A Travel Worthy Ink Jet Printer/Scanner That Won’t Break The Bank
Last year as we put the house on the market and and began preparing for our nomadic lifestyle, one task was to further reduce the amount of paper in our lives. We were already well entrenched in the “paperless” options offered by banks, vendors and utilities, but we still had massive quantities of quasi-important documents like bank notes, past tax returns and the like. We also had tons of pre-digital printed photos.
Linda spent countless hours scanning all our old photos and important documents and shredding the leavings. That eliminated hundreds of pounds of weight and reduced half a roomful of boxes to a few ounces and a couple of cubic inches – and all of that could now be kept close at hand and immediately available. All that data is backed up on multiple devices and stored in multiple locations, including a couple of cloud based services (like Google Drive).
Another step in our paper reduction plan was to select a mail forwarder that provided on-line scanning of received mail (so we could see an image of items as they arrive) and proactively trashed all junk mail (except boat and RV related materials).
So you may be wondering with all that paper reduction effort why on earth would we want a printer? Well, there are still times when we need to print something. Mostly coupons as it turns out, but we also print things like “business” cards to hand out to people we meet and other assorted documents, particularly around tax time. So while our printer needs are basic and low volume, they still exist.
And a multi-function or All-In-One printer can also Scan and Copy! Scanning is a must have feature to keep ahead of the paper accumulation, while Copying is a convenient capability for those rare times we need it. Combining several functions into one space makes a lot of sense when space is at a premium.
We don’t need fax capability as the scanner emulates that job when coupled with our email based fax service ($24/year).
Bigger isn’t always better!
Initially, when we hit the road after selling our house we just took the multi-function printer we were using at home, an Epson Workforce 645. This was a nice printer with all the bells and whistles including an automatic document feeder, duplex (double sided) scanning and duplex printing, WiFi support, etc. Over time we realized it was way overkill for our nomadic needs, plus it had two major flaws – 1) even though it was one of the smallest printers in its class, it was still too darn big (and too much of a pain) to drag out from under the bed every time we needed it and 2) it could not reliably print on business card stock because of the convoluted paper path of the duplexer – the heavy card stock kept jamming.
So last summer back it went to storage (and eventually eBay) and off we went to search for something more suitable. We checked out several reviews and at first considered a really small printer like the one Technomadia recommends. While this is a great printer and really compact, we had two issues with it – cost ($175) and lack of wifi connectivity – no stinkin’ cables for us please! So the search continued.
We always had really good luck with our Epson Workforce and unlike some other printer models we’ve owned, the ink cartridges didn’t dry up due to infrequent use. Also the design was very utilitarian and as compact as you are likely to get in this market segment – everything folded away to a more or less rectangular shape making it easier to store. It had WiFi and did everything we asked of it without complaining or giving us grief (except for the business cards).
So naturally when we stumbled upon the Epson Expressions Home Small-in-One series we homed in for a closer look.
- It’s one of the smallest general purpose multi-function printers we could find. Roughly 15″W x 12″D x 6″H when all folded up. Certainly not as tiny as the Canon mentioned previously and similar “portable” printers, but small enough to easily fit in one of our motorhome upper cabinets.
- A simple and mostly flat paper path that would be compatible with our Avery 8869 business card stock.
- Rectangular shape, no wasted space. Fold out control panel, a retractable paper infeed and retractable outfeed. Sets up in seconds and no loose parts to get lost.
- Recessed and detachable power cord minimizes the chance of breakage when handling.
- Additional capabilities to Scan, Copy, Read and Print Photos directly from an SD card, etc.
- Supports WiFi connectivity. Even better it supports IOS and Android Apps that let you print or scan directly from your smartphone. Also supports cloud printing/scanning and email printing. Very cool. No need to dig out the PC just to print a coupon or scan a document.
- Third party ink is available for very reasonable cost. Note that like most printers today, this printer comes with a set of “starter” ink cartridges which have a shorter life than standard or hi-capacity cartridges.
- At $50-$80 it won’t break the bank!
We ended up buying the Epson Expressions Home XP-410 from Amazon for about $70 on “sale” (at the time) but Sam’s Club currently has the Epson Expressions Home XP-400 for $50.
XP-410 or XP-400?
As far as I can tell the two printers are near identical. The XP-410 is the newer of the two models and the only real difference appears to be an additional networking feature called “WiFi Direct”. This lets you establish a direct connection with the printer via WiFi from your PC, phone, etc. Normally, you would connect the printer (and all of your other devices) to your “home” network which is usually established by a “router”. WiFi Direct more or less turns the printer into a router, eliminating the need for any other networking gear and still allows wireless printing using WiFi.
We already have an on board router on our coach, but many of you may not, so the WiFi Direct feature could be of value. Note that if you have a “MiFi” type device, those are normally configured to act as a router. A Smartphone with a “Hotspot” feature is also capable of acting like a router. If you are using any of those devices you would not necessarily need the WiFi Direct capability.
A review I found said the XP-410 also had a crisper looking LCD display which is probably only an issue if you are going to be printing a lot of photos directly from the printer SD card slot. So the XP-400 is probably a really well priced option if you already have a “router/home” network or don’t mind cabling it directly to your PC.
We have been using the XP410 for several months now and are quite pleased. Same reliability as our old Epson, no dried up ink and does a great job with our business cards (yay! no jamming!). Easy good quality scanning plus a copier for those rare times we need it. A big plus is being able to print and scan directly from our Smartphones. It has found a new home in an overhead cabinet (the Workforce 645 was kept under the bed) and is super easy to get out, set up and print. Eventually I plan to add a slide out shelf in that cabinet to make it even easier to use.
If you spend a lot of time on your RV and/or Boat, your printing requirements are likely to be similar to ours and the XP-410 and XP-400 are more than capable contenders. However, if you have unique requirements make sure you review the specifications and ensure this printer is going to meet those specific needs.
So there you have it, a decent quality, good performing, full featured, easy to stow, RV sized All-in-One printer for $50-$80. If your printing/scanning/copying needs are light to medium duty this is also a great printer for your home or apartment too.
I just finished a Linda/Rob/Beast marathon and caught up on all the back issues. I’m going to pass the GelCoat info on to Burl.
Hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving.
Hopefully he won’t fall asleep reading it!
Been told we have a “painted” boat. Guess he didn’t fall asleep.