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In addition to scanning, copying, and printing from media cards, a PictBridge camera, or your computer, the Epson Stylus CX4800 multifunction photo printer offers a few useful features that we rarely see in a budget all-in-one. These include individual ink cartridges, the absence of special photo inks to buy, and a truly beginner-friendly photo printing process. However, the CX4800 lacks a display LCD, offered by the similarly priced . Nor does this Epson let you initiate a scan from the printer without a PC, so the walk-up features are limited compared to those of other all-in-one printers. This is also one of the slowest printers we've encountered recently, and its print quality is disappointingly uneven. The Epson Stylus CX4800 follows the basic paradigm for all-in-one printers: a rectangular box (16.9 by 13.9 by 7.1 inches) with a flatbed scanner on top, a 100-sheet paper input tray in back, and a 30-sheet output tray tucked in front. At nearly 19 pounds, this modest-size machine pulls off its gray, silver, and faux-chrome plastics with style and convenience.
The scanner lid detaches easily so that you can scan and copy thick books, and the top of the printer lifts up like the hood of a car to reveal the print engine and the ink cartridges. A transparent plastic door in front hides media-card slots for CompactFlash Types I and II, MultiMediaCard, IBM Microdrive, xD-Picture Card, Sony Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Duo, MagicGate Memory Stick, SmartMedia and Secure Digital. The slots show up as drives on your computer, so you can use them to transfer files. Plus, a PictBridge port lets you print directly from a compatible digital camera.
The lack of an LCD on the Epson Stylus CX4800 may help to keep the price down, but it limits what you can do without hooking up the printer to your PC or Mac (via a USB cable, sold separately). Instead of an LCD, an array of buttons on the top panel put the walk-up printing options within easy reach. Using the memory-card button, you can print an index sheet of the contents of a card, individual prints from that index sheet, or everything on your camera or card. The Copy button lets you specify the number of copies, which appears on a small LCD counter.
Other buttons toggle between paper type and size, and will fit an image to a page so that you can make a borderless copy of a photo. Large black and white and color start buttons launch functions and prevent you from wasting the wrong ink. Unfortunately, the CX4800 lacks the abilities to tweak photos before printing without using your computer, to fit multiple prints on letter-size photo paper, and to launch a scan from the front panel. But we do appreciate that Epson covers the basics, with the buttons to serve less tech-savvy users. The success of the Epson Stylus CX4800 as an easy-to-use photo printer hinges on its ability to print from an index sheet. Just plug a card or a PictBridge camera into the all-in-one, load some plain paper, press Start, and pages of your thumbnails will spool out of the printer. With an index sheet, you can ink in the bubble beneath any picture you want to print, insert photo paper, pop the index sheet back onto the scanbed, and press the "Print from index sheet" button. Voilà, prints of your favorite photos arrive. If you have more-sophisticated printing plans, you can transfer images to your computer, tweak them using the included ArcSoft Photo Impression software, and adjust print settings through Epson's print drivers.
The Epson drivers cater to beginners and advanced users. You can use them to adjust individual color levels, brightness, contrast, and saturation levels, or use the PhotoEnhance options to print in grayscale or sepia tones.
One design flaw we noted is that you can launch only via the Epson Scan software on your PC, not through the front panel buttons. The software has three modes that are tailored to beginner, intermediate, and advanced users. Full Auto is for quick, easy scanning without a lot of decision-making on the user's part. Home Mode is task oriented and asks you for the type of scan (photo, illustration, or line art) and the destination (Web, printer, or other), but it also lets you adjust the descreening filter, the brightness, and the contrast, as well as restore color to faded old photos with one click. Professional mode lets you specify if you're scanning reflective material or film, choose 24-bit color, 8-bit grayscale, color smoothing, or black-and-white scanning, and perform histogram adjustment and tone correction. Due to the lack of optical character recognition software, you'll need to purchase your own if you're going to scan a lot of text.
We also missed software that gathers all the functions under one umbrella interface. Where other all-in-ones, such as the include software that launches, say, when you insert a media card to walk you through printing, Epson leaves you more on your own. As for adjusting photocopies, there are no tweaks to make on your PC. Still, we appreciated the CX4800's individual ink tanks, which allow you to replace each color separately as it runs out rather than buying one cartridge with all four colors.
Epson rates the CX4800's print speed at 20 pages per minute (ppm) for black text. While this claim is for an economy mode text memo, it's still a far cry from the 1.57 pages per minute we clocked when printing a simple 10-page document. In an age where low-cost inkjet-based printers regularly print 6 or 7 pages per minute, this Epson's 1.57ppm seems shockingly slow, less than one-third the speed of the . Fortunately, the CX4800's average of 1.91ppm when printing an 8x10-inch photo is more in line with the two minutes per page that many photo printers achieve.
Color ink cartridges will run you $12.34 each, and replacement black cartridges are $18.99--average prices. Epson doesn't make per-page ink price estimates.
|Copy speed||Color scan speed||Grayscale scan speed||Photo speed||Text speed|
Notwithstanding a few strengths, the Epson Stylus CX4800's performance was so-so overall. Text on Epson's Bright White paper was dark and crisp-looking to the naked eye, but when viewed under a magnifying loupe, letters had feathery edges and faint horizontal banding. In our color graphics and photo tests, we could clearly see individual droplets of ink, and the photo elements lacked contrast, which gave them a somewhat two-dimensional appearance. On the positive side, the printer made smooth shading transitions from dark to light, with reasonably accurate colors.
Scan quality was better. While the printer's maximum scan resolution is 1,200x2,400dpi, our test scans at 150dpi revealed dark colors and a lack of focus. There were no errors or artifacts, and the scanner captured fine details well, but the output wasn't as good as that of the .
|Color scan||Grayscale scan||Photo||Graphics on inkjet paper||Text on inkjet paper|
Before you contact tech support or visit Epson's Web site, you can consult the enclosed quick-start poster to set up the device and decipher any error messages. A quick guide pamphlet and a user guide on CD covers the CX4800's basic functions and maintenance.