Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD £190

23rd Mar 2011 | 15:36

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD

Epson's new flagship all-in-one inkjet printer boasts features aplenty

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

Like:

Uses 6 Claria dye-based inks; WiFi built-in; Smart-navigation touch-panel; Fast scanning

Dislike:

Only one black ink; Reds a little dark in prints; Expensive

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Overview

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Overview

Based on Epson's acclaimed Claria dye-based inks, the PX820FWD is first and foremost a photo printer.

The mix of cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks, plus light cyan and light magenta, enable a generous gamut, or colour space, along with impressive dynamic range. Even so, it seems like a photo printer dressed up in business suit, as it adds plenty of office-friendly functions like standalone faxing and photocopying, complete with an ADF (Auto Document Feeder) for multi-page documents.

There's also an auto duplex unit tacked onto the back for easy double-sided document printing, and the printer is well-connected with USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi built in.

The host of document printing extras seems a little odd, as there's no pigment-based black ink in the PC820FWD's line-up. Black dye-based ink often makes for greyish, feint looking text but the Epson is above average in this respect, delivering crisp-looking documents.

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Features

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Features

Like Epson's mid-range Stylus Photo PX660, the PX820FWD uses the same six Claria inks, available in standard-yield or high-yield cartridges, feeding print heads that deliver a maximum of 5760x1440dpi resolution with a minimum droplet size of 1.5pl (pico-litre). However, the PX820FWD's print heads have twice as many nozzles per colour, at 180 instead of 90, enabling faster print speeds. The scanner is also a more high-res affair, boasting a maximum resolution of 4800x4800dpi.

Unlike most Epson printers, there's no rear-mounted paper feeder. Instead, you get a dual-input cassette that slots into the bottom of the printer.

The main tray holds A4 paper while a secondary tray is adjustable for 6x4-inch, 7x5-inch and 16:9 wide format photo papers. The photo tray is motorised so it engages automatically for photo printing but, if you want to create full A4 photo prints, you still need to empty the plain paper out of the main tray and replace it with photo paper, which is a bit of a

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Handling

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Handling and printing times

Handling is refined, thanks to a particularly intuitive 19.cm 'smart-navigation' touch-panel. This goes one better than the control panel on the PX660 because, as well as touch-sensitive icons that only illuminate and become visible when they have an active role to play, the colour LCD at the centre of the panel is also a touch-screen in its own right.

Suffice it to say that standalone photocopying, faxing (complete with 60 speed-dial memory locations) and direct photo printing from CompactFlash, MS Pro, SD or xD cards is as simple as can be. The ADF also makes for simple faxing or photocopying of multi-page documents, although you can still bypass this and place photos for scanning or copying directly onto the scanner's platen.

Print speeds are respectable rather than dazzling, at least in Best quality mode. In our tests, the PX820FWD averaged 2 minutes 54 seconds for borderless A4 prints and 58 seconds per 6x4-inch print. However, the first postcard sized print takes a little longer, as the motorised tray needs to engage before printing can commence. Printing is a lot quicker in normal Photo quality mode, at 1 minute 3 seconds for A4 and 15 seconds per 6x4-inch print.

There's practically no perceptible difference in quality between Photo and Best modes, although on a very few prints we saw very marginally more detail in extreme lowlights using the highest quality mode.

Scan times are pretty quick, at 15 seconds for a full A4 scan and 7 seconds for a 6x4-inch photo, both measured at 300dpi.

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Performance

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Performance

Considering that the PX820FW uses exactly the same range of Claria inks that we've seen on many Epson A4 printers over the last couple of years, colour rendition came as quite a shock. Indeed, colour was so inaccurate that we double-checked that all the cartridges were in their correct slots. Reds in particular were way off the mark, with pure bright red looking more like a murky maroon.

In the end, we updated the printer driver that was supplied on Epson's installation CD, replacing it with the latest edition that's available online, and this made a huge difference. Even so, reds in our test chart were still noticeably darker than expected.

Fine lines and challenging diagonals and concentric circles from our test chart were faithfully reproduced and each of the blocks in the greyscale bar were clearly distinguishable. Landscape images looked their best in the printer's Vivid colour mode, or when using the automatic Photo Enhance option, both of which gave punchier (and practically identical) results.

Skin tones using the standard colour option were a little muddy, but a touch warmer than on many Epson printers, whereas the Photo Enhance 'People' option brightened up flesh tones to give more pleasing results.

Scanning proved accurate in our tests, with good tonal range and colour rendition. There was also none of the streakiness of lines running across scans, which we suffered with the PX660.

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Prints

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Prints

Printer test chart

As produced by the Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD

Landscape image

As produced by the Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD

Portrait image

As produced by the Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Specification

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: 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
4800x4800dpi

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)
466 x 458 x 198mm

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Ink costs

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Ink costs

You can use either standard-yield (Hummingbird) or high-yield (Owl) cartridges in the PX820FW. However, the high-yield cartridges are considerably more expensive so actual cost-savings are negligible, at around a couple of pence per photo print.

Combined with Epson Premium Glossy photo paper, print costs are likely to average out to around 36p and £1.45 per 6x4-inch and A4 print sizes respectively.

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Verdict

Epson Stylus Photo PX820FWD: Verdict

There's no denying that the PX820FWD is very expensive for an A4 printer, and running costs are above average as well.

Wi-Fi connectivity is nice to have, especially if you like to print photos from your laptop, from anywhere around the home, but the auto duplex unit, auto document feeder and standalone fax facility cater to office jobs that most of us don't require from a photo printer.

While the PX820FWD is a fair bit faster than Epson's own PX660, it costs much more than twice the price and photo quality is no better. In fact, the PX820FWD's skin tones and red hues can look a little muddy by comparison.

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