Considering its $199 price tag, the Epson Stylus CX6400 multifunction printer offers an impressive depth of features for storing, printing, and editing digital images. It also prints and copies faster than similar systems CNET has tested, though it scans somewhat slowly. The Epson Stylus CX6400 delivers attractive print, scan, and copy quality across the board. If digital photography has crept into your life, the Epson Stylus CX6400 can move it from an afterthought to an integral part of your daily computing.
The silver-and-gray Epson Stylus CX6400 bulges slightly at the sides and looks about as aerodynamic as an Airstream trailer, measuring 23 inches by 17.75 inches by 12 inches (W, D, H). The output tray slides under the base when not in use, freeing up some room on your desk; the input support flops over the scanner bed but doesn't lie completely flat, which looks plain silly. Both paper supports are sturdy enough for a home or a home office, but we're not sure why the input paper support comes off. The scanner lid comes off, too, which is a good thing because it lets you arrange objects on the A4-size glass that would otherwise be too large to fit. The scanner bed also opens wide, creating plenty of room for your hands to reach in and replace the two ink cartridges. The USB cable feeds are located deep inside the underside of the scanner bed so that the cables won't come loose.
The Epson Stylus CX6400's two key features sit front and center. Under a small plastic flap above the output tray are five flash-memory slots that support most common digital camera memory-card formats, including Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, and Magic Gate Memory Stick; CompactFlash I and II; SmartMedia; IBM Microdrive; Secure Digital; and MultiMediaCard. And along the strip between the memory-card module and the scanner glass is a control panel with an LCD and logically grouped, clearly labeled buttons for each set of functions. The LCD, alas, is not backlit, which makes it tough to use the control panel in poor lighting. In contrast, neither the HP PSC 1350 nor the Lexmark 3150 include a LCD.
The Epson Stylus CX6400 offers an impressive depth of features for its price. Like other multifunction printers we've seen, it lets you print a sheet showing thumbnails of all the images on a memory card, mark the sheet to indicate which images to print and the size and quality you want, then slap the sheet on the scanner glass to execute your instructions. The CX6400 offers one unique feature: you can also scan directly to a memory card.
The Epson Stylus CX6400 makes black or color copies without a computer. You can tell it to reduce the image and print it multiple times on the same sheet, print two or four different scans on the same sheet, or blow up the image onto several sheets that tape together into a poster. If you don't want anyone else using your Epson Stylus CX6400 or changing your settings, you can lock it with a password.
With the Epson Stylus CX6400 attached to your computer, a shell application called Epson Smart Panel displays logically grouped buttons that initiate discrete tasks, such as scanning an image into Photoshop or scanning a text page to convert to live text with the bundled Abbyy FineReader Sprint. Epson's Scan application lets you tweak color-channel settings, rearrange the image's histogram, correct color tone, and so on. The package also includes ArcSoft's PhotoImpression, a tool for editing and manipulating photos and arranging them in a wide range of templates. While not as thorough as HP's printer software, Epson covers the basics well.
The Epson Stylus CX6400 makes prints and copies at a reasonable speed. It spits out plain text at 4.2 pages per minute (ppm)--faster than Lexmark's 3150 by just a hair and more than double the HP PSC 1350's poky 1.4ppm. The Epson also prints photos at 3 minutes per page (mpp), which is better than Lexmark's 4.7mpp and about four times faster than HP's 13.4mpp. The Epson Stylus CX6400 produces monochrome copies at 3.2ppm, again nearly five times the speed of the HP. But HP beats the Epson on scanning speed: the HP captures 5 pages per minute (ppm), while the Epson captures only 3.5ppm.
The Epson Stylus CX6400 delivers good-quality, but not excellent, text and photos. Instead of the four-plus-two photo inks found on other Epson photo printers, the Epson Stylus CX6400 uses only a four-ink engine. Thus, the Epson Stylus CX6400's text output on coated inkjet paper shows some rough edges, especially on diagonal strokes, and the ink weighting looks a tad uneven. Color prints on coated inkjet paper show some dithering, but they have good detail and accurate colors. Photos on glossy photo paper have lifelike texture and shading, though color has a slightly reddish cast. Yet the Epson Stylus CX6400 preserved the subtlest shades of gray in our grayscale scanning test and captured fine detail, despite a slightly soft-focus look. In fact, the Epson Stylus CX6400 is one of the best grayscale scanners CNET has seen, multifunction or standalone. On color scans, it captures detail well and renders shading and gradations cleanly, while its colors are accurate despite a lack of saturation.
|Multifunction printer text speed (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
|Multifunction color-photo speed test (Shorter bars indicate better performance)|
|Photo multifunction printer quality|
Epson provides fairly generous support for the Epson Stylus CX6400, covering it with a one-year warranty that includes free shipping for repairs, and one year of free, but not toll-free, tech support available 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays PT. The printer ships with a well-illustrated setup poster and a concisely printed manual describing the capabilities that don't depend on a computer, such as printing from memory cards and copying. The computer-enabled features, such as OCR and photo editing, have their own onscreen documentation.