Epson SureColor T500018 Apr, 2013 By: R.K. McSwain
First Look Review: Superb print quality and an excellent price are highlights of company’s first wide-format printer for CAD market.
Epson has long been known for the ink technology that draws professional photographers to its printers. Last fall, the company plunged into the CAD market, debuting a line of wide-format printers designed to meet the needs of those users. It appears the company did its homework: The new Epson SureColor T5000 reviewed in Cadalyst Labs looks as good — and performs as well — as its competition.
A 36" wide-format printer, the Epson SureColor T5000 is one model in the new Epson SureColor T-Series, which also includes the 24" SureColor T3000 and the 44" SureColor T7000. Other than the printing width and price, these machines are virtually identical.
The Epson SureColor T5000 36" wide-format printer comes with a stand and a stacking print basket.
SureColor T-Series printers can accommodate a variety of materials without any special mounting, from inexpensive 20-lb bond and photo paper to 1.2-mm poster board and 1.5-mm rigid stock, according to Epson. They draw on five cartridges of Epson UltraChrome XD pigment-based ink (cyan, magenta, yellow, photo black, and matte black), available in quantities of 110 ml, 350 ml, and 750 ml. They run on standard 120-volt power and include standard USB and Gigabit Ethernet network connectivity.
The Epson SureColor T5000 was delivered on a pallet with a shipping weight of nearly 300 lb. Although the huge package was daunting, the printer was actually very easy to unpack and set up thanks to Epson's detailed YouTube video, “SureColor T-Series Out Of Box Setup.”
It should take a single person two to three hours to unpack and assemble the printer, although you will need a couple of extra people for a few minutes to help move the unit from the crate to the included stand. Installing the optional hard drive and loading drivers on your server or PC will require about another half hour.
The printer holds a single roll of paper and supports 2" and 3" cores. I have used many wide-format printers, and the paper-loading process for this Epson is one of the easiest I have seen. Simply place the roll on top of the printer, insert the roll adapters on each end, slide this assembly into place, and feed the paper into the printer. (This process, which takes about a minute, is demonstrated in the video starting at the 17:45 mark.)
Because the paper loads from the top, you can place the printer fairly close to the wall and not have to move it for media loading. Media length is tracked even if you unload and reload rolls, thanks to a barcode printed on the end of each roll.
Print Speed and Quality
I started off printing a full-color JPG image (4,800 x 3,140 pixels) to fit on a D-size sheet using the Quality setting, and this took less than four minutes. A black-and-white CAD line drawing in Quality mode (720 x 1,440 dpi), sent directly to the printer from AutoCAD 2013, took 1.5 minutes and results were superb. Changing the mode to Speed (720 x 720 dpi) reduced the time to about 50 seconds with virtually no visible change in quality. In my opinion, Epson’s Speed mode is more than adequate for check plots of CAD drawings.
A full-color, 48" x 36" PDF GIS map printed in three minutes using the Quality setting, and the output here also was excellent. The same file printed in about six minutes at a higher setting on photo paper, and I was extremely impressed with the results, especially considering that the SureColor T5000 is so much less expensive than dedicated photo printers.
Generally speaking, I would classify this as a speedy printer, especially considering the quality of the output. The times I reported above are from the moment the job is sent to the printer until the print is cut and in the tray. They may vary slightly depending on network speed and other factors.
The SureColor T5000 includes a 2" x 1.5" digital control panel, driven by several adjacent buttons, that is fairly intuitive to use. Via its color screen, you can check the status of the current print job, media type and remaining length, ink levels, and connectivity settings. Saving print jobs in printer memory is optional and enabled by default; be sure the feature is turned on if you want to access and reprint jobs from the control panel.
An online interface accessible through any web browser also allows you to view current print jobs, current media type and remaining length, ink levels, and print history, as well as all printer setup parameters. If you have access to a nearby PC, the online interface is much easier to navigate than the onboard control panel. Unfortunately, jobs in the print history cannot be reprinted unless they were designated to be saved at the time they were submitted.
I came across a few negatives with the Epson SureColor T5000. For example, when you launch the Print Driver Properties window, the local print driver queries the printer. This takes about 10 seconds and happens every time you access this dialog box, slowing you down considerably. According to Epson, it typically takes less than a second for the software driver to acquire information from the printer, but the total time could be affected by network traffic. The Auto Acquire feature can be disabled, the company notes.
In addition, printing on Mylar had very disappointing results. Epson did not provide Mylar media, so I tested the process using my own brand-name 4-mil polyester variety. Output was not even legible.
If printing on Mylar is a must for you, I would suggest consulting with Epson and performing tests on your own media. When conferring with the company about my test results, Epson reported that although the print driver does not include Mylar film in its default list of media, using the Tracing Paper setting located in the Other media category will produce crisp lines and sharp text in both black-and-white and full-color modes. The company also explained that the double-matte polyester film (Mylar) used must be designed for aqueous inkjet printing.
I ran into a few snags when the printer went unused for any period of time. By default the T5000 will shut off after eight hours of inactivity, and you have to go to the printer to turn it on again. Sending a print job will not wake up the printer. Fortunately, you can adjust the power-off feature in 1-hour increments, to a maximum of 24 hours. The power-off feature can also be disabled altogether.
Lastly, as is the case with many inkjet printers, ink dried up in the print nozzles of the SureColor T5000 when the printer was idle for two weeks. I was able to restore print quality after running a built-in procedure to clean the nozzles.
Customer Support and Pricing
Epson provides on-site support, usually the next day, along with telephone, live chat, and e-mail support on weekdays during the base warranty period of one year. Additional warranty time is available for purchase. Print drivers are available for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors, as well as for Mac OS 10.5.x–10.8.x.At its suggested retail price of $3,995, I believe the Epson SureColor T5000 is an excellent value.
I spent a lot of time printing a wide variety of drawings and images to this printer. Its speed and quality of output far outweigh the drawbacks, and its relatively low sticker price really sets this printer apart from similar offerings of competitors. Be sure to factor in long-term maintenance and materials costs when you’re comparing this model with others.
If you’re in the market for a new wide-format printer that can produce everything from your daily line drawings to stunning images for a very reasonable price, give this one a look. Highly Recommended.
Editor’s note: For more information about Epson’s move into design and an overview of the SureColor T-Series models, see the Cadalyst article, “Epson Leaps into CAD Market.”
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