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The Epson Artisan 800 printer is a multifunctional printer that can also copy, scan, and fax documents. The $299 device is faster than other inkjet printers, and we like the large LCD screen and the built-in CD drive, but it's severely marred by buggy software and flimsy components. We spent more time taking apart the paper trays, fixing paper jams, and reinstalling drivers than actually using the printer. If you can actually get the printer to work on a consistent basis, the Artisan 800 can produce fast, well-formed photo prints. For the sake of your sanity, we recommend investing in a more dependable multifunction printer, such as the Canon Pixma MX700 or the HP Photosmart C8180.
Design and features
A flatbed scanner hides underneath the Artisan 800's top-loading, 30 page auto-document feeder for the copier and fax machine. The large 3.5-inch LCD sits prominently on the front of the printer with hinges on either side that control the angle of the screen. Only two buttons fill the rest of the space on the panel: "Power" and "CD eject." A CD/DVD tray, a unique printer feature, pops out from below the paper trays when you press the eject button and you can use it for copying images onto a blank CD or printing your own custom labels. The separate output and input trays rest below the display, and two memory card slots as well as a PictBridge port round out the front of the control center.
The trays that feed paper into the printer are the main source of our gripe with the Artisan 800. First, the plastic that Epson uses for the folding output tray is so thin that they bounce around at the slightest touch. We get that Epson wants to make the accessories collapsible to save space, but cutting corners on flimsy materials certainly throws speed bumps in the user experience. We can't comment precisely on how the trays will hold up to months or years of constant use, but even they already feel like they're about to snap in half.
In addition, you have to push the output tray all the way back into the device to pull out the input tray below it. The main paper tray holds 120 sheets of paper, and a separate, smaller tray for photo paper slides loosely across the top. Both trays suffer from serious design flaws: instead of designating fixed slots for the standard paper sizes (A4, Letter, and so on), the main tray has a series of confusing notch marks with several markings of the same size. Epson makes it harder by forcing you to line up the tab with the notch marks, which takes time and precision since the tabs can move freely anywhere along the slider. If you're even slightly off, the printer will pick up several sheets of paper at time, jam, and freeze your job. We much prefer the HP Photosmart C8180, another printer with dual paper feed trays that makes refilling easy with several preassigned size slots.
We also encountered issues with the software drivers included in the box. After experiencing severe banding after printing just a few photos, we aligned the print head and things seemed to be working until an unexplained error popped up on the screen prompting us to power down the printer and restart. We followed Epson's instructions and even tried searching for an updated driver, but still experienced the same intermittent errors. We also reinstalled the driver several times, restarted and power cycled the printer and our desktop with no success. The random errors disrupted our work flow--we almost spent more time behind the printer freeing up jams than actually testing the device.
These design issues are especially unfortunate because the Artisan 800 actually has some impressive features. When it works properly, it can streamline your printing work by eliminating the need for a physical computer to act as the liaison. You can perform most functions directly through the printer. For example, you can plug your xD, Memory Stick, Compact Flash, or Secure Digital card directly into the front media reader and edit your photos on the large 7.8 inch touch screen. Granted, you can only crop, rotate, and enlarge, but amateur photographers will be thankful for the automated fix options.
Creative types can also take advantage of the robust personalization options, including custom coloring books, passport and ID photo sheets, photo index sheets, greeting cards, and still movie clips. All of these options are also easy to use with the ArcSoft Print Creations software included in the package. There's also a convenient option to print out blank college-ruled or wide-ruled lined paper.
In terms of output speed, the Epson Artisan 800 sits in direct competition with the Canon Pixma MX700. We also put it up against several other all-in-one printers in the same price range, but the Artisan 800's scores blow theirs out of the water. For example, while the Kodak ESP 5 took its time printing a sheet of color graphics at a blistering 2.21 pages per minute, the Artisan flew across the finish line, finishing our test at almost three times the speed at 6.06 pages per minute. And even though the MX700 puts up a good fight in the text and color scanning qualifiers, it's no match for Epson in the Photo speed test, who came in at more than double the pages per minute. The Artisan 800 is without question one of the speediest printers we've tested, when it's working. In our evaluation, the Epson ruined its early finish with a handful of mechanical failures that took more time to fix than the testing itself.
|Color scanning||Photo speed (1 sheet)||Color graphics speed||Presentation speed||Color text speed|
We're also very impressed with the Artisan 800's capability to produce solid images across a variety of media materials and sizes. We printed our stock image on 20 pound plain paper and Epson's own premium glossy photo paper at both 8.5 by 11 inches as well as 4 by 6 inches. Each time, the output quality displayed solid lines, clear pictures, and bright colors. The printer uses six separate ink cartridges that you can purchase individually on Epson's Web site. The embedded printing options in the driver software are more extensive than the competition, showing job progress, pagination, and preferences for fine and normal lines, customizable presettings, and a maximum resolution of 5,760x1,440dpi.
Service and support
Epson backs the Epson Stylus 800 with a limited two-year warranty that includes toll-free customer support weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. Further support is available online through a model-specific troubleshooting guide, FAQs, e-mail support, driver updates, and document downloads.
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