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Epson Stylus CX4600 all-in-one
If the Epson Stylus CX4600 all-in-one were a car, it would resemble a boxy, gray, classic Volvo with a nonturbo engine. Printing and scanning speeds lag far behind this multifunction printer's vendor-rated 15 pages per minute (ppm) for black or color text (not a terribly unusual gap). This Epson printed more slowly than is competitors, but scanned at an average pace. Behind these problems, however, lies a reliable, four-color inkjet multifunction with exceptional print quality--a decent deal when you consider the relatively low $130 price of this scaled-down version of the highly-rated . The CX4600's standalone capabilities as a copier and media card reader, plus its range of text options, image editing tools, and affordable ink, make it a useful addition to a small office, home office, or dorm room at a reasonable cost. A bargain shopper might even prefer it to the , which produces lesser scans and prints. Except for its square looks, the Epson Stylus CX4600 favorably resembles its pricier, more stylish cousin, the $200 . Both machines share moderate dimensions, at 17.8 by 23 by 12 inches (WDH) with their paper trays extended, and 18.8 pounds without the four ink cartridges installed. Like the CX6600, the CX4600 connects to Windows 98SE, Me, 2000, or XP and to Mac OS 8.6 or later via a cable, not included, that plugs into the USB 2.0 port in the back of the machine near the power cord.
The Epson Stylus CX4600 announced its arrival to us when we pulled it out of the box and the scanner lid clattered to the floor. Yes, it's good to have a detachable scanner lid to fit thick books on the glass, but it would help if the lid locked into place when attached. The control panel buttons, located in a flat strip to the left of the scanner lid, can be difficult to read and reach unless you lean over them.
Three slots located below the CX4600's control panel support the same memory cards as its souped-up sibling: CompactFlash I and II, Sony Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, MagicGate Memory Stick, SmartMedia, Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, Hitachi Microdrive, and xD-Picture Card. You can also use Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick Pro Duo, which come with an adapter. To use a Mini Secure Digital Card, you'll have to buy an adapter separately.Among the Epson Stylus CX4600's strengths are its standalone features, such as its ability to print straight from a memory card and make copies without a computer. The row of buttons in the control panel controls these functions, so you can print a photographic index sheet from a memory card and print up to three borderless copies of each photo you pick, either 4 by 6 inches or letter-sized. Like the CX6600, the CX4600 also supports the Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) feature available on some digital cameras, which allows you to choose which photos to print without using your computer. This machine doesn't support cabling to a PictBridge camera. You can also make up to 100 quick, draft mode copies without turning on your computer. These standalone options are less extensive than those of the CX6600Â—for example, there are fewer ways to print from a memory card, and the gray control buttons are marked less clearly. The input tray behind the scanner lid holds 150 sheets, while the front output tray holds a mere 30 sheets. The CX4600 has 8 MB of non-upgradeable memory, typical for a multifunction.
Copying and printing options expand with your PC or Mac turned on. You can choose five different print settings to optimize your mix of text and graphics and print on a variety of papers, such as envelopes or 8 by 10 inch paper. Other options include double-sided, fit-to-page, poster, and customized watermark printing, as well as printing two to four pages on one sheetÂ—although many of these options are unavailable for Macs. Advanced image options let you manage colors, smooth edges, and make other enhancements.
Computer-enabled scanning is available in three different modes, with the more advanced settings letting you optimize colors and scan oversized documents, for example. Using Epson's Smart Panel application, you can send scanned images to Epson's photo-sharing Web site, a file, non-AOL e-mail, or a TWAIN-compliant application such as the bundled image management software ArcSoft Greeting Card Creator, which lets you enhance photos and create calendars, photo albums, and other projects. The CX4600 also comes withArcSoft Greeting Card Creator software that creates more projects for your scanned images, and ABBYY FineReader 5.0 Sprint Plus for optical character recognition scans. You can also scan a document or image to your computer's fax software.
All of these features are similar to those in the CX6600, though with a more limited range. Ink prices for the two machines are also comparable: a standard 580-page black ink cartridge costs $23.74, averaging 4.1 cents per page of text and 5.7 cents per page of graphics. Individual ink cartridges for cyan, magenta, and yellow cost $12.34 each, averaging 2.7 cents per page. A color printout that uses all four inks averages a reasonable 14 cents per page. Since the CX4600 lacks the high capacity black ink cartridge of the CX6600, however, you'll be changing black ink more often with the lower-end modelÂ—though the opposite is true for the CX4600's color cartridges.The Epson Stylus CX4600 all-in-one took its time in CNET Labs' speed tests, delivering only 1.3 ppm for text and taking up to 3.7 minutes to finish an 8 by 10 inch high resolution photo. While these below-average scores are the not worst among inkjet printers, they veered far from Epson's estimates.