Epson Stylus Photo PX660 £110

23rd Mar 2011 | 16:16

Epson Stylus Photo PX660

We put Epson's new Stylus Photo PX660 all-in-one printer to the test

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

Like:

Uses 6 Claria dye-based inks; Minimum doplet size of 1.5pl; subtle colour gradations

Dislike:

No Wifi; comparatively expensive to buy and run; banding in scans

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Overview

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Overview

Smartly presented in a mix of contrasting gloss and matte black surfaces and nicely rounded styling, the PX660 boasts 'better-than-lab-quality' photo printing abilities, along with a 2400dpi scanner and multi-format memory card reader.

Everything is linked by a neat and intuitive control panel which enables direct printing from memory cards or PictBridge-compatible cameras, along with standalone photocopying.


Based on the time-honoured tradition of six-ink photo printing, the PX660 adds light cyan and light magenta inks to the basic CMYK mix, all six being from Epson's latest Claria range of photographic dye-based inks.

As usual for Epson printers, each ink cartridge is individually replaceable. Theoretically, this keeps running costs down to a minimum if you use a lot of one particular ink colour but, as we'll see later, the PX660 isn't exactly cheap to run.

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Features

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Features

At the heart of the PX660 is Epson's tried and tested micro-piezo print head technology. This differs from the system used in every other make of inkjet printer, as the ink isn't boiled to force a rapid expansion that expels it from the print head.

There are 90 nozzles for black and each colour of ink, delivering Epson's typical maximum resolution of 5760x1440dpi, along with AVDT (Advanced Variable-sized Droplet Technology), that enables droplets as small as a near-microscopic 1.5pl (pico-litre).

Up on top, the CIS (Contact Image Sensor) A4 scanner is standard fare, with a reasonable 1200x2400dpi resolution while, down below, there's a PictBridge port and dual-slot card readers. The first of these takes MS Pro, SD and xD cards while the second is for CompactFlash cards, which will please many D-SLR photographers as CF slots are lacking on most of the latest HP and Lexmark all-in-one printers.

There's also a specialist tray for direct printing onto white-faced CDs and DVDs, which is supported by design software that comes with the printer and is great for creating professional-looking discs. One thing that's lacking is the dual trays featured on most Canon inkjet printers, requiring you to switch between plain and photo paper in the single, rear-mounted upright feeder each time you want to swap between document and photo printing.

There's also no Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity, so the printer needs to be hooked up to a PC via a USB cable.

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Handling and print times

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Handling and print times

Like other new and recent models in Epson's all-in-one printer range, the PX660 has a particularly intuitive touch-sensitive control panel for standalone use, either photocopying or printing from memory cards or a USB pen.

It's based around a not overly large 6.3cm (2.5-inch) colour LCD but the neat thing is that individual controls only light up if and when their functions are relevant to the task in hand. The same approach is taken in some of Canon's latest printers and, in our view, it makes control slightly easier than with the touchscreen LCDs fitted to some of the new HP and Lexmark models.

Epson printers are typically a little sluggish, especially in 'Best' quality photo modes, and the PX660 is no exception. In our tests, it returned the same highest-quality mode speeds as the entry-level Stylus Photo P50, taking 4 minutes 57 seconds to produce a borderless A4 print, and 1 minute 54 seconds for a borderless 6x4-inch print.

Dropping to the regular 'Photo' quality setting, print speeds increases to a more respectable 2 minutes 2 seconds for A4 and 26 seconds for 6x4-inch photos, with practically no discernable drop in quality. Scanning speeds were pretty average, at 22 seconds for a full A4 photo print and 10 seconds for a 6x4 photo, both being scanned at 300dpi.

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Performance

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Performance

The PX660 made a good job of our printer test chart, with accurate colour rendition and very good tonal range, managing to clearly differentiate between steps at both the lightest and darkest ends of the greyscale bar.

There was marginal jaggedness in some of the finest diagonal lines and concentric circles but certainly no worse than we'd expect from even the most up-market inkjet printers.

In standard colour mode, colour reproduction is quite faithful and accurate, while the 'vivid' mode has the effect of brightening green and blue hues, while marginally darkening reds, which gives landscapes a bit more punch.

A Photo Enhance option is also available with an auto mode or manually selectable choices like people, landscape and night scene. It works reasonably well but, in our tests, skin tones were a little cool and unflattering in the standard colour setting and the 'people' enhancement merely made the whole print brighter, rather than warming skin tones for more flattering results.

Scan quality was less than impressive because, while colour accuracy and sharpness were good, with plenty of resolution of fine detail, nearly all of our photo scans had noticeable banding, with streaky lines running across the images.

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Prints

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Prints

Printer test chart

As printed by the Epson Stylus Photo PX660

Landscape print

As printed by the Epson Stylus Photo PX660

Portrait print image

As printed by the Epson Stylus Photo PX660

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Ink costs

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Ink costs

Refreshingly for a printer at this price, Epson gives the option of fitting standard-yield (Hummingbird) or high-yield (Owl) ink cartridges for the PX660.

However, while the high-yield cartridges enable you to change cartridges rather less often, they're also considerably more expensive. It's disappointing that, while ink costs with the standard-yield cartridges are pretty high at about 20p and 77p for 6x4-inch and A4 photo prints respectively, you'll probably only save a couple of pence per print if you buy the high-yield cartridges.

Once you add genuine Epson Premium Glossy photo paper into the equation, overall photo print prices work out to about 36p for a 6x4-inch print and £1.45 for A4.

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Specification

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Specification

Paper sizes
A4, Letter, Legal, 20x25 cm, 13x20 cm, 13x18 cm, 10x15 cm, 9x13 cm, A5, A6, B5, Envelopes: No.10, DL, C6

Maximum print resolution
5760x1440dpi

Maximum scan resolution
1200x2400dpi

Minimum Droplet size
1.5 pico-litre

Inkset
Epson Claria dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light cyan, light magenta, Hummingbird (standard-yield) or Owl (high-yield) cartridges

Dimensions (WxDxH)
451 x 386 x 195mm

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Verdict

Epson Stylus Photo PX660: Verdict

The PX660 isn't cheap to buy and it's certainly not cheap to run, which draws attention to the areas in which it's lacking.

Compared with printers like the Canon PIXMA MG5250, photo print speed is quite slow at the maximum quality setting, scan quality is disappointing, and there's no Wi-Fi connectivity.

On the plus side, however, the PX660's traditional range of six dye-based photo inks gives a generous colour space and a very smooth appearance to subtly graduated tones and colours. The onboard controls for direct, standalone use are particularly intuitive, and the colour mode settings for standard, vivid and various photo enhancements work well.

Skin tones proved a little on the cool side in our tests but, on the whole, the PX660 is a good quality printer at the price.

Epson Printers TRBC
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