Is the cost to benefit ratio on the Epson XP-810 favorable? (October 16th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: Epson
- Picture quality - Ink cartridge cost - Internet enabled control with smart phone
- Paper tray capacity - Touchpad issues with selection - Design flaws in top section
When looking for a consumer-level printer, there are quite an array of options to consider. Features like special printing features, or an all-in-one print unit, and even cloud and network printing all have merits, compared to in the past when buyers primarily just weighed the pros and cons of a laser printer over an inkjet. Since then, options have only grown larger -- including the overall economics (such the cost of ink over the cost of the machine itself). However, is there a balance between getting everything you need in an inkjet at a good value and having to break the bank on ink cartridges? Does the Epson Expression Premium XP-810 Small-in-One strike the line between value and quality?
The XP-810 has many of the modern features that one would look for in a printer. From doing color prints to scanning documents to Google Drive access, this "Small-in-One" stands out stat-wise, at least. It handles blacks in both dye and pigment variation; is able to print double-sided; operates as a fax and scanner; can print images directly onto CDs, and offers iOS or Android apps for printing.
Looking at the XP-810, the standard Epson levels of fit and finish are present. A smooth, black plastic surface surrounds the exterior of the printer without any juts or large gaps. The plastic doesn't feel cheap, nor does it feel like it would buckle under general stress of everyday use.
Navigation is improved by the inclusion of a 3.5-inch touch screen that can be used for setup and command execution, though the touch screen does have issues -- when attempting to scroll (through what?), the machine often interprets the user as selecting a dialogue option. However, there are six buttons to the side of the touchscreen to aid a journey through the menus. Included are a back, home, CD print, up and down navigation, and execute buttons. Ink cartridges snap in and release with ease as well, so users won't spend much time under the hood.
There are three potential problem spots with the overall construction of the XP-810 upon closer inspection. The obvious one is observed when readying the automatic document feeder (ADF) tray. As there is a flipping motion to reveal the ADF, it creates a hollow space between the feeder and the finishing tray when tucked away. The pivot points feel susceptible to breaking if enough weight -- say more than eight pounds -- were to be placed upon them or the plastic flaps due to the lack of support underneath.
The top half of the XP-810 presents problems as well when opened to access the internals or change out ink. It is rather on the heavy side and gets away from you if set at rest vertically. There were numerous times when the weight of the case would send the top portion crashing down only to put a good deal of force into the plastic rails holding it in. Lastly, the gear-driven output tray feels like it could snap given enough force being put upon it. As the unit slides in and out when it use it may not be a true problem, but one would think that the something a little sturdier could have been used.
Because of the Wi-Fi connectivity of the Epson, there is little need to use a USB direct connection desired. With all of the perks of the machine working with Google Cloud Print and Epson's cloud service, not using Wi-Fi to connect almost seems like a disservice.
The iPrint application even takes away the need to use the built-in touch screen. Simply load up the document to print from your storage service of choice (currently Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, and Microsoft Skydrive are supported) or from your phone, and print away. It also works for scanning, copying, and accessing files from the SD/MS Duo slot or via USB thumb drive. Due to the previous navigation issues mentioned with the touch screen, it can become preferable to use your phone to navigate the printer menus rather than an iffy touchscreen.
Scanning documents is an easy action either through the ADF or directly on the glass. One thing worth mentioning is that the paper must be setup with the edges on the right side of the XP-810, unlike many commercial level copiers. Scans up to 4800dpi can be done, but the standard 300 or 600dpi result in good enough quality for any non-art use. Copies are completed at nearly printing speed as well, with our testing revealing 11 copies per minute (cpm) for black and white and 8.1 cpm for color.
Text prints at good quality and speed from the Epson. At approximately 14 pages per minute (ppm) it should keep up with any home-based need. Text is crisp and clean with little evidence of misprinting or extra ink being applied outside of the characters when being printed in color or black and white options. Two-sided printing is also a great plus given the low paper tray capacity. The ppm does drop to 5.2 when duplex printing, but the automatic feature saves some paper-loading headaches in the long run.
During color printing, not all was positive when it came to pushing the limits of the XP-810. While printing 8.5x11 edge-to-edge sheets of the full range of the "Spectrum" gradient fill within Photoshop, ink began to smear from the print head at the beginning and end of the sheets immediately after the first print was completed. Allowing the printer to rest for 10 seconds before repeating the process did seem to eliminate the problem, as did using cardstock instead of plain white paper.
In all gradient prints, the page had to rest for some time to feel dry to the touch, especially on the plain white pages that appeared somewhat wrinkled when completed. The ink is relatively dry when it comes to black and white printing, but even then there is a bit of moistness to the page which is probably contributing to this problem when printing edge-to-edge 300dpi gradients.
There is a problem with the amount of paper that is stored within the Epson. With a paper tray at only 30 pages deep, frequent reloads are required under any more than very light use. Epson did include a secondary tray that sits above the standard paper tray for photo stock, supplementing the main tray.
In our view, it would have been more prudent for Epson to have given up the secondary photo stock tray as a trade-off to a larger paper tray. If this user frequently creates 4x6 and 5x7 photo prints, then the paper problem may be negated for the convenience of always having photo stock loaded.
It does make one wonder why the photo sizes weren't included with the many other sizes notated in the main tray. Unlike the standard tray, the photo paper try doesn't have a locking position within the unit. Instead, the user needs to feel out the notch where it sits and the arrows align on the sides with the feed port.
Quality of photo prints are stellar for such a low priced unit. Numerous prints across semi-gloss and glossy photo paper yielded extremely vivid colors across blue, green, and red focus samples. There was a notable artifacting and smoothing when looking at comparisons between "Best Photo" and "Photo" settings, but this is to be expected.
As seen with the photo of the rabbit, slight smoothing can be seen in the background "Photo" setting print between the ear and the sock.The XP-810 will benefit from the use of glossy paper in the best setting, even if it does take a little longer to print. Printing 4x6 photos at the highest quality takes close to 20 seconds. Following with another photo at the next step down in quality right away results in a print of just over eight seconds. No real difference was seen in the amount of ink used with a rapid second print, nor the time for the photo to dry.
Direct printing to a CD was a surprise. With a random blank printable CD inserted, the print job always completed with globs of excess ink or gummed-up print heads. The custom CD printing tray can be finicky to load as there is no stoppage point. Proper installation relies on the user aligning two sets of arrows (similar to the photo paper tray) when prompted. Doing so early will result in the tray being ejected.
It is clear that there are a few flaws within the Epson Expression Premium XP-810. There is certainly room for improvement, but purchasers must keep in mind features gained versus the value in this price range. With a current price from Epson.com of $180 (the lowest price from a large retailer when this review was published) there is a lot of "bang for your buck" in this small form, all-in-one machine.
With Epson offering cartridge prices starting at $9.60, the XP-810's value is enhanced by its stellar print quality on photo stock, assuming that some of the execution issues aren't a problem. If you don't plan on moving your printer that often and are looking for something with a small footprint, the Epson XP-810 is a reasonable choice.