On the plus side, the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 multifunction printer is reasonably priced and accepts a wide variety of removable digital camera micromedia cards. Better yet, for those wanting to archive old images, the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 includes a built-in slide and film-negative scanner attachment. However, like most photo printers we've seen, the RX500 prints good photo-quality prints at the expense of text and mixed-graphics results, which are merely fair. If you're looking for an all-purpose multifunction printer for the home or the office, consider the . But for home users who just want to create digital photo albums, the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 is the ideal all-in-one printer for occasional productivity tasks, such as faxing, printing, or copying.
Like most all-in-ones, the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 looks like an office copier grafted onto an inkjet printer. Measuring an average-size 17.7 inches by 23.3 inches by 11.9 inches (W, D, H), the RX500 has a flatbed scanner on top, a paper-input tray in back, and an output tray on the bottom. There's a control panel on the front of the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 with an LCD, buttons to scroll through the LCD's menu, dedicated Copy and Scan buttons, and a numeric keypad. The panel is well designed, so the various functions are easy and intuitive. Below the LCD, there is an array of removable media options for Secure Digital, Memory Stick, CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Microdrive, and xD cards.
Epson includes a connecting USB cable, a rarity today. Unfortunately, the location of the USB 2.0 port is not immediately obvious. As we set up the Epson Stylus Photo RX500, we were surprised to find that the port wasn't in any of the usual places, and there was no direct mention of it in the setup poster. (In fact, the setup poster showed the cable already in place.) We had to consult the CD manual to learn that that USB port lives deep inside the printer, under the scan carriage. While this location makes some sense, we think that the unusual configuration may cause unnecessary confusion and should be mentioned up front in the printed setup poster.
The Epson Stylus Photo RX500 copies, scans, prints, and faxes (using your own Mac or PC fax software), and it does all of these things with a minimum of fuss and effort. The graphical software interface, called the Smart Panel, leads you through various tasks, from performing simple jobs, such as faxing, to scanning a photo into e-mail or to the included ArcSoft PhotoImpression editing software to create a greeting card from a scanned photo. We got a kick out of the copy submenu of Smart Panel: the icon-based interface looks exactly like the LCD on a high-end office photocopier.
Epson's copy software lets you reduce, enlarge, or change the layout of an image and the saturation of the ink using a familiar panel display such as that found on a high-end copier.
Epson's scan drivers offer three modes: Full Auto, which scans without asking you for preferences; Home mode, for new users who want to choose basics such as the destination application (e-mail, photo-editing, and fax software); and Professional mode, which gives you the total control you'd expect from any TWAIN driver, a standard image-capture interface.
But what really sets the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 apart (besides its bank of removable media slots) are its high-end photo features. For example, Epson includes a plastic grid that holds slides and film negatives in place so that you can scan them; the grid can be stored inside the lid of the scanner when not in use. You can also scan hard-copy photos directly to your removable media and easily print borderless photos, perfect for creating photo albums.
Perhaps the best feature is Epson's Easy Photo Fix software. Take a faded print photograph or use the film-media attachment with an old slide or negative, scan it, then use the Easy Photo Fix software on your computer to restore the original color to the photograph. The software scans will also remove signs of dust and other imperfections from slides and negatives. The restored images can then be printed or saved to CD, DVD, or memory-strip media for archiving. Our informal tests proved this software a big success, although with the naked eye, we were unable to tell whether the vivid photos the Easy Photo Fix produced were the original colors or a close approximation.