Epson Artisan 50 Inkjet Printer Review – Basic Yet Versatile Printer

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Epson Artisan 50 printer tray closed

Looking for a Basic but Customizable Inkjet Printer?

You may be in the minority! If it’s been a few years since you’ve shopped for an inkjet printer, a stroll down the printer isle at Best Buy might surprise you. Instead of printers, you’re more likely to see surprisingly affordable all-in-one, multifunction machines aimed at home office setups from big names like HP, Canon, Epson, Lexmark, and more recently, Kodak. These devices combine three major functions in one box–printing, scanning, and faxing. Priced between $50 and $150, most offer another recent feature in home printing, wireless networking, meaning there are no wires from your computer(s) to the printer.

But if you’re like us, you’d rather buy one device that performs its function well and is free of the extra complications. We want a printer that is easy to use; one that comes without a steep learning curve. Epson’s new Artisan 50 Photo CD/DVD Document Printer has the potential to be that device. It doesn’t fax and it doesn’t scan, but it is a good-looking, compact printer with a street price ranging from $99 to $150.

Epson Artisan 50 printer box

In the Box

  • Printer
  • Separate tray for printing CD media
  • All 6 ink cartridges
  • Power cord
  • CD containing drivers & bonus software
  • Printed “Quick Guide” & “Start Here” foldout instructions

A USB cable required to connect the printer to a computer is not included.

 

Features

  • Takes 6 individual Claria color ink cartridges
  • Photos won’t smudge or scratch & are water & fade resistant
  • Auto photo correction and red-eye removal in print driver
  • Print directly onto inkjet printable CDs & DVDs, without labels
  • 4.8 pages per minute with black ink, 5 pages per minute with color ink
  • Manual double sided printing
  • Energy Star qualified
 

Epson Artisan 50 printer ink cartidges

Easy Hardware & Software Setup

Using the easy-to-follow “Start Here” foldout instructions, we plugged in the power, installed the 6 included ink cartridges–Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, and Light Magenta, and pressed the ink button to charge the ink.

While the Artisan 50 has no networking capability, we still wanted to test it on different systems, so one at a time, we installed it on three different machines–a Mac running OSX Lion, another Mac running OSX Snow Leopard, and a third running running Windows 7.

We contemplated installing the software that came on the CD, but our extensive printing experience has taught us that installing the latest print driver may unlock added printing features. What if the drivers found on the CD were older than what we could find on Epson’s web site? So instead of installing the software provided on the CD, we went to Epson’s Drivers & Support page, finding the appropriate section for each operating system. We opted for the lighter software versions over the all inclusive “Drivers and Utilities Combo Package” because we never use the extra software that seems to clog up our systems when installing a new printer.

The Mac drivers installed without a hitch on the Mac systems and the same was true for Windows. In each case, when the installation completed, the printer was installed and ready to print. We give the setup two big thumbs up for being easy.


Epson Artisan 50 printer driver interface

Using the Print Driver

If you’ve spent any time printing specialty paper and non-standard card sizes, you’ve likely spent a proportionate amount of time in your printer’s driver. The print driver is your interface to your printer and all of its user-configurable settings.

Epson printers are well regarded among the printing experts in our office, not only for their quality printing and but for their versatility in printing custom sized paper. We’ve always found their print drivers to include all the settings and customization needed for almost any type of printing scenario.

Although we know the power of the print driver, many people don’t know how to access it, and as a result, have problems printing. We love how clearly Epson has documented the “Printing in Windows” process in their Quick Guide. Here are the first 3 of 11 steps they detail:

  • Open a photo or document in an application.
  • Open the File menu and select Print.
  • Make sure Epson Artisan 50 Series is selected, the click the Preferences or Properties button. (If you see a Setup, Printer, or Options button, click it. Then click Preferences or Properties on the next screen.)

The guide goes on to explain the different settings once the print driver is open.

The “Printing With a Macintosh” section is equally helpful to the newbie printer.

Epson Artisan 50 print driver custom paper size

Setting Custom Paper Sizes

The Artisan 50 can print any custom paper sizes that measure between 3 1/2 to 8 1/2 inches wide and 5 to 44 inches high. You just need to communicate the paper size to the printer.

  • In the Main tab, under Paper Options, there is a dropdown for Size.
  • Click Letter (8 1/2 x 11in) to reveal the list of pre-programmed paper sizes
  • Instead of selecting a size, choose User Defined
  • In Paper Width field, enter paper width as it is loaded into your printer (short edge first)
    Measurement is in hundredths of an inch or hundredths of a centimeter
  • In Paper Height field, enter paper height
  • Click OK

We test printed some non-stardard card sizes, or at least sizes that don’t appear in the list of those pre-configured in the print driver:

  • 6 1/4 x 6 1/4
  • 3 1/2 x 4 7/8
  • 3 3/4 x 9

We wanted to make sure that, within the print driver, we could enter any custom paper size (within the acceptable print range) and print to that size.

Although the smallest card (3 1/2 x 4 7/8) was 1/8 of an inch too small for the printer’s minimum printable size, we just entered 5 inches and ran with it. The card printed fine as did the other two sizes.


2 Sided Printing – Does It Save Money & Time?

This is not automatic 2 sided printing, also known as duplex printing. Generally, duplex printing is available only in commercial grade printers. With the Artisan 50, it is a manual process.

In Epson’s Artisan 50 product overview, the ability to “Save paper — easily print on both sides of the paper, saving money and paper” is touted as a key feature. But does this 2 sided printing really save money and should it be considered as a feature? Before we weigh in on that, we’ll show you how it works.

Step 1: Create a 2 sided document within a page layout or word processing program:

In Microsoft Word, we created this wedding program:

wedding program word front back

2 sided printing Epson print driver

Step 2: Access the print driver & select 2-sided printing:

  • In program, click File > Print
  • Select Epson Artisan 50 printer
  • Click Properties (or Preferences) button
  • Within Epson printer driver, click Page Layout tab
  • In 2-sided printing section, click “On”
  • Click “OK”
  • Click “OK” again to print

Step 3: Retrieve Printed Paper, Turn Paper Over & Reload

When the front side has finished printing, a popup details the rest of the process:

Epson Artisan 50 print driver double sided printing

2-Sided Printing Feature Conclusion

Many of our customers print on both sides of our paper using their home inkjet and laser printers. Although we haven’t heard from anyone using a manual 2-sided printing feature like this, perhaps some are. But most are probably printing front and back manually. It’s easy enough to create a document for the front side and a document for the rear side, print the front side, reload the paper, and print the back side. So while we aren’t jumping up and down over Epson’s implementation, if that extra popup window shown in Step 3 provides users with that extra hand holding that they need to feel comfortable about printing paper on both sides, it’s worth using.

This feature is only available when printing from a PC. It is disabled in the Mac driver.


Printing Tests – Our Expectations & Methods

We did not make it easy on the Epson Artisan 50.

We test printed on a variety of popular 8 1/2 x 11 specialty papers. Most were chosen for having unique characteristics in their weights and surfaces that make them a challenge for inkjet printers and home printers in general.

For our tests, we used a sample wedding program insert sheet, designed in Microsoft Word and using the Edwardian Script ITC font. We find this script font useful for revealing printing weaknesses as opposed to a more uniform font like Comic Sans which can hide weaknesses like jagged edges and spreading.

For Comparison’s Sake…

Our tests spanned 4 different inkjet printers, the Epson Artisan 50, the larger, wide format Epson Stylus Photo R1900, another wide format Canon Pixma iX7000, and the HP Envy 100 All-in-One.

Epson Canon HP printers

At the end of this article, you can read our reviews of the other printers.

Epson Artisan 50 Mac driver fine setting

Similar Printer Settings for an Equal Playing Field

To create an equal playing field, we tested with the same papers and printed from the same Word document. Within the 4 different print drivers, we kept the settings as equal as possible, generally choosing plain text printing at the best quality setting. We turned off fast printing when available as an option. If the printers had alternative paper trays, we used the trays recommended in the manuals for best printing on the particular sheets we happened to be testing at the time.

What You See Is What We Got

After the test samples were printed, they were scanned with a quality Canon Canoscan 9000F scanner. Other than cropping and resizing, no further image adjustments were made. So to the best of our abilities, what you see on your screen is what was printed. Clicking on an image will take you to a full size photo scanned at 300 dpi. This is the best way to analyze the printing results.

When deciding which printing examples to show as comparisons to the Epson Artisan 50, we chose only those with appreciable differences, but even then, some are close enough that you’ll need to evaluate which looks better to you.


Printing Test Examples

Round 1 – Printing on Matte Finish Paper

Weights Tested

When it comes to printing text on matte finish paper, the Epson Artisan 50 is a competent performer, on par with the more expensive Epson Stylus Photo R1900 wide format printer. But can it hang with the Canon Pixma iX7000 or the HP Envy 100 which are also more expensive printers?

In these sample photos, notice how the ink from the Epson spreads on the sample 70lb LCI Radiant White text paper, while the Canon and HP photos show crisper printing:

Epson Artisan 50 printing sample smooth white text paper

Epson Artisan 50

Canon Pixma ix7000 printing sample white text paper

Canon Pixma iX7000

HP Envy 100 printing sample smooth white text paper

HP Envy 100

 

When moving up to 100 lb Pop-Tone card stock, the gap between the Epson and Canon narrows, but the Canon’s text is still a bit more crisp:

Epson Artisan 50 pop-tone card stock printing example

Epson Artisan 50

Canon Pixma iX7000 printing test Pop-Tone card stock

Canon Pixma iX7000

 

But on this premium heavyweight 120 lb card stock, the Epson edges out the more expensive Canon. Although neither printer produces great results on this thick paper, note the Epson’s truer black:

Epson Artisan 50 heavy white card stock printing example

Epson Artisan 50

Canon Pixma iX7000 printing example heavy white card stock

Canon Pixma iX7000


Round 2 – Printing on Textured Paper

Weights Tested

Textured finish paper can be challenging for inkjet printers because the tiny ridges and crevasses in the pattern affect the ink sprayed from the printer. Furthermore, a printer that does well on one type of texture may not do as well when confronted with a different texture. Testing is a must.

Printing on the subtle embossed linen finish of these Cambric Linen paper samples yields less than definitive results. The Epson’s black ink is a bit darker, but the ink has also spread a bit further than the Canon. Click on the larger images to see the actual texture of the paper and notice that the Canon printing seems to have produced more jagged edges.

Epson Artisan 50 linen paper printing sample

Epson Artisan 50

Canon Pixma iX7000 linen finish paper printing sample

Canon Pixma iX7000

The laid textured finish of this Vice Versa paper is typically more challenging than the subtle linen finish of the Cambric Linen samples (above), yet the Epson produced an admirable result. Which do you find preferable? On close examination, the Epson printing seems to have spread a bit more than we would have liked, but we still consider it a good result.

Epson Artisan 50 linen finish paper printing sample

Epson Artisan 50

Canon Pixma iX7000 linen finish paper printing example

Canon Pixma iX7000


Round 3 – Printing on Metallic Finish Paper

Weights Tested

We find that metallic finish papers are best printed with laser printers. The toner instantly bonds to the paper far better and faster than when printing from an inkjet. Inkjet printing on metallic stock also requires extra drying time before handling. With those factors in mind, some inkjet printers are capable of printing on metallic paper, and are often a more convenient option, as they are found in more homes than laser printers. We put the Epson up against our two other office inkjet printers. We think you’ll agree that the Epson came up just a bit short.

The first printing test almost seems unfair, as the Epson was thrown into the same arena as the HP Envy 100, a printer that blew us away in it’s ability to print on lighter weight metallic paper and approach laser quality. The Epson’s print quality is adequate on this Stardream text weight sheet, but the HP is super sharp and saturated.

Epson Artisan 50 Stardream metallic finish paper printing test result

Epson Artisan 50

HP Envy 100 Stardream metallic paper printing test result

HP Envy 100

Next, we tested on heavy Aspire Petallics metallic card stock–paper that jammed in the HP Envy 100. However, the Epson is able to handle paper as thick and heavier. Here is its result of a comparison with our Canon inkjet. The Epson printout is quite sharp but a bit light when shown side by side with the Canon:

Epson Artisan 50 Aspire Petallics metallic finish paper printing sample

Epson Artisan 50

Canon Pixma iX7000 Aspire Petallics metallic finish paper printing sample

Canon Pixma iX7000


Round 4 – Printing on Translucent Paper

Weights Tested

Printing translucent paper can be challenging in any home printer. First, the paper is a light weight and depending on the surface coating, can be difficult to be pulled in by the printer’s rollers.

Due to the light weight and almost onion skin surface of European Parchment Paper, we find that in most cases, laser printer is a better alternative than inkjet printing. The Epson print result leaves a bit to be desired because the ink has not been able to bond quickly enough to the paper surface, causing the ink to spread. We were surprised at the great result from the HP Envy where the text is quite sharp.

Epson Artisan 50 translucent European parchment paper test print

Epson Artisan 50

HP Envy 100 translucent European parchment paper printing sample

HP Envy 100

The Epson was unable to load the Glama Vellum paper when identified as “Plain Paper / Bright White Paper” in the print driver and caused the printer to jam. Unsure of the paper jam protocol, we followed the Quick Guide instructions and powered off the printer which smoothly ejected the paper. We then canceled the print job in the print queue and powered the printer back on. We decided to try another paper type so in the print driver we chose “Presentation Paper Matte” but ran into another paper jam. “Photo Paper Glossy” turned out to be the right choice but as expected, the paper took extra time to print. The ink came out wet, easy to smudge, and requiring extra drying time before we could handle it.

Test printing on this Glama vellum sheet yielded our first real disappointment on the Epson. The ink dispersed too far from the edges causing a jagged look that we find just less than satisfactory. On the other hand, our HP Envy 100 shows the clearest distinction–sharp text that quite frankly, blew us away.

Epson Artisan 50 translucent vellum paper printing sample

Epson Artisan 50

HP Envy 100 translucent vellum paper printing sample

HP Envy 100


Round 5 – Photo Printing on LCI Radiant White Matte Finish Card Stock

Weight Tested

When making DIY half fold greeting cards, many of our customers print photos directly onto matte card stock.

In this test we printed a high resolution outdoor photo on our own 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 Radiant White card stock. In the print driver we left paper type as Plain Paper and changed the printing quality to Fine. We also unchecked the High Speed printing option.

You can see that the Epson produced somewhat less dynamic color, less detail, less contrast, and less sharpness than the same printed photo on HP Envy 100 All-in-One. While the Epson’s photo print quality is still good, it’s not the best.

Epson Artisan 50 photo printing lake cliff trees

Epson Artisan 50

HP Envy 100 photo printing lake cliff trees

HP Envy 100

 

Update:

We re-tested the Epson Artisan 50 with different paper settings suggested by one of our readers.


Conclusion & Final Thoughts

We put the Epson Artisan 50 up against some serious competition, perhaps unfairly. The good news is we found very little difference in print quality between it and the more expensive Epson R1900 wide format printer. And while it didn’t match the slightly more expensive HP Envy 100 All-in-One in terms of print sharpness, it handled every different paper weight and custom card size that we tested which is more than we can say for the HP. The Canon iX700 is a wide format printer that can be had for a great price, and while it often bested the less expensive Epson Artisan 50, the differences were smaller when printing on textured paper. The Epson arguably yielded better results when we tested premium, heavyweight card stock.

We’re Fans of Top-Loading Printers

With its proven paper loading design which feeds paper from the top, the paper doesn’t make any extreme turns along its path. This allows the printer to handle heavy card stock, envelopes, and custom sized paper in stride.

Mature, Full Featured Print Driver

The Epson print driver that DIYers know and love is intact and even more functional than in older models. We’re sure that custom printing will not be a frustrating experience because whether the printer is connected and operated from a PC or from a Mac, the driver is easy to navigate and it’s easy to choose different printing options.

We noticed that most settings, with the exception of double sided printing, are available whether printing from a Mac or PC. In whatever machine we were using to print, in our tests, we saw no discernible printing differences when printing from Mac or PC. We believe Epson has well-developed drivers that are consistent between the two platforms.

Great Documentation

In reviewing Epson’s documentation, from the printed “Start Here” setup guide & “Quick Guide” to the online “Epson Information Center,” our impression is that the company knows what DIY users want to do and they make it easy and clear for their customers to accomplish their goals.

Sadly, No Networking

On the negative side, the printer lacks a feature found in most current printers–networking. You will either have to directly connect to the printer via USB, or be technically savvy enough to know how to connect to it from another computer connected on the same network.

As for the other touted features like CD printing, automatic red-eye removal, and a version of double sided printing, we’ll leave it up to you to decide if they are attractions.

Bottom Line

While we can’t bestow any best-in-category awards, we consider the Epson Artisan 50 a quality peripheral for the DIY home printer. It seems like Epson is in the corner of the DIY customer and they make it easy for you to do what you want.

More Printer Reviews

All of the printers mentioned and compared in this review have also been thoroughly reviewed on their own:

HP Envy 100 e-All-in-One Inkjet Printer Review – Does it print as great as it looks?

Epson Stylus Photo R1900 Ink Jet Printer Review

Canon Pixma iX7000 Large Format Ink Jet Printer Review

 
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2 Comments

  1. Tom Ryan says:

    Does this Epson Artisan 50 printer also handle the printing of letters & Envelopes ?

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Tom,

      It does well with printing letter paper and some envelopes, but not lined envelopes, as they are quite thick.