Has Epson hit the bull's-eye? The Stylus Photo PX710W multi-function inkjet printer looks great, races through pages, has an impressive set of features and costs a mere £170 if you're happy to shop around. Add in the integrated Wi-Fi and direct CD printing, and it looks like Epson has a winner on its hands.
Of all the printers we've tested lately, the PX710W garnered the greatest number of coos. Its sleek black case looks even better in person than in pictures, and the low profile means you can easily slip it under or onto a shelf if you're happy not to lift the lid of the scanner too high. It prints, it copies and it scans, looking nothing less than luscious all the time.
It boasts some impressive specs, too. It connects by Ethernet, Wi-Fi or USB and sports six individual inks, supplementing the regular cyan, magenta, yellow and black with half-strength cyan and magenta. The photo results, as you'd expect, are first-class.
In photo prints, skin tones are realistic, blacks are deep and primary colours vibrant. The PX710W's broad gamut brought out the detail in our test photos' shadows and gave us super-smooth transitions between areas of slow tonal variance, such as the shift in the atmospherics of a cloudless sky. The half-tone was so fine that, with the naked eye, it was impossible to see the dots that made up the output, even at very close inspection, giving the impression, on Epson's own photo paper, that the results were exposed photos rather than printed pictures. Quality of this level produced at A4 in 2 minutes and 14 seconds from a standing start is impressive indeed.
The results were similarly impressive when we switched to printing business graphics on plain office paper. Our stepped greyscale test of 21 tones with 5 per cent variance per step, ranging from white to black, proved child's play for the PX710W. At the 'photo' and 'text and images' settings, each step was clearly differentiated from its neighbours. It was only when we switched to draft quality, when the test completed in a breakneck 9.1 seconds per page, that they started to run into each other.
The small print
Both serif and sans-serif text is clearly legible at font sizes down to 2 points when printed in black on a white background, and down to 8 points when printed in white characters on a black background.