Epson Stylus DX6000

It appears that the market for All-in-one printers has exploded and with the prices having dropped significantly over the past two years, you can now get yourself a scanner, photocopier and printer device for the same price as or less than a standalone printer. I’ve been using the Epson Stylus DX6000 multi-function printer.

Whilst Epson have employed a different styling to the competition, the black and grey finish gives the product a more serious look despite its rather uninspiring design.

Epson have designed the print head nozzles to operate at 3 picolitres allowing it to achieve print resolutions of up to 5760 x 1440, that’s enough to produce stunning results from todays digital cameras. The scanner operates at 1200 x 2400 dpi (dots per inch) allowing for accurate reproduction of not only your everyday documents but also for photo reprints.

Print speed is rated at 27 pages per minute for both black and colour in draft mode and approximately 28 seconds for a 10 x 15cm photo.

A built in memory card reader supports five of the most common formats for todays digital cameras and camera phones, including Compact Flash, Sony Memory Stick, SD/MMC and xD. It would have been nice to have seen a slot for a Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo and support for mini and micro SD but the relevant adapters are readily available to convert these cards to the appropriate formats compatible with this printer.

Connectivity to your PC or Mac comes with the standard USB connection (lead not included) and uses the same cable for data transfer from memory card to your computer. The USB port on the front of the DX6000 allows for PictBridge printing direct from a PictBridge certified camera so you bypass the printer controls all together simply by connecting up your digital camera or camcorder.

Unlike typical printers from HP and Lexmark, Epson have gone down the route of seperating the ink tanks for their printers. Using a four cartridge system, you can now buy the cartridges as they become empty saving you money in the long run. Printers of the past and even in the present for rival makes opt for a two tank system or even a single tank system in some of the models from Lexmark. Using the model of a two tank system you would get a black and colour cartridge and this has typically been the norm for many years, however in the colour cartridge there are three coloured ink tanks contained within and when one of these colours runs out you start to get prints that have lines of incorrect colours going down the sheet and that’s because the mix of one of the colours is incorrect. The DX6000 removes that problem by allowing you to buy ink tanks individually and as you go along so you are only replacing the ones that become empty rather than the whole set when just one of the colour tanks is used up.

The price of the individual ink tanks will be worthy of attention since they come in at a bargain price of £7 or you can buy the multi pack that contains all four cartridges for £25. This is an attractive price for those of you who are interested in doing some home photo printing however in practice it’s still cheaper to take your snaps to the developers or order your prints online. At £25 for a full set of cartridges the first thing that comes to my mind is that there must be some sort of compromise somewhere and after some testing it appears that the cartridges just doesn’t have as much ‘life’ or ‘longevity’ in them as I would expect. Printing photos in A4 on the best quality is naturally going to put a severe drain on the cartridges but the sevevrity of this drain was more than I was willing to accept and is ultimately going to cost a lot to maintain. A quick visit on the Epson web site shows that the page yields they have for the black cartridge produces 245 pages based on the example test prints they have, which are available to view. Considering the results of my test, I have no doubt in my mind that the figures given on the site are either based on Normal or Draft quality with the latter being the most likely.

My tests for prints included a black and white text document print out from a Word file, A4 photo prints on normal plain A4 paper and a colour photocopy of a 3D CAD drawing.

Black and white text reproduction produced sharp and clear text and very close to the quality you see from a laser printer thanks to its Micro Piezo print heads. This is an Epson developed technology that uses electrical pulses to fire the droplets of ink on to the paper rather than it being thermally heated like in a bubble jet.

Famous for its DURABrite Ultra ink technology, these dye-based inks don’t fade, smudge or cause your prints to stay wet for long periods of time. This was proved when I did some A4 prints of photos in the ‘Best’ quality mode and although the paper did crease a little, I found no evidence of ink bleeding or smudging even after running my fingers over it straight after being printed.

Simplicity is key with the DX6000, the USB connectivity and software provided on the CD provides a quick set up with minimal fuss. The lightweight software driver option gives you the ability to just get the printer and scanner ready for action without installing every photo and editing trial software under the sun. I particuarly liked the one click Scan function that automatically adjusted the settings for me based on the document it was scanning, however it does have a manual override for full control over the settings.

As for printing directly from the printer and bypassing a computer altogether, the DX6000 comes out top with quick and easy prints either straight from a camera, from the scanner or directly from the memory card reader. I particularly liked the speed that the DX6000 could read the JPEG images on my memory card and have them ready and processed for printing within seconds.

The 2-inch LCD screen whilst could be bigger, does provide clear access to photos stored on your memory card and from then on access the various print functions such as paper size, quality of output as well as the ability to do enlargements.

Epson have provided a true valuable product to the consumer market that gives home users the ability to print, scan and photocopy at a very reasonable price.

The fusion of the DURABrite pigment based inks and the Micro Piezo print heads create stunning prints albeit at quite a high cost per print. The DX6000 does still achieve the value status with the ability to swap out the individual ink tanks as you go along rather than having to throw out the whole lot each time as you would do with printers from other manufacturers.

A quick search on Google Products brings up results with prices of this printer starting at £60 and genuine cartridges for the individual tanks come in at an affordable £6.99 with multipack sets for £24.99.

It’s not been designed to look as good as similar models from HP but then again it’s what inside that counts right?

2007-06-04 Onwah Tsang

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