We were recently asked us to do a comparative review of the HP Envy 5540 Wireless e-All-In-One printer and the Epson EcoTank L355. Both have similar features and are aimed at the home office or small business.
The HP Envy printer does everything you would need for the home office – scan, copy and print with WiFi connectivity to your home network and the ability to print direct from your smartphone or tablet. It also comes with a free three month trial of HP’s Instant Ink service so you should never find yourself running out of HP Envy ink during a crucial project.
The Epson EcoTank L355 is also a wireless all-in-one printer with integrated ink system, ideal for home offices and small work offices. This printer, scanner and copier features Wi-Fi connectivity to your home network and is also compatible with Epson’s iPrint app to print from smart phones and tablets.
It comes with an external ink tank that you simply refill from bottles when the time comes. Each set of high-volume ink bottles is capable of printing up to 4,000 pages in black and 6,500 pages in colour.
We were set challenges to help with the printer comparison and the first was to simply set up each printer and get it working. The HP Envy 5540 was very easy to setup and it was printing from the box in under 5 minutes. The longest part was finding a spare plug socket! The quick start instructions were easy to follow with clear diagrams on how to install the ink cartridges. It also boasts a useful LCD touchscreen that plays animations if you get stuck. Hooking it up to our home Wi-Fi network was also effortless and worked on the first attempt. The supplied software was also easy to use and editing scanned documents is great.
On the other hand, the Epson L355 was a bit trickier and messier to set up. You see, there is an external ink tank on one side that slots onto the main body of the printer. It is connected by four rubber tubes that the ink runs through when in use. Again, the quick start guide was easy to follow with numbered diagrams. One of the early stages was to fill each of the four sections of the tank with the supplied ink and there are rubber stoppers sealing each section of tank from which you fill them up. The bottles claim to be ‘drip free’ but I still ended up with ink all over one of my hands. After filling the tanks, I then had to wait for 20 minutes whilst the ink was ‘charged up’. No problem, I decided to download the latest software and install it onto my PC. All well and good, but a few minutes into the setup, it told me I had to wait until the ink was charged. I couldn’t progress at all! When the ink was finally charged, it was time to make the printer talk to the computer. This has proved quite frustrating with the Wi-Fi option just refusing to connect to the network. I have tried to send the settings over the air and also via a USB cable that I managed to dust off. It just doesn’t want to connect to the Wi-Fi. I have had to resort to using the USB cable to tether it to my PC so we can do the comparison.
The first major test was to look at the print quality. With HP inkjet plain paper with ColorLok loaded in each printer, tested and compared the print quality of both printers in ‘Draft’ and ‘Normal’ quality modes, most commonly used in everyday home print jobs. Each printer was sent the same document to print for this test. The Epson L355 prints actually looked the same, with no real difference in quality to each other. They both appeared to be slightly pixelated and fuzzy, with no real definition to edges around headings and the main body of the text appeared to be very light on the paper.
The HP Envy 5540 produced two very good quality prints. The draft mode printout was a lot better than both of the ones produced by the Epson L355 with the text clear and not fuzzy at all, good definition of the headings and with decent colours on the pictures too. When ‘Normal Quality’ came out of the machine, it looked even better. Text was smoother, more defined and the colours appeared more vibrant on the page. I would have been happy with either of the HP prints over the Epson ones.
A speed test was up next. Loaded with premium photo paper, a test image measuring 15cm by 10cm was printed in ‘best’ quality mode on both machines. The HP Envy has a separate photo paper tray within the main A4 paper tray so changing the paper source was as simple as pressing a button on the software. The Epson L355 doesn’t have such luxury and the back loading A4 paper had to be removed and photo paper loaded. Again, the image was the same and I timed from the moment I pressed ‘print’ on the computer. The Epson L355 came in at a respectable one minute and four seconds. Remember, this was also through a wired connection so in theory, quicker. The HP Envy 5540 finished the job in a mere forty nine seconds. Considering this was a single photograph that was printing, a queue of photo’s printed on the HP would be a lot quicker than the Epson. The quality of both printers was, over all, very good. The HP print did appear to be slightly over exposed and a bit lighter. The Epson was a bit more defined but darker, too dark in places.
A ‘dry smudge’ test was up next. With HP inkjet plain paper with ColorLok loaded in each printer, a simple blue square and yellow triangle were printed out by both machines. As soon as they emerged, I placed them on a hard surface and ran my fingers across both shapes. Neither printout showed any signs of smudging or discolouration.
Following on from the dry test, a ‘wet smudge’ test was next. Using premium photo paper again, the same test image was printed by each machine and as soon as they came out, I used wet tissue paper to try and smear the image. The Epson print showed no signs of damage or smudging at all. The HP print did appear to be slightly discoloured straight after, but looking at the prints now, it looks perfect. It may have been the moisture from the tissue hanging around.
Finally, I carried out a ‘knock-over-a-cup-of-water’ test on a document printed out on HP inkjet plain paper with ColorLok. After the spillage, I blotted each document with paper towels and then waited for each to dry. The HP print was better looking than the Epson counterpart after the accident, but the quality to begin with was also better. Some of the colours on a large area of purple ink had run but that was all. Text was still clearly legible. The Epson print was slightly fuzzy and pixelated to start with, so some running of the ink when wet wasn’t really noticeable but the quality wasn’t as good to start with.
A fade test was carried out next. The same image has been printed and half covered before being left on a windowsill in direct sunlight (what little we have left of it!). As we are a the end of the summer, there hasn’t really been any really bright days to test this effectively. Both images from each printer are still looking good with no change in the quality of each photograph.
Product design and cost savings
I love the overall sleek design and compact look of the HP Envy 5540. It sits well in our bedroom office and doesn’t look out of place. There is a handy LCD screen that features an auto power saving mode so it’s not always lit up It is also a touch screen so there aren’t any clunky buttons spoiling the profile of the 5540. The scanner lid is easily accessible and there isn’t an external tray sticking out of it for the paper to sit in as it’s all concealed within the printer in a paper cartridge. There is even a cartridge inside the main paper cartridge for 4×6 photo paper! This means there is no need to swap the paper out if you want to print some snaps out. Also, whenever you initiate a print job, a document catcher slides out automatically from the front to catch the paper as it’s printed. And as it’s wireless, all you need to worry about is a power lead.
The Epson L355 looks like an ‘old skool’ traditional printer. It has a paper input at the back of the machine, bit it will only accept one size at a time. You will need to remove the A4 and put in some photo paper if you want to change what paper you’re printing onto. The ink tank is also on the outside of the main machine which I found odd at first, but it makes it easier to refill. The tank was, in my opinion, not very well secured. It just slots on to some catches and is permanently connected through four rubber hoses. If a little one were to be curious as to what it was, the tank is very easy to remove and could get quite messy!
Both the Epson L355 and HP Envy 5540 are also compatible with mobile apps, the HP All-In-One remote and the Epson iPrint. With both apps, If you’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network, printing from your smartphone or tablet couldn’t be simpler! There is no need to boot up a computer and wait for it to load, it just works seamlessly. With both apps, you get full functionality as you would from software on a proper computer, which is great. For me, mobile printing is how most of our printing is done. Both apps also allow you to scan documents from your printer and straight to your smart device in whatever format you need, .jpg, .pdf etc – a great time saver if you don’t want to wait for your computer to load!
If you’re not near your Wi-Fi network, it will still be possible to print a document to the HP Envy 5540 or Epson L355. When you set it up and register it, you will get an email address just for the printer. You can choose to keep this private or share it. This will allow you to print a document on the go from wherever you have an internet connection. This might be handy if you forget something important and think you should print it out so it’s waiting for you at home. You can also use both apps to connect to online storage sites like Dropbox, iCloud etc and get documents printed from online.
HP Instant Ink is quite frankly, a revolution to home printing. Gone are the days of running out of ink halfway through an important project or rubbish print colours as one has run out during a run of printing photographs. For a set fee each month, you will get ink delivered direct to your door before you even realise you need to replace your cartridges. The fee each month depends on how much you print but each printer comes with a free three month trial of the maximum usage, three hundred pages for £7.99 a month. This is a yearly saving of up to £516. Pretty good in anyone’s budget! Fifty pages a month will cost you £1.99. Postage and packing is also included in the cost of the service and our first Instant Ink delivery took just six days from first receiving an email confirming it was coming to it arriving through the door.
The Epson L355 doesn’t have an automatic ink replacement service, but the tank is literally huge and it comes with around two years’ worth of ink in the box, enough ink to print up to a massive 4,000 pages in black and 6,500 pages in colour without needing to change an ink cartridge. You do need to fill up the tank yourself and at £8.49 per bottle it is relatively cheap, but the more you print, the more ink you will use. Although there isn’t an automatic refill option, the software will estimate how much you have left and as the tank is external, you can actually see the ink inside the tank and order it as and when you think you will need it.
If you were thinking of redecorating and had to move a printer, relocating the HP Envy 5540 couldn’t be simpler. Just remove the power supply and off you go to a new location. If you’re still in range of your original Wi-Fi network it will work as if nothing had happened. With the Epson L355, moving is a bit trickier but do-able none the less. I would advise removing the paper from the rear loader to save it from jumping out and scattering all over the floor and perhaps using tape or something to make sure that the external ink tank doesn’t fall off and stresses the rubber ink hoses. The last thing you want is a multicolour ink spillage on your carpets!
The HP Envy 5540 is a really convenient piece of tech. It is easy to setup, even easier to use and looks great in the home office. With the added bonus of the Instant Ink, you never have to worry about running out of ink again. Ever. Whilst the Epson L355 is a good machine, it lacks the convenience of the HP Envy L355 and still won’t connect to our Wi-Fi network. It was also quite messy to set up, my fingers were black for a few days after despite repeated scrubbing! I’m quite glad the ink tank is quite large so I don’t have to do it too often!
Overall, I would choose the HP Envy 5540 over the Epson L355. It looks better, everything is contained in the machine – ink and two sources of paper – and with the Instant Ink service, it is easier than ever to carry on with printing and with no mess in refilling. Setup was seamless and every device in my house can use it with ease, from the iPad to Hubby’s Android phone. The quality of the prints is also fantastic, with noticeable differences in each setting with ‘Best Quality’ being fantastic. When the kids are bigger, I can imagine them sending their school projects to it and knowing it will print in great quality – it gets top marks.
The Epson L355 has an RRP of £249.99 and the HP Envy 5540 has an RRP of £74.99
Disclosure: We were sent both printers for the purpose of this comparison and compensated for our time however all opinions are my own.