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Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX720WD: Features
The sleek finish of the printer continues from where the earlier PX700WD started; shiny black plastic and a bright orange display.
The user interface is based on cursor buttons (like arrows) and an OK button, making navigation both quick and intuitive. Taking a further tour around the front of the PX720WD we find card readers for SD and Compact Flash cards; the compact flash slot being especially useful for DSLR users, as many still use CF cards. There is also a USB port where you can enter a memory stick. I put a 16Gb stick into the port and was told that there were 441 photos on there, then the contents of the stick appeared on my laptop. This is pretty handy really, like an extra USB port for your PC.
|Card readers and USB easy to access on the front of the printer.|
The photos can be viewed on the printer’s screen, spooling through 12MB images is pretty quick, probably taking 1 second to go from one shot to the next. Having gone through the process of selecting paper size, paper type and a multitude of other options, I’d strongly recommend doing your printing from the computer.
|Though everything you need is to hand on the printer, it is easier to organise prints with a computer using a mouse!|
The printer has a duplex option, this prints on both sides of your paper, saving both planet and your pocket. This works well enough, though it’s not the fastest printer of text you’ll ever find; a disadvantage if you need lots of documents printed fast. To test this I printed a PDF containing musical score, this resulted in around 6-10 sides of score per minute being produced. The printer specification suggests it should be outputting upto 40 pages of text per second, I didn’t see any evidence of this. Then again, musical score may well be a more involved print job than plain text.
The printer is Wi-Fi enabled, so you can use your laptop in the garden and send prints to it in your office if you so desire. This is a common enough feature on printers and works seamlessly, assuming you went through the network set-up when installing the printer. I’d recommend using a USB cable to connect the printer to the computer for wireless set-up as the printer GUI can be a bit tricky if you’re typing in a long password.
At the rear of the printer you find a LAN port to hook the printer up to your router and also a USB port, this is the port you use for setting up the printer, and if you’ve not got Wi-Fi or a router, for all printing from computer purposes.
Finally, for those who need it, there is a CD printer drawer too. This has its own button, which pops out the drawer, and then you can use the Epson Print CD package to create your artwork. This is very handy for that personal touch when handing over CDs to clients or friends.
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX720WD: Handling
Like the previous models, the PX720WD is quite heavy and large for an A4 printer, not very tall but very deep. The duplex module on the rear of the box increases the depth, this adds a good 3 inches to the rear. This may create problems fitting the printer onto a shelf in a computer desk, but on a normal table, it’s not such a huge problem.
|Printer tray keeps paper safe and dust free.|
Paper is stored inside the printer in a internal tray; this can take both A4 and smaller photo paper such as 4 by 6 inches. This is an elegant solution as it protects the paper from dust and gives you a place to store your paper – there is space in the tray for lots of paper, I placed a bundle of 25 glossy sheets in and there was loads of room left.
The user interface on the printer is very intuitive, with arrow keys to move a cursor around a screen and an OK button to select settings.
|User interface on the printer.|
You can use the printer like this, however most people will be using the printer from their computer. The disc that comes with the PX720WD makes installation simple, just insert the disc and let the wizard do the rest! It did take quite a while on my laptop, over half an hour to get everything installed which was quite surprising.
Once installed you get the Easy Print, Epson Scan and all the manuals installed and available from your start menus and windows installs the printer so it’s available from all your application print menus – you’re ready to print and scan.
When printing, the paper slides out of the front, there is a telescopic piece of plastic at the front to catch the paper. This is very flimsy compared to the rest of the printer; you get the feeling that even a small knock will snap it off. As soon as you’ve finished printing, this needs to be slid back into the printer to protect it.
|Though the catch tray does its job, it is quite flimsy so care is needed.|
The printer uses 6 different coloured inks, each in their own separate tanks. Replacing these is very simple and easy to access, just lift the scanner tray and it reveals the cartridges on the right front of the machine. The old cartridges unclip and then lift out vertically with ease. Having separate reservoirs also means that you only need to buy colours individually as they run out, rather than having to replace a whole new assembly when one colour is consumed.
|6 different ink reservoirs, independently refillable, easily accessible|
The first set of prints in the test had flaws, the edges would have stripes and very colourful shots were very poor.
|Really poor print before the heads were cleaned.|
After a couple of clicks on the orange buttons I found the Maintenance menu, which gave Nozzle Check, Head Alignment and Head Cleaning options. Selecting Head Cleaning takes you through a well-explained menu, the end result being flawless prints.
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX720WD: Performance
The test prints were sent from various pieces of software including Photoshop CS3, Irfan View and Epson’s own easy print software.
When printing from a 3rd party application such as Photoshop, the default setting seems to be text rather than photo, so to save your self wasting precious printer paper, always go into the printer settings to double check which print quality it’s going to produce. Every time I printed with Photoshop I had to tell it I wanted a photo, not text. The best way to do this was to go to the first pane shortcuts in the printer properties window and select a preset such as Landscape Photo.
There may well be a way of telling the printer that you want to default at Photo quality, definitely worth researching further should you purchase the printer as these dialogue boxes do become a little tedious to look at after several prints.
The print speed can be varied, there’s an option to do a fast print, which will give you a very well rendered print in a minute or 2, or you can switch that off to get a slower print, which took well over 5 minutes. It’s hard to say whether there was any real difference in quality in the end result; they both look very well reproduced.
|Impressively vivid colours and fine detail.||Blues appear slightly brighter on the original image.|
The test image above shows the bright, vibrant colours and excellent fine detail the printer produces. If anything, the blues appear a little darker in the print than the original image file.
|Detail in the darker areas retained, but there's a slight warm cast.|
The image of the church is nicely detailed even in the darker areas, the scanning software on default settings appears to have boosted the contrast a little too. There is a distinct warm cast to the printed and scanned version when compared to the original.
|Colours spot on, dark areas appear brighter on scanned image.|
The blue of the sky and browns of the main building are very faithful to the original image. The contrast seems lower in the scanned file though. However, if you were to look at the paper print, it does appear more punchy and contrasty than the scan, so maybe we’re losing the contrast in the scanning rather than the print step.
|Bold colours but a slightly brighter scanned image.|
Again, we see the colours are really bold, especially her lipstick, but notice the difference between her hair on the two versions. The original is significantly darker than the scanned version. On this occasion, the paper print does appear a little lighter than the image on screen.
|Close-up of an ice image, printed and scanned in at 600DPI. This close-up shows the detail of a print when scanned in at 600dpi.|
The scanner has working resolutions from 50 to 9600 DPI, making it a versatile feature. All the images for the review were at 600 or 400DPI, these took just a few minutes to create. An A4 scan at 1200DPI took around 15 minutes to complete, and produced a 409 megabyte file (28 meg when converted to JPG). Probably a bit too much information for most applications there, but good to know you have the option if you need it!
All the images were scanned using Epson Scan in professional mode. This allows you sufficient flexibility to change resolution, apply sharpening, colour restoration and several other options.
|Colour enhancer doesn’t appear to make a huge difference.|
These two scans of the test sheet show the difference between a default scan and one with the colour enhancer option switched on. There’s little difference really.
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX720WD: Verdict
If you’re buying a photo quality printer, then your main concern will be the quality of the photos it produces. The Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX720WD does not disappoint at all, once the heads were cleaned and nozzles aligned, the printer produced repeated high quality, seamless images. Features like Duplex and the paper storage tray are also nice features, especially if its going to be used for occasional office type work.
Mostly, the mono images have printed at the same tone as the original file, but we saw with the church print that it can err towards a warm print.
The scanner is capable of 4800DPI, but in the 300-600DPI region it has been capturing details very well. The scanned images have been a little washed out or lighter than the original files.
The printer is currently retailing around £140 and for that you’re getting a very accomplished printer, a decent scanner, Wi-Fi connectivity, CD printing and a card reader.
|With high quality, seamless prints and great features the PX720WD won't disappoint.|
Excellent print quality
Full of features – scanner, Wi-Fi, CD printing etc.
Simple to use on-printer menus
Duplex printing saves paper when printing documents
6 inks in separate tanks
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX720WD: Cons
Large for an A4 printer, very deep.
Pretty slow printing duplex documents
Flimsy catch tray
Printing from Photoshop seems to always default to text quality
Scans seem a little lighter than expected
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX720WD: Specification
|Size||446 x 458 x 150mm|
|In the box||Epson Stylus Photo PX720WD, 6 individual ink cartridges, Software CD, Basic operation guide, ‘Start Here’ guide, Network set-up guide, Control panel icon sticker (not in UK version), Warranty document, Power cable.|
|Max document size||A4|
|Ink system/type||Epson Claria Photographic Ink|
|Quantity of inks||6|
|Monitor||6.3cm colour with smart-navigation touch-panel|
|Print speed photo 10x15||Approx. 10 secs|
|Print speed colour text A4||Up to 40 ppm|
|Resolution||5760 x 1440 optimised dpi|
|Connectivity||Hi-Speed USB – Compatible with USB 2.0 specification, Wireless LAN IEEE 802.11b/g/n, Wired LAN IEEE 802.3 (100BASE-TX, 10BASE-T), PictBridge.|
|Black & white scan speed||300 dpi – 1.1 msec/line|
|Colour scan speed||300 dpi – 2.5 msec/line|
|Resolution||A4 flatbed colour image scanner|