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Brother DCP-165C

My old printer, an Epson Stylus 640 Color (sic) had been going on for ages. As I could put alsorts of ink into it, it was used most, even though the printing was rather inferior to the Lexmark Z23. I pretty much stopped using the Lexmark as the refills, even clones, were horribly expensive.
After looking in three different supermarkets, I failed to find ink cartidges for the Epson. Sure, I could mail-order them, but I think it says a lot about the age of the printer that such parts were no longer widely available.

Ironically, Lexmark refills were. At around €25 and €35, it would set me back sixty euros to get my printer capabilities back 'online'.

The Brother DCP-165C cost sixty nine euros...

There was a cheaper model, ten euros less. I think it was an Epson. Fewer buttons and no LCD, which suggested to me that the printer could do a lot less autonomously. But what sold me was the provision of a USB host and SD/MMC slot on the front. With a little luck, we can go camera to paper with little in the way of faffing around.

So, here it is. It looks like a record player!

Installation
Unpacking it was pretty easy. In fact, the whole thing was hassle free - you even got a front plate in French or Dutch! The only criticism I'd level at Brother was that no USB lead was provided. It seems something of an odd omission, given that such things are inexpensive at retail prices, so would probably cost them even less.

The first print
After slotting in the ink cartridges and waiting forever for it to set itself up, it came time to print. I popped the SD card from the camera, chose a picture, and let it go. I even figured out the paper is turned 180° during printing so I remembered to put the photo paper face down in the tray.
The results were blinding.
Letting the printer work out its own preferences, it created something onto generic glossy photo paper (10×15 photo size) that was every bit as good as a photo machine, it coped with the heavier paper, and it printed right to the edge of the paper.

Direct photo printing
As above. An interesting quirk is that the number of pictures visible to the camera, and the number visible to the printer, differ. You can print out a set of thumbnails, but this is of little use when there are over 600 pictures on the one SD card. An alternative, the method I tend to use, is to copy the pictures desired to a clean SD card or USB device, and print from that.
If I was to make a suggestion to Brother, I would say that it would be really useful to have three things - firstly to press "Mono" start for the thumbnails for a cheap'n'dirty dump of the pictures on draft mono; this will be purely to check the pictures line up... it might be useful to also have an option to print backwards so looking to check the numbers of the last few of 400 doesn't expect you to print dozens of unwanted pages first... and finally when you are holding down the button to select which photo to print, how about "the longer it is held, the larger the increment" so it'll steps ones, then tens, then 20s.

Computer photo printing
Not tried. I printed one thing to standard paper via PhotoImpact5 and the results were dreadful. I printed something else a little later and it looked okay for generic A4. I think I'll need to investigate the printer settings in a little more detail.

Computer printing
Works as expected. Data sheets from Acrobat Reader, web pages from Firefox... looks like how any other printer ought to do it.

Computer scanning
Not tried, because...

Self-scanning
The printer has this really nifty feature. Pop in a media device, and you can scan directly to it. In colour or black and white (I think that means b/w, not monochrome, shame this isn't an option), at 150/300/600dpi, to either a JPEG or PDF file. I think colour scanning can also scan to a TIFF.
It is remarkably simple to scan stuff, so simple in fact that by preference I'll scan to SD and then put the SD into the computer. Somewhat less configurable than using the computer to control the scanning (i.e. it'll always scan an A4 page), but it is a lot less hassle. Cropping was devised for tidying up stuff like that. ☺

Scanning to PDF?
I have not played with colour, but I thought I would have a bash at scanning something as a PDF. The end result, about half an hour later, was a complete copy of the EuroCCT datasheet booklet, running to something like 130-odd pages. The scan was monochrome, I think 150dpi. The printer kept saying "Next page?" so I kept putting the pages down.
You can look at the resultant PDF, it's only six megabytes!
I have a feeling I'll be using this feature more.

Photocopying
Now, it goes without saying that a device with a scanner and a printer ought to work as a photocopier. This is, in fact, thew default power-on mode of the printer. When your desired configuration is set (and you can override this at any time), making a photocopy is as simple as putting the source on the scanner glass, then pressing either the Mono button or the Colour button. Wait... Wait... Bing! It's done.

But the printer can go one step further. You can resize. You can do something freaky like assemble a copy (or a photo? not entirely sure as I was reading in French) to a 9×9 poster size. Oh, and a feature I thought was immensely cool was that it could examine a photo placed in the scanner, and work out how best to resize it so it would fill a side of A4. God, I could have spent hours trying to get that right using the computer (for WYSIWYG is only about 98% correct in reality!). The printer? Got it right first time.

The bundled software
Looks like a lot of gloss and a lot less substance, to be honest. The printer driver is somewhat necessary, but the rest didn't seem exactly intuitive, so I'll probably uninstall it soon.

The downside
It's like those Müller "Fruit Corner"(™) adverts... there can't be pleasure without pain, surely? The pain comes in the fact that the user guide quotes a capability of printing hundreds of pages, the ink lasts forever right? Well, my printer has done a total of 112 prints, 2 of which were colour copies and about six of which were A4 pages with colour and 32 were photos (always 10cm×15cm). The rest were monochrome and don't count. I say this because I started the printer earlier to be told it couldn't detect the yellow ink. I had to swap it for a clone part, as that was all I had, and it took two cleaning cycles before the yellow came through again. Oh, and the cleaning depleted the other inks a little, so they are warning me of their impending lowness.
I think the clone refill kit cost about €20. I would need to be able to do 80 photos alone to match the price of the supermarket machine. I suspect in reality it can achieve around 35 photos out of a set of inks, or 30ish if other stuff is printed. This means I'll need to restrict how much photo printing is done. Actually, I rarely photo print. It's mostly for mom sending pictures to her penfriends (I'd just fire off a JPEG to my friends... ☺). In either case, I think this printer is going to have to like clone refills. It's all well Brother saying to use only the pure Innobella(™) inks, and I would like to, but sorry... I'm in a minimum wage job with a bunch of assorted bills and things of more importance than printer ink. Is it a false economy? I cannot say, but what I can say is the availability of clone inks is better than no ink at all. In addition to this, I will have to go get a new set of refills and remember to keep an unopened set handy.

Verdict
To be honest I don't think the ink price issue is anything new. Look at me almost buying a refill set for my Lexmark, and finding a whole new printer for nine euros more...
I'm quite impressed by the range of options available. I haven't even touched on the picture tweaking (contrast, white balance, etc etc) available, and I am equally impressed by how much this machine can do by itself. I always found scanning to be a bit of a hassle, now it is about as close to simplicity as possible. It is useful to have a photocopier around too.

 

Video on Azumi

A while back I got an AverMedia AverTV USB2.0 capture device. It was supposed to work on USB 1.1 with restrictions. Actually, I could have forgone video if it did a decent attempt at still image captures. It didn't. It made a horrible mess of it, and behaved likewise on two different computers.

Azumi offers USB 2.0. I initially tried a UHF hookup, but the tuner completely failed to see my VCR. I tried it outdoors and it found nothing at all. This is massively hindered by the software using virtual channels (starting at one, going up to something like 128?) which appear to hold no correlation whatsoever to known VHF and UHF channels.
So I tried a CVBS connection. Finally, success. The unit recognised a PAL signal (but, sadly, not NTSC).

The driver software keeps telling me I have no sound card. So I have looped the audio into the mic socket and set the mic gain low. I am using the device to convert photo sound to something suitable for a jack socket patch lead. It is the simple way.
Picture quality is a little grainy and there is some visible noise in the audio. I think both of these are parasitic issues related to the lengths of cable used to pass audio and video halfway across my bedroom, just so I can lie in bed and watch TV. I can't record, the lack of audio, I think, makes the recording go tits-in-the-air and then it just dies. The software, that is. Have to quit and reload it.

Luckily my default setup is anamorphic, so I can go full-screen on Azumi and it will look correct (as it is a 16:9 display). It's a shame I cannot go full screen and then select my aspect ratio. This is one of the little things that MPlayer (via MPUI) gets exactly correct, and why it is so nice to watch stuff using that software.

But, still, should I want to watch TV on my little computer, it's now a possibility. Here you can see me watching Dr. Who on BBC One instead of sorting out the laundry (that you can just see behind it)...

 

For those looking for an inside picture. Bloody hell, I don't take everything apart... oh... wait... um... actually...

(PS: yes, it is actually working as I take this picture - Casualty and a really bad day for Alice)

 

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