Epson Stylus Photo PX730WD
40ppm print speed, USB, 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, 150x445x458mm
Epson's Stylus Photo PX730WD is a direct replacement for the PX720WD, which won our Best Buy award, so we were keen to see if it's a worthy successor. It's a squat inkjet multifunction peripheral (MFP) comprising printer, scanner and colour copier. There's a tilting, touch-sensitive control panel with a 6.3cm colour screen which displays either various menus or the contents of a memory card inserted in one of the MFP's slots.
The PX730WD's specifications reflect the fact that it's aimed at photographers and other creative users. It can scan with a high 2,400x4,800dpi resolution, while the printer is based on a long-standing Epson engine that's been at the heart of many of our favourite photo inkjets. Its six-ink setup includes light cyan and magenta inks, which should give the printer exacting control of lighter shades without individual dots of ink becoming visible.
Epson has recently updated its inkjet setup program to give the user more choice over which components are installed, but things seem more complex than necessary when it comes to choosing which of the MFP's three interfaces you'll be using. We tested using a wired Ethernet connection, but this is only activated once the wireless interface is switched off from the printer's control panel; you can't connect computers through a mix of Ethernet and wireless networking.
Telltale 'tearing' in our initial text prints revealed that the printer's heads needed alignment which, almost uniquely in 2012, remains a manual process. Fortunately it's not something users will need to do often. Once aligned, black text looked good at all quality settings except Draft, when it was rather pale and blocky. Although colour prints weren't especially vibrant or powerful on plain paper, fills were solid and shade progressions were free of banding and very smooth. When using fairly thin 75gsm paper, we noticed a small amount of bleed from one side of the paper to the other when using automatic duplex printing.
The PX730WD really comes into its own when printing photos. It's quite fast even at the highest possible quality settings, delivering each 6x4" photo in just 79 seconds, but the results are exceptional. Superbly judged shading and accurate colour combine to deliver class-leading reproductions of both colour and black and white prints.
There aren't any nasty surprises elsewhere. We're not overly impressed by the hinges of the scanner lid, which extend only slightly to accommodate thicker originals, but the scanner itself is well matched to the printer; together they deliver very good photocopies. The scanner is reasonably rapid, even when tested over an Ethernet connection, and it benefits from Epson's excellent TWAIN interface.
The scanner's focus is unusually sharp, while colours are captured extremely accurately, but what really sets it apart from lesser rivals is its ability to preserve the full dynamic range of originals, including subtly different shades in the darkest and lightest areas. Thanks to good all-round performance, excellent photo printing, superb scans and reasonable running costs, the PX730WD is a Best Buy printer.