Now that the home entertainment market has moved towards streaming video services and Blu-ray content, there has never been a better time to convert DVD collections to digital.
Epson Expression Photo XP-850 printer
An all-in-one unit with a small size and an ability to produce fine photo prints
- High-quality photo prints
- Small footprint
- Google Cloud ready
- ADF and auto-duplex
- Motorised output tray and screen
- Can't scan directly to USB sticks
Epson's XP-850 has a 6-ink system that a great job on photo prints, and unit overall is an interesting proposition. It's small and mostly intuitive to use, and it has essential home office features such as an auto document feeder and auto duplexing. We're not fans of the output tray design, though.
Price$ 379.00 (AUD)
Epson actually calls this multifunction printer a “small-in-one” device. It’s an accurate description considering that the unit consumes a square of less than 40cm on a desk (before its paper tray is extended), which makes it an ideal all-round printer for those of you who don’t want a space hog.
Features and ease of use
The XP-850 can print, scan, copy, and fax, and it’s equipped with goodies such as a touchscreen, Wi-Fi, and a tray that allows you to print on optical discs. Other features include a USB port at the front, and a concealed set of memory card slots. You can connect the printer using Ethernet to share it over a network, or you can direct-connect it to a computer using USB (you need to find your own cable). The printer’s built-in Wi-Fi can also be used to print over your wireless network and through mobile devices. In fact, once you’ve got your printer set up on your wireless (or wired) network and have Internet access, you can also use it through Google Cloud Print.
A clean interface is present on the touchscreen LCD that sits on the control panel, with three main icons highlighting the main tasks: Copy, Print Photos, and Scan. It’s easy to use the device without a computer as an interface, meaning you can easily print photos from an SD card or a USB stick, and you can also send scans to memory cards or even to the Cloud. An oversight here is the inability to scan to a USB stick.
We found the touchscreen to be a little awkward to use at times due to it interpreting our scrolling movements as taps, but there is a dedicated arrow button to the side of the screen for scrolling through menu items, almost as if Epson knew it would be easier to navigate in this way. If you want to use the fax facility, you’ll have to make do with the on-scree keyboard as there is no physical keypad.
On the inside, the printer has a set of six dye-based ink cartridges, which supply not only cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, but also light cyan and light magenta. These are mounted directly on the print head and are easy to access once you lift the scan bed. Ink levels can be viewed directly on the printer’s screen, or through the printer’s smartphone and tablet app. The cost for each cartridge is $16 through Epson’s site, and each colour has a stated yield of 360 pages, while the black has a stated yield of 240. There are also XL versions for $27, which increase the stated yield for black to 500 pages, and the stated yield for the colour cartridges to 740 pages.
You’re looking at a cost of $96 to replace a full set of standard cartridges, and how long these last will depend on your printing habits; suffice to say, they will run out quickly if you are printing high-quality, A4 photos, or even lots of 4x6in photos.
Motor-driven paper tray and control panel
As we’ve already mentioned, the physical presence of this printer isn’t a large one. It prints up to an A4 size, and it has a flatbed, A4 scanner, as well as an automatic document feeder for scanning multi-page documents. The printer has a curved paper path that feeds sheets in from the concealed paper trays at the bottom and out through the extended paper tray just above them. It handles double-sided printing automatically.
There are two input trays: one 100-sheet tray at the bottom for plain paper, and one 20-sheet tray just above it for 4x6in photo paper. The optical disk feeder is located under the bottom paper tray, and it needs to be removed and placed just above the output tray in order to be used.
While it all works, we will say this: the printer is hard to get used to in terms of paper handling. It has motors that extend the output tray, and which move the control panel and LCD screen to an outward position, but they can’t be retracted. There is no button to press to get the output tray to go back inside the printer; you simply have to push it (that’s what it says in the manual, and it warns you that you will face resistance). You might have to do this when you want to replenish the paper trays, as they can be difficult to access otherwise. Furthermore, the tray and control panel don’t go back to their original positions once the printer has been switched off. The printer would be easier to use if these were free-moving parts.
Printing from apps and the Cloud
To set up the printer for Cloud printing, you have to grab its IP address, which can be found by browsing through the printer’s menu and selecting the ‘Wi-Fi/Network Status’ page. Punch this IP address into your Web browser, and follow the prompts to associate the printer with your Google account. You will then be able to print from within Google Drive and Docs on any Web-enabled device.
If you want to use the printer from an Android or Apple smartphone or tablet, you can download the Epson iPrint app, which allow you to easily print photos from your Gallery, or documents from any of the supported Cloud services you use. It also provides an easy way to print Web pages. You have to be on the same network as your printer in order to use this app, whereas with the Google Cloud Print app, you can print from anywhere you have an Internet connection.
This app worked well in our tests, and we also had no problems printing from Google Cloud Print from our mobile devices.
Quality and speed
If you need to print a high volume of crisp-looking text very quickly, then a laser printer or business-grade inkjet should be sought, but for now-and-then prints, the XP-850 will provide an adequate service.
Text quality isn’t as sharp on plain paper as what a laser printer can provide, with noticeable feathering around the edges of each letter making regular output look a little messy. It’s fine for proofs, for printing out daily schedules, Web pages, recipes, and we think it’s even good enough for students who need to print out assignments. Just don’t rely on it for professional quality text.
A 3-page text document from Google Docs took 50sec to complete, with a first page out time of 20sec. This time increased to 60sec when duplex mode was enabled, as the printer took a little extra time to draw the paper back in to print on the other side.
When it comes to photos, though, Epson’s pedigree is undeniable, and this printer can easily be used to print out 4x6in or A4-sized prints for photo albums or wall art. The quality is sensational when printing photos, and it’s a printer that can definitely do justice to sharp photos taken with a digital SLR.
Printing an A4-sized photo on Premium Glossy paper using ‘Best Photo’ quality over a Wi-Fi connection from a laptop took 8min 41sec. It took only 2min 37sec to complete the same print simply using the ‘Photo’ setting, and the quality of the print was only slightly less detailed than the ‘Best Photo’ setting.
Be warned, though, that the ink cartridges will deplete quicker than normal if you engage in this sort of printing behaviour. On our test model, the first cartridges to empty were light cyan and light magenta.
The Epson XP-850 isn’t one of the cheapest multifunction devices on the market, with its recommended retail price of $379 putting it at the top end of Epson’s SOHO range, mainly due to its ability to produce fine photo quality output, and also its ability to be used as a wireless and Cloud-based device. There are some aspects of its design that we think could be better, such as the motorised screen and output tray, which are extended by the motor, but not retracted. However, we appreciate the unit’s overall small size, as well as features such as automatic duplexing, and the automatic document feeder for scans and copies, which are essential for a small, home office.
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