At first glance, the Epson Stylus CX7800 has all the virtues an all-in-one photo printer should. It scans photos, slides, film, and regular documents for copying, printing, and editing on your PC or Mac, it has a media card reader and a PictBridge port for direct printing from a digital camera, it's not too expensive, it uses individual ink tanks, its scan and text print quality are pretty good, and its interface makes easy work of all the aforementioned functions. But in spite of all these advantages, we can't get past the fact that its photo prints are not very smoothly blended and it's incredibly slow at printing simple text documents. The Epson Stylus CX7800 is essentially a souped-up version of the CX4800. It has the same breadboxlike form in the same gray, silver, and fake chrome plastics, but it's slightly bigger (17x16.6x7.83 inches, 21.16 pounds) and it has a more substantial scanner lid and a more elaborate front panel that includes a 1.5-inch backlit color LCD. Like the CX4800, the CX7800's 100-sheet input and 30-sheet output trays fold neatly into the body of the printer to create a contained unit that's much easier to dust than your average all-in-one that's full of nooks and crannies. The CX7800 comes with a plastic grid to hold film and slides for scanning, and this can be stored in the scan lid when it's not in use. The scan lid comes unhinged to accommodate thicker scan or copy materials and the "hood" of the printer lifts up to reveal the individual ink cartridges and the USB connector (cable not included), which is hidden in the body of the printer to prevent accidental unplugging.
Where the CX4800 relies on a strip of buttons for its all-in-one functions, the CX7800 has the aforementioned LCD, plus a series of buttons arranged in clusters according to function. There's a three-way cluster that toggles through copy features (fit to page, 100 percent), memory card features (print select photos, print all/PictBridge, print index sheet, print from index sheet), and film/photo features (where you can specify what type of material you're scanning). Other buttons on the top panel include a Setup/Utilities button that runs through basic functions such as cleaning and aligning the print head, and borderless printing. But it also offers task-specific functions such as number of copies (1-99) when you're in copy mode, and the ability to select what type of film or negative you're scanning when you're in film/photo mode. There are arrow buttons for things such as increasing quantities and scrolling through photos on a media card, plus buttons for toggling between paper types and sizes (say, plain, photo, 4x6, letter), and a big old start button for launching your selected task. The whole interface is intuitively designed and everything is clearly labeled so that one turn through the menu for each function should be enough to learn how to use the CX7800.
Below the instrument panel is a bank of slots for CompactFlash Type I and II, MultiMedia Card, IBM Microdrive, xD-Picture Card, Sony Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Duo, MagicGate Memory Stick, SmartMedia, and Secure Digital media cards, and a PictBridge port for printing directly from a PictBridge-compatible digital camera. The media card slots will show up as a drive on your computer, so you can move files to and from the cards. Because the Epson CX7800 has a 1.5-inch color LCD, it has slightly more functionality than the LCD-less CX4800. With the CX7800, you can print selected photos directly from a media card; the CX4800 lets you print only the whole contents of a card or select individual photos to print from an index sheet. The CX7800 also lets you enhance photos on the LCD before printing, but the options are extremely limited. Epson's options include only a color restore function that brightens up faded old photos, slides, and negatives, and three preset autocorrect modes: PIM (print image matching, an Epson communication protocol helps ensure colors and details translate correctly to the printer from a PIM-enabled camera), PhotoEnhance (an auto-enhance effect that you can also select through the CX7800's print drivers), and EXIF (whereby data is stored on the image about things such as exposure and shutter speed, then translated to the printed image). The ArcSoft PhotoImpression 5 software that's included on the installation CD does offer more enhancement options, such as cropping; resizing; red-eye removal; wacky effects such as honeycombing and bas relief; and the option to add text, frames, or create calendars and scrapbook pages, but all this must be done through your computer.
We were a little disappointed that the CX7800's LCD does not have a print preview function, a feature that's useful for photo printing, which can sometimes get tricky. To be fair, the CX7800 takes pretty much all the guesswork out of photo printing, so there's not much danger of wasting expensive paper with ill-fitting photos (see our Tech Nightmares: Printer terrors feature for more on this). Still, it's nice to know what you're getting yourself into before you hit the start button. We also wish the CX7800 offered an easy way to fit multiple smaller photos on a big piece of photo paper, and it's too bad you can't scan from the printer to your computer. Instead, you have to launch a scan from the Epson Scan software on your computer.