Epson Stylus Photo RX590

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Epson Stylus Photo RX590
  • Epson Stylus Photo RX590
  • Epson Stylus Photo RX590
  • Epson Stylus Photo RX590

Pros

  • Prints directly onto CDs, disappointing print quality

Cons

  • Archives to USB devices, slow print speeds

Bottom Line

The Epson Stylus Photo RX590 looks nice and is easy to use, and its CD-printing feature is unique. Still, its limited paper handling and slow, poor-quality printing on plain paper limit its value as a general-purpose device.

Would you buy this?

Epson's all-in-one performs well as a scanner and photo printer, but falls short on quality for other general-purpose tasks.

The $399 Epson Stylus Photo RX590 could appeal to many photo hobbyists due to its fast scanning and high-quality glossy photos. But users who need a general-purpose device will likely be let down by the RX590's subpar copies and prints on plain paper.

The RX590's 2.5-inch colour LCD sits in the middle of a simple but effective control panel. Below it, the two media slots accept all the common digital camera memory card formats. When you're printing from a memory card, the controls provide a variety of editing options, including cropping, red-eye removal, black-and-white and sepia effects, and greeting-card creation.

You can use the USB port to print directly from a PictBridge-compatible camera or flash drive; you also can connect a CD burner to archive images from a memory card. In addition, you can plug in an optional Bluetooth adapter--priced at a reasonable $79 -- for printing from a suitably equipped camera phone or PDA. An IrDA sensor lets you beam images from handheld devices with infrared transmitters.

The glass platen lets you scan pages up to letter size, though the unit offers neither an automatic document feeder nor film-scanning capabilities. You can load up to 120 sheets of paper in the upright feeder at the rear of the printer, but there is no second paper tray. The RX590 does, however, come with a special tray for printing directly onto blank CDs and DVDs -- a unique feature. In the box you get ArcSoft's PhotoImpression photo management and editing package, but Epson supplies no OCR software.

The RX590 prints using six inks from individual cartridges, adding light cyan and light magenta to the typical three primary colours. On photo paper the RX590 produced sharp images with vibrant colours and good shadow detail. However, we noticed distinct banding among blue and green tones in one of our photos. Print quality on plain paper was disappointing: Text appeared slate grey, and the edges of characters were so jagged and fuzzy, they almost looked like dot-matrix-printer output. Line art was similarly greyish, with lots of horizontal banding and dotted diagonal lines. Photos printed on plain paper had dull and muddy colours, solid areas suffered occasional dropouts, and some strange pink banding appeared in places. The RX590's copy quality was equally dismal, earning a score of Poor; text looked very grey and fuzzy, making it difficult to read. Similarly, the model scored below the average for scan quality.

In our speed tests, text pages printed at just 3.9 pages per minute (ppm) -- about four times slower than the similarly priced Canon Pixma MP600 we also reviewed this month. Photo print speeds were more competitive, however. Photos printed at 2.8ppm on plain paper, while our 5x7-inch test image on photo paper arrived in 45 seconds -- both times were a little above average. The RX590 scans quickly, and completed our 4x5-inch test photo at 100 dots per inch in just 7.1 seconds (only the Canon MP960 was faster, at 6.2 seconds). On the other hand, plain-paper copies emerged at an unremarkable 2.4ppm.

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