I’ve been sitting on my review of the Epson Expression Photo XP-850 Small-in-One Printer for a month now. This is by design because of my previous experiences with Epson printers—great print quality, speedy, solid build…but leave them sit for a while without printing, and I always had to go through wasteful nozzle cleaning in order to print all the colors. Sometimes cleaning would work, most of the time it would simply exhaust the ink levels.
I just shot out a photo directly from my iPhone (more on that in a bit) after allowing the Epson XP-850 to sit idle for over a month. The print was perfect, no cleaning required. That’s not to say it will never become a problem, but the fact that it’s not an immediate issue is just a another positive mark for what’s already a great print option for home and small office use.
Let’s stick with the ink for a minute. The Epson XP-850 uses six separate Claria Photo HD print cartridges, unlike many other photo printers that house all the ink one unit. The benefit here is that when one color runs out, you need to only replace that color. That’s better for your wallet and better for the environment.
The ink does its best work with photos on photo quality paper. Comparing the printed photos at 4×6 and 8×10 with other ink jet photo printers I’ve used yielded similar results, and were only slightly lower than that of the local pharmacy’s print center, with over-saturation being the main issue. But the difference is negligible, and likely not noticeable if you’re not trying to find the difference. Photo speed is decent; shooting a 4×6 borderless color photo of our iPhoto at high print quality takes about 1:40 (including the time it takes the printer to ready itself). That’s fine for printing one-off-photos, but if you’re adding a group of digital photos to your physical photo album, you’ll want to set aside some time.
Unfortunately, standard document printing isn’t quite as successful. The speed is fine for the price, giving you about 5 pages per minute with page layout documents, and up to 10 pages per minute of pure text. However, if you’re printing documents for anything other than personal or school use, you may still need to take a trip to FedEx Kinko’s if you don’t want your presentation to scream ink jet.
That’s a sacrifice worth making, however, because of everything else the Epson XP-850 can do. For instance, you’ve got two-sided printing. You’ve got a 4,800 dpi scanner that yields much better results than I expected from hardware not dedicated specifically to this task. You’ve got a fax machine. And you can print directly to inkjet printable CDs and DVDs, which you may find yourself doing more frequently than you’d expect once you have the capability.
In this age of mobile devices, however, perhaps the greatest feature is the Wi-Fi. USB and ethernet connectivity is included, but the moment I had the printer connected to my wireless network (a very simple set-up process), I saw no reason to bother with wires. Printing from my iMac was no different or slower than if I had it connected via USB, and printing from multiple iDevices was a simple matter of tapping a photo in the camera roll, tapping the share button, selecting the print option, then waiting for the iPhone to find the XP-850, which never took more than a couple of seconds. If you don’t have a wireless network, you can still print directly from an iPhone using the free Epson iPrint app. It’s a handy app to have even if you’re generally fine with AirPrint.
A couple minor problems surface with the hardware, the most of important of which is the low paper capacity. The Epson XP-850 tries to squeeze so much functionality into such a small unit that there’s not much room left to keep paper ready: 100 sheets in the main tray, 20 in the secondary tray. It does, however, accommodate a large number of documents sizes and paper quality. Full specs can be found at the Epson website.
Another problem with all these features is that physically getting to the one you want can be confusing until you get used to it; the same with working your way through the touchscreen tools the first few times you try. On the other hand, it’s easy to appreciate the easy access to the memory card and USB ports, from which you can print directly.
The Epson Expression XP-850 Small-in-One Printer does make some concessions in order to accommodate the needs of as many users as possible. If you’re doing nothing more than printing photos or printing documents, you can get faster prints and better quality for your money. But if you want a printer that does it all, can do it wirelessly from many sources, and can grow with you as your needs do, the Epson XP-850 is an exceptional value.
Provides: Wi-Fi and ethernet photo/document printing (single and double sided), scanning, copying, and faxing.
Minimum Requirements: See Epson.com for full OS X, iOS, Android and PC requirements
Price: $249.99 to $299.99