The Epson offer spans several categories. Firstly it caters for office document printing for individual users (SX series) and pros (Office range). Then there's the Epson Stylus Photo PX730WD, which is part of the PX range that's designed to print photos that are, according to Epson, better quality than photo lab photos. In addition to its target segment, this printer also has a scanner and copier and can be put anywhere in your house thanks to its wi-fi interface. There's also a more pro-oriented version of this model with a fax and larger screen: the Epson Stylus photo PX830FWD.
HardwareThe PX730WD is a 3-in-1 multifunction colour inkjet. With a sober and even more compact design (44 x 45 x 15 cm and 9.8Kg) than the Epson PX660, this model has a touch sensitive control panel on which only the buttons appropriate to the function currently being used light up. It has double-sided and wi-fi as well as Windows and Mac drivers. In wi-fi mode, the printer automatically detects the required connection parameters and configures itself accordingly. Like most photo printers, the PX730WD can print directly to CD and DVD and supports numerous card readers (CompactFlash, MicroDrive, Memory stick, Mini SD, Micro SD, among others). There are six separate cartridges (black, cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan and light magenta), available in two sizes (standard and XL), which is practical and economical. Although this printer has obviously been designed primarily for photos, we would also hope to be able to use it to print, scan and copy office documents, but this is where it falls down. During our tests paper jams were commonplace during printing and copying. The machine's motor, though quite rapid, tends to deliver the paper in batches and the fact that there's no retrieval system means there can be a build-up leading to paper jams. What's more, the 120 page capacity paper loader (20 photos) isn't all that easy to manage.
Front of the printer: 6.3 cm screen and touch sensitive control panel
SpeedsAs always the speeds communicated by Epson are much more optimistic than our own scores. Announced at 40 pages per minute (ppm), colour and black & white, we have it at 12 ppm with our test documents. With office documents it does better than the Canon photo printer, the Pixma MG8150 (9 ppm colour and 7 ppm black & white). Double-sided speeds fall to 5 ppm.
Of course there are higher performance printers out there, but printers designed for photo prints place more of an accent on quality than speed.
Although office document quality is okay for text alone, graphs and colour work leave something to be desired. The reproduction of the graph below deserves no more than a 3-star rating. The characters lack depth, precision and sharpness and the areas of shaded colour are dull. In the black & white print of the graph you can't make out the shading at all. The blacks are blocked out and the reproduction of characters again suffers from lack of legibility.
Photo quality is however 5-star. It's difficult to see anything wrong with it. The prints are sharp, precise and detailed and colour accuracy is also very good. It's simply excellent and Epson's claim to give better than lab quality is upheld!
Scanner and copierThe CIS type scanner offers resolution up to 4800 dpi. As you probably know, you'll find two scanner technologies on the general consumer market: CIS (Contact Image Sensor) and CDD (Charged Coupled Device). CCD scanners have the advantage of being able to scan objects in 3D to a certain extent. Where a book binding is blurred on a CIS, it'll be sharp on a CCD.
A 300 dpi scan takes 11 seconds. This is a good deal slower than average (around 7 seconds). The scanner is intelligent and recognises the areas to be scanned but unfortunately, the quality isn't all that convincing. The scans are rather dull and colour accuracy poor (13.3% colour difference). Overall, scans lack precision and this is particularly visible on the contours of the image, which is a real shame for a photo printer.
Colour copies in particular are lacking. The yellow letters in our graph are lost in the green and legibility is problematic to say the least. Black and white copies are better, more legible and sharper. It takes 12 seconds for a black and white copy and 15 seconds for colour, which is good. It's a real shame though that we experienced paper jams during print tests of as little as ten copies.
This printer, very quiet during photo prints (40 dB(A)), draws a bit too much energy in standby (4 Watts) and during printing (21 Watts).
Energy consumption & Noise levels
Cost per page: 9 pence per page with XL cartridges
The six cartridges give very variable ISO lifespans. There's no grey cartridge but light cyan and magenta do exist. Two capacities are available, the T08 standard series and the T07 XLs (higher initial outlay but more economical in the long run).
Standard cartridges: 11.2 pence / page
||Cost per page|
|T0801 (black)||£7.59||340|| 2.2 pence
|T0802 (cyan)||£8.49||925||0.9 pence
|T0803 (magenta)||£8.49||445||1.9 pence|
|T0804 (yellow)||£10||640||1.6 pence|
|T0805 (light cyan)||£10||330||3.0 pence|
|T0806 (light magenta)||£10||635||1.6 pence|
Total: 11.2 pence per page, compared to 9.6 pence for the Canon Pixma MG8150 (using standard cartridges, the only Canon format). XL cartridges however give a significant saving of 2.2 pence per page for the PX730WD. Epson, then, is providing top drawer quality for very reasonable cost.
High capacity cartridge: 9 pence par page
||Cost per page|
|T0791 (black)||£9.92||560||1.8 pence|
|T0792 (cyan)||£14.33||1470||1.0 pence|
|T0793 (magenta)||£12||700||1.7 pence|
|T0794 (yellow)||£9.92||1070||0.9 pence|
|T0795 (light cyan)||£12.58||560||2.3 pence|
|T0796 (light magenta)||£14.33||1065||1.3 pence|
With the T07 cartridges, the costs come down a bit: 9 pence per page. Will HP be as competitive on its new range of printers? We'll find out in our forthcoming tests...