Epson Expression Home XP-420 review: Pint-sized all-in-one inkjet printer is a great value

Like a lot of printer manufacturers, Epson offers a few models in the lineup that add or subtract features based on your needs. For example, if you're not a photo enthusiast you can save $10 and pick the Epson Expression XP-320, another all-purpose inkjet that has exactly the same features as the XP-420 but downgrades to a smaller 1.4-inch color LCD display.

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Epson gives you the option to connect the printer to your computer using direct USB or Wi-Fi via an installation disc or Wi-Fi Direct if your router supports it. If you don't want to connect wirelessly, you'll need to supply your own USB cable, as usual.

Smart setup on the touch panel is a two-part process: turn on the machine and click Network Setting, then designate your wireless network and enter its password, and that's it. The entire setup from start to finish, with a connection established on our lab network (which uses a home-style Verizon Fios router), took us less than 5 minutes.

The installation process also includes a step which asks if you want the system to automatically hunt and install firmware updates, and we recommend you click "yes" when prompted; the appeal of Web-connected printers like the XP-420 means you don't have to wait for Epson to ship you software updates, so take advantage of it.

Connecting through Wi-Fi also means you can take advantage of Epson's host of free mobile printing apps that let you print directly from mobile devices. First, the Epson iPrint application for iOS and Android devices lets you to print Web pages, photos, documents and anything else on a smartphone directly to the printer.

You can also take advantage of remote printing from any Chrome browser window using Google Cloud Print, or connect immediately to any iOS device using Apple AirPrint. Check out our how-to page to learn more about cloud printing.

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The XP-420 is powered internally by three separate color ink cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow) and an additional black ink that saves you the hassle and money of replacing a tricolor ink tank. I did the math based on Epson's high-capacity XL ink cartridges, which offer more ink capacity at a discounted price, and a page of color ink works out to just over 3.5 cents per page, while a high-capacity black cartridge comes to approximately 5 cents per page.

Both costs are average for an inkjet printer at this price -- the cost for consumables is the same as the Canon Pixma MG5620, but Epson gives you a head start with a $10 price break on the hardware when you buy on Amazon. Of course, keep in mind that your mileage may vary depending on exactly what you're printing and the frequency of high-volume jobs.

Performance

In our speed tests, the XP-420 performed at an average rate printing photos, but it sprints ahead of the competition with presentation output speed, color graphics speed, and especially text speed at an impressive average of 8.3 plain black text pages per minute. We've come to expect impressive throughput results from Epson and these speed tests prove that the XP-420 can handle handle medium- to high-volume jobs with minimum latency.

The XP-420 also gave outstanding output quality results, producing black text of a quality that easily competes with the crispness of expensive laser printers, even at smaller sizes. Full-color graphics and presentations fared equally well, and quiet offices will certainly benefit from the whisper-quiet of the printer's operational sounds, which are easily drowned out by clicking keyboards and soft conversation.

Compared with irritatingly loud devices that make their scanning, spooling and printing processes well-known, the XP-420's stealthy operation is a satisfying alternative.

Conclusion

The Epson Expression XP-420 is a printer, scanner and copy machine that boasts a compact chassis with folding paper trays designed to minimize clutter in a busy workspace. Beyond the "small-in-one" design attributes, mobile professionals will appreciate the cloud-printing updates that can queue print jobs from a phone or a mobile browser. Whether you're shopping for a small office's multitasking machine or looking for a personal printer that won't drain your savings on ink cartridge refills, the XP-420 is worth your investment.

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