Epson Expression Photo XP-850 Small-in-One review

The Epson Expression Photo XP-850 Small-in-One inkjet MFP offers almost any multifunction printer feature you can think of.
Photo of Epson Expression Photo XP-850 Small-in-One

To a casual glance, the Epson Expression Photo XP-850 Small-in-One ($299.99 direct) seems almost identical to the Editors’ Choice Epson Expression Premium XP-800 Small-in-One that we recently reviewed. Not only do the two models look alike, they share most of the same features, from their 3.5-inch touch screens to their Ethernet and Wi-Fi network support, to their ability to print on optical discs. Given that it has so much in common with an Editors’ Choice model, the XP-850 obviously offers enough to make it worth considering.

The key difference between these two models is that they use different ink systems, with the XP-850 using six inks, with light cyan and light magenta added to the usual mix of cyan, yellow, magenta, and black. The XP-800 uses only five inks, with both matte black and photo black.

The additional colors in the XP-850′s ink system are designed to give the printer better photo quality, which is why Epson touts the XP-850 as “ideal for photo enthusiasts and families.” In truth, however, it also offers enough office-oriented features—including a 30-page automatic document feeder (ADF)—to make it a good choice for a home office or micro office as well. And given its small size, at 7.5 by 15.4 by 13.3 inches, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding room for it.

Basics
The XP-850′s long list of MFP features includes a few you may never have thought of. In addition to printing and faxing from, as well as scanning to a PC, including over a network, it can work as a standalone copier and fax machine. It can also both scan to and print from a memory card or USB memory key and can print directly from PictBridge cameras. In addition, you can not only print on optical discs from your computer, you can print on them directly from a memory card or USB key, and you can use a Copy command to scan an image and print it on a disc.

Beyond that, the XP-850 offers support for a variety of mobile printing options, including printing through the cloud, if the printer is on a network, and using Apple AirPrint or Epson iPrint to print from smartphones and other mobile devices by way of a Wi-Fi access point on your network. Even better, because the printer also supports Wi-Fi Direct, you can connect to it by Wi-Fi and print from a mobile device using iPrint, even if the printer isn’t on a network. In principle it should also work with AirPrint with Wi-Fi Direct, although Epson doesn’t claim that it does.

Paper handling suffers from a meager 100-sheet input capacity, which limits the XP-850 to light duty use even by personal printer standards. However, there’s also a manual feed slot, a photo tray that holds up to 20 sheets of photo paper as large as 5 by 7 inches, and an automatic duplexer (for two-sided printing). And because the ADF also duplexes, you can copy both single- and double-sided originals to your choice of single- or double-sided copies. In addition, the ADF will let you fax and scan duplex documents easily. It can also handle legal-size pages, which won’t fit on the letter-size flatbed.

Setup, Speed, and Output Quality
For my tests, I connected the XP-850 to a wired network and ran the tests from a Windows Vista system. Setup was standard fare.

One of the few differences in the specifications for the XP-800 and XP-850 is that Epson rates the XP-850 as being a bit slower. Our tests agree. On our business applications suite (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing), I clocked the XP-850 at an effective 4.9 pages per minute (ppm), just a tad slower than the Epson XP-800′s 5.2 ppm.

Even 4.9 ppm is fast for the price. As a point of comparison, the Editors’ Choice Canon Pixma MG8220 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-in-One managed only 2.9 ppm on our tests. The XP-850 also did reasonably well on photo speed, averaging 1 minute 3 seconds for a 4 by 6.

Unfortunately, the XP-850′s overall output quality isn’t in the same league as its speed. Its photo quality is par for an inkjet overall, and better than par for color photos, but text and graphics quality are both a touch below par.

Text is at the low end of a relatively wide range that includes the vast majority of inkjet MFPs. If all or most of what you print is at 10 or 12 points, the quality is easily good enough for most business, home, or school needs. If you have a particularly demanding eye, however, or you need good quality text at smaller font sizes, you should probably look elsewhere.

Graphics output on plain paper is also at the low end of the range for inkjet MFPs. Here again, the output on our tests was suitable for most schoolwork or internal business needs. Depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, however, you may not consider it good enough for, say, PowerPoint handouts.

Photo quality is par overall for an inkjet, with better than typical quality for color photos, but an obvious tint showing at some shades of gray in black and white photos. This obviously makes the printer a poor choice if you expect to print many black and white photos, but also makes it a great choice if you’re concerned only with printing color photos.

More generally, there are two good reasons for considering this printer: the long list of MFP features and the high-quality color photo output. If the MFP features are your primary interest, you’re probably better off with the Epson XP-800, if only because it costs less. On the other hand, if you need high-quality color photos, aren’t too concerned about other kinds of output, and can also take advantage of the long list of MFP features the printer offers, the Epson Expression Photo XP-850 Small-in-One can be a compelling choice.

More Multi-function Printer Reviews:

Specifications
Print Duplexing Automatic
Standalone Copier and Fax Copier, Fax
Printer Category Ink Jet
Direct Printing from Cameras Yes
Maximum Standard Paper Size Legal
Type All-In-One
Ink Jet Type Photo All-Purpose
Color or Monochrome 1-pass color
Connection Type USB, Ethernet, Wireless

Verdict
The Epson Expression Photo XP-850 Small-in-One inkjet MFP is a little weak on text and graphics quality, but what it lacks in output quality it makes up for with a long list of features.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc