  So we printed a proof on the HP and it did not look as sharp and clean as my card did.  We tried again, with different options and again and again, but we just could not get it right.  I then printed a sheet of my own cards and noticed that they too did not look like my older ones.  I then remembered that I printed the previous batch on the Epson C86 before I decommisioned it.  So we found a digital printing company to print his cards.

So now my HP L7680's print heads started to degrade and I started to look again at products to replace it.  I wanted an Epson, but the SX620FW just did not have the features that the HP had.  I found the BX625FWD but it had mostly the same features as the SX620FW, but with a few minor improvements.  The main feature I wanted, they could not ofer, and that is scan to folder over the network.  The HP 8500A had the feature, but I also wanted my good printing quality back. So eventually I decided that I can live with scanning to the Mac with the Epson scanning sofware if it means that I can print a decent photo and good business cards, etc again.  So I purchased the BX625FWD.  (Thanks to Candice at Pinnacle Micro who helped me with one, even if it was not on thier price list.  And at a good price too!  Good service!)

I got the unit and set it up.  The setup was quite easy, even though I took the difficult route and did it without the USB cable. (I was too lazy to plug in the cable just for the setup...)  I had to do the wireless config via the front panel of the printer (With the USB cable you can do it from the comfort of your computer).  The Epson's front panel is a little clunky compared to the HP 8500A, which has a nice touch screen.  The Epson has a little LCD and you need to use the arrow keys to navigate 4 rows of characters to enter data, or use the keypad, kind of like typing a text message on the earlier cell phones.  So the setup is not so nice from the unit itself as it is with the HP 8500A.

I did find the setup software of the Epson easier to use than that of the HP.  Epson have very nice step-by-step instructions in the software.  Once the wireless was set up and the unit was on the net, I could do the rest of the setup from the computer again.  By this time I have discarded the instruction leaflets already as that was just slowing me down.  I did not have time to read every step and every option.  I had some printing and scanning to test and the Epson software is easy to follow in any case.

I noticed that there was a "Network sharing" option.  So I took a chance and enabled it.  With my first scan I tried the scan to PC and scan to Email options that the printer displayed on the LCD, but each time it only gave me the USB Cable option and beeped at me when I tried to use it. (no cable, no scan to PC)  I also had some development work to do, so I have been setting up the printer and trying the scans in my coffee breaks.  So it took me most of the day to try out all the functions.

I printed a photo and it was brilliant!  A4 and crisp, with no hint of dots visible.  That is the way I am used to printing photos.  I scanned something using the Epson scanning software, but I did not save it.  As I was working and playing in my breaks, I noticed in the Mac's Finder at some stage that there is a new entry under the SHARED group.  It was the Epson printer.  I opened it and it had a "MEMORYCARD" folder in it.  I got excited and remembered that above the "Scan to PC" option it had a "Scan to memory card" option on the LCD if you press the Scan selector.  So I tried it.  It beeped again at me and informed me that there was no memory card available.  So I ran to the cupboard and fished out an old 512MB SD card that we used in an old digital camera.  I inserted it in the appropriate slot and tried the scan again.  It succeeded.  Back on the Mac, the MEMORYCARD folder now featured an "EPSCAN" folder and inside it a "001" and then in there the scanned doc.  I could open it and copy it to my Mac.

I felt like a kid that stumbled on a stash of sweets that was hidden in an old jar.  This is even better than scanning to a network folder!  There is no setup to be done and if the network act all crazy and swop your IP adresses around, you don't need to worry, the Mac still pick up the shared memory card.  (I noticed that the Epson's managment software also did not complain when I changed the IP address of the Epson in my DHCP server.  It use the MAC address to identify the scanner, not the IP address).

So, now I was very happy as I could still scan my docs in the same way without the need to first fire up software on a specific computer, and I can print good photos and decent cards, etc.
The Epson BX625FWD does not have all the features that the HP L7680 or the new HP 8500A have, but it has all the features I need to get my work done and it prints very well.  The HP gave me good service, I cannot fault it, it is a good machine and my old trusty HP Laserjet 1320 is still working perfectly (HP still rules with reliable, affordable mid range laser printers.)  The L7680 is one of HP's better inkjet printers and a very good All-in-one unit, but having an Epson again is just different.  It feels like comfortable clothes.  The HP is like a jean that is just not the right cut.  It wears OK and keeps you warm but you are always aware of it.  The Epson is like a jean that is just the right cut.  You are not aware of it.  You can sit and squat and jump and roll on the grass, you never have to pull at it to feel comfortable, it is always just right.

So now I wonder how long the ink will last as I just want to print stuff.  :-)
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