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 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.
All-in-one printers tend to be better at some tasks than others, and the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 is no exception. When tested against similar six-ink multifunction printers, CNET Labs found the RX500's print engine to be quite slow. On monochrome text, the RX500 printed at a sluggish 2.0 pages per minute (ppm), not as bad as the HP PSC 1350's 1.8ppm, but nowhere near the Lexmark P3150's 4.3ppm or the Epson Stylus CX6400's 4.8ppm. The RX500 fared much better, however, with 8x10 color photos, printing at 4.3 minutes per page (mpp), which is faster than the P3150's 4.7mpp but slower than the CX6400's 3.0mpp and significantly faster than the HP PSC 1350's 13.4mpp.
In CNET Labs tests, the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 produced jagged edges on monochrome text, even when using Epson inkjet paper. Our mixed color and monochrome graphics test document fared no better, showing visible dithering throughout, meaning you could see the discrete colored dots that make up an image instead of seeing a smoothly blended shade. Photos, of course, looked better--much crisper and less dithered. Although the photo quality was good, we still saw some horizontal banding in the backgrounds.
The Epson Stylus Photo RX500's 7.5ppm scanning rate was much faster than the HP PSC 1350's 5.4ppm and the Lexmark P1350's 5.3ppm. The Epson Stylus Photo RX500 captured fine details clearly in photos and reproduced tricky gradients smoothly in each scan. However, the RX500's copy speeds were middle-of-the-road at 1.5mpp, faster than the CX6400's 3.4mpp, though not as fast as the HP PSC 1350's 0.40mpp.
In terms of consumables, the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 was on a par with other six-ink photo inkjets we've seen, averaging $1.05 per page when printing our 8.5x11 test photo. If you print mostly 4x6 photos, your real-world costs will be about half that. Unlike HP and Lexmark, Epson uses separate ink tanks, so you replace only the color that runs out instead of buying a new multicolor cartridge.
|Multifunction printer text speed (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
|Multifunction color photo speed test (Shorter bars indicate better performance)|
|Inkjet printer quality|
The Epson Stylus Photo RX500 comes with an industry-standard one-year warranty that can be extended to two or three years for $70 and $100, respectively. Epson offers toll-free, 24/7, automated tech support via phone or fax. Live tech support is available Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, but you'll have to pay the long-distance charges. By comparison, HP's warranty on the PSC 1350 is a much better deal, covering free shipping for repairs and toll-free, 24/7 tech support for one year. It can be extended to three years for $65.
The Epson Web site has an adequate selection of drivers, documentation, and FAQs, along with an interactive help engine and access to e-mail tech support.