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Epson Stylus SX600FW review

Verdict:

Needs USB port or Ethernet or wifi connection

Review Date: 20 Nov 2008

Price when reviewed: (£73 ex VAT)

Reviewed By: Simon Williams

Our Rating 3 stars out of 5

With its newly introduced Stylus SX600FW all-in-one device, Epson appears to be trying to move inkjet technology into the lower end of the business market.

To make a success of this, the machine will need to have good print speeds, decent capacities in its ink cartridges and paper trays, and a comprehensive set of features.

Decked out in a completely black case, much of it high-gloss, the SX600FW would look good at home or in the front office of any small business. There are some nice touches, such as the feed tray for the automatic document feeder (ADF). This folds shut when not in use and lifts the baseof the scanner output tray to completea gently curved top profile to themachine. The ADF can take up to 30 sheets and the paper feed tray, angled up atthe back in typical Epson fashion, can take 120 sheets. This is a healthy number for a home machine, but a bit low for a Soho device. The pages feed out to a telescopic tray at the front.

The control panel looks sleek with flush-mounted black buttons and a 63mm colour LCD display. As well as a number pad for fax dialling and large, illuminated mode buttons for scanning, copying, photo printing and faxing, there's a nine-button square for menu navigation. This integrates well with the on-screen menus, making the machine easy to use standalone.

The pair of memory card slots to the left of the control panel are compatible with most types of card, and there's a PictBridge socket for direct camera connection. At the back are sockets for USB and Ethernet, and the machine supports 802.11g wifi. Setup for all these connections is easy, through Epson's installation applet. The provided software includes Epson's own utilities and drivers, and a copy of Abbyy FineReader 5Sprint Plus.

Epson quotes print speeds of 38ppm in black and colour, but then qualifies that by saying it's for printing in the fastest available mode and 'doesn't allow for processing time on the host computer'. The obvious question is 'Why not?', since processing time is an integral part of printing.

In the real-world, where you might want to show the prints to somebody else, we measured the speeds of 14ppm and 6ppm for black and colour, in normal print mode. These are reasonable speeds for an inkjet all-in-one, so we don't quite know why Epson is shy of quoting them. We completed a photo print in around one minute 20 seconds, which is fast compared with the machine's main rivals.

Printed output from the SX600FW is variable. While photos are natural, well coloured and needle-sharp in their fine detail, things are not so good with black text on plain paper. When we looked closely at the slight fuzziness of certain characters, we saw some ink feathering intothe paper nap and the curves in characters can show jagged edges. Colour graphics looked okay, though, with regular colour fills showing little banding. However, photocopies come through light and this is partly due to under-saturation of the paper.

There are two sets of cartridges for this machine, but for the best economy, you should go for the four high-capacity offerings, which contain enough ink for between 800 and 900 ISO pages. Using these cartridges and the best Internet priceswe could find gives costs per page of2.3p for black and 5.6p for colour. These are both reasonable for a machine in this price bracket, so you don't pay for its comparatively low asking price with overpriced consumables.

Overall, the Stylus SX600FW is a good, solid all-in-one device for family use or a small office. It's easy to use, gives reasonable results and won't cost the earth to run. It's noisy when printing, but other than that it's agood choice as a sub-£100 printer.

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