As well as selling to home and small business customers, there’s a third market both Epson and HP address with their inkjet printers. Epson’s B-310N is a big, unconventional machine, designed to compete with small business colour lasers, but is both cheaper to buy and to run.
This printer looks similar to the Epson B-500DN, with a ‘sit up and beg’ design, partly due to the 500-sheet paper tray projecting from its front.
It’s very unusual to have a paper tray that can take a full ream of paper in one go and this emphasises that the main role of the printer is turning out a lot of pages. There’s a second paper tray too, which flips up from the top and supports a further 150-sheets of plain paper, or photo paper blanks for image prints. There’s no duplexer fitted as standard, but one is available as an optional extra.
The large, square binnacle at top left holds the four large ink cartridges, where even the standard capacity ones hold ink for 3,000 black pages and 3,500 colour ones. The highest capacity black cartridge offers 8,000 pages, well into laser printer territory and enough to keep this machine printing for several months, even in a busy office.
The B-310N's control panel is simple but effective. The LCD display offers two lines of 16 characters and is used to display ink levels, as well as status and error messages. The only problem here is the lack of a backlight, which can make it difficult to read under overhead lighting. Given the cost of a couple of backlight LEDs, it’s hard to see why every LCD display on a printer isn’t backlit.
Sockets at the back include USB and 10/100 Ethernet; there’s no wireless provision on this machine and no version of the printer with one. Software installation is straightforward and there’s little apart from the driver, a network status utility and a web page print applet. Drivers are provided for Windows and OS X as usual and several distributions of Linux and Citrix are also supported.