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DataMaster Lab tests the new Epson A4 AM-C550

01 July 2024

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In May, Epson kindly opened their doors to DataMaster Lab to test the new AM-C550 A4 inkjet MFP. We tested its productivity, quality and usability.


First impressions

The first thing that strikes you about this new A4 version of the Epson AM-C series is how large the interface is. At 10.1 inches it is one of the largest on the A4 market. The Epson 40 ppm AM-C400 and 55 ppm C550 are intended to provide an office work group with a platform for colour printing, scanning and communications, and this large interface is responsive, full, well laid out and easy to use. The large size of the interface is all the more apparent because the Epson AM-C550 is a very compact machine. It is has one of the smallest footprints in its segment, and it is only 57 cm / 22.4 inches high.


Features, functions and usability

Despite its compactness, it is rich in features in all modes. There are features we see rarely see in copy mode these days, such as full covers management in booklet mode, and the feature which numbers copies, a simple but extremely effective security feature.

The scan interface for walk-up users is very full and easy to use. Coupled with Epson scanner management software, as with many Epson MFPs, it delivers all the functions of an office scanner (OCR with metadata, output to MS Office formats, mailroom redirections and multistreaming ….).


Sustainability

It also has by far the lowest electrical consumption in its segment, using about a quarter the power of its competitors, and it is very quiet in all modes.

Consumables’ lifetimes affect the environment, and consumables changes also affect users’ perception of a machine’s reliability. Consumables’ manufacture and delivery cause a substantial carbon footprint. Epson PrecisionCore inkjets do not have fuser units or drums, but, on the other hand, they do have maintenance kits.

We have all these consumables’ lifetimes in our database, and we have done the math for you. Over five years, based on standardised monthly print volumes, the Epson AM-C400 should only need about 6 or 7 consumable changes. Most competing laser A4 colour MFPs will need more than 20 changes over the same period, and some up to 40. Many HP and Lexmark A4 colour machines have longer-life consumables, but with 12 or 13 changes over 5 years they will still need attention twice as often as the Epson.


Productivity

The AM-C550’s productivity results were all above average, and some results are way better than all their competitors’. All Epson WorkForce Enterprise machines achieve 100% productivity printing double-sided. They are the only inkjet machines which can. It’s all about the ink. Unlike all other inkjet print engines, Epson WFE machines do not slow down for high-coverage pages and/or complex graphics even when they have to turn the sheets over to print on both sides. This is a significant environmental factor too, as the vast majority of the carbon footprint of printing is in the paper. Printing onto both sides nearly halves a printer’s carbon footprint, and it is important not to penalise users by printing very slowly in duplex mode.

One of our tests comprises two full-page, multiple-layered pdf, and the machine still did not slow down however we printed it. What’s more its RIP time on this test was shorter than almost any other A4 we have ever tested: 6 seconds. There are A4 MFPs on the market which take nearly 3 minutes to RIP this print file.

First page out times are actually quite close to what the manufacturer’s claim, and some are even faster: 3.8 to 7 seconds.

As with all Epson WorkForce Enterprise machines, there are frequent halts of a second or so for quick head clean, but these are taken into account and the machine delivers the print speed that the manufacturers specify.


Work Groups

Productivity for a work group requires good performance when a multifunction has to do several things at once. The Epson AM-C A4, like its A3 stablemate, can RIP and print at the same time, so it hardly slows down when its users are all printing at once.

Its intelligent print queue means that if a job is badly setup, or a type of paper is missing, the machine works round it, letting other jobs pass through.

One user can scan while another sends print jobs without either of them noticing any stops or slowdowns.


Quality

Print quality is simply excellent. There are almost no quality options, and you certainly do not need to buy any special paper to get excellent prints. It just produces balanced, high-resolution photographs and smooth solid areas of colour at full speed onto all stocks.

Scan quality is very good too. As regards photos and graphics, colours are reproduced well, details in dark areas do not get lost and very fine lines in all colours do not get broken. Overall, output filesizes are quite small, and the quality/filesize ratio on highly compressed pdf output is good; fine lines survive this process on the AM-C ranges better than on most competing devices. The Kofax-enabled OCR option works extremely well.


Booklets and covers

Booklets are really easy to set up in the print driver, and even in copy mode, from the interface. The Epson AM-C A4 machines can print onto both sides of heavy stocks with every option and feature. However, it’s a shame that this heat-free machine takes 7-10 seconds to change paper source when printing, for example, a booklet with a cover printed onto thicker paper from the bypass. Most laser printers take about this long to change their fuser unit temperatures to adapt to different stocks of paper. Inkjets such as Epson PrecisionCore machines do not have fuser units, so the AM-C550 could be slicker about this and make the most of its technical advantages.


Launch

The new Epson WorkForce Enterprise AM-C400 and AM-C550 will be on sale later in 2024.

See the product pages and other documents  
Epson AM-C400
Epson AM-C550
Printer Benchmark : DataMaster Lab tests the new Epson A4 AM-C550

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