Epson Stylus NX400 Inkjet Multifunction PrinterA standout among cheap MFPs, the Stylus NX400 is fast and competent, but with a few compromises.
Low-cost color inkjet multifunction printers like Epson's Stylus NX400 ($100 as of August 4, 2008) have to pack a lot of features into an affordable package. But something's got to give, and in the case of the Stylus NX400, the victim is text-printing speed. Still, matched against similarly priced models such as the HP Photosmart C4480, the NX400 is a better-balanced choice.
Overall, the Stylus NX400 has a good design. The roomy, 120-sheet rear input tray can handle many types of paper. The output tray is barely there--a series of thin, bendy plastic sections pull out from a front panel--but it's adequate, holding 30 sheets. The control panel includes nicely labeled buttons for copying, working with photos from a media card, or restoring scanned photos: Press a button, and task-specific options appear on the tiltable, 2.5-inch color LCD. Helpful cues make navigation easier.
The photo-restoration feature is interesting: You load photo paper in the machine, place a discolored photo on the scanner plate, and press the Photo button. The Stylus NX400 automatically scans the photo, fixes color flaws, and prints out a restored version. It doesn't send a digital version of the restored photo to your computer, but if you restore the photo using Epson's installed software on your computer, you can save the restored image as a file.
The Stylus NX400's performance in our speed and output quality tests varied. Text printed on plain paper came out very slowly--5 pages per minute (ppm). On the other hand, graphics pages came out as quickly as 3.4 ppm. On plain paper, text looked a little fuzzy, but nicely black. Graphics looked grainy, but nicely colored. Printed on Epson's own photo paper, the same graphics looked smoother. A routine copy of a plain-text document looked fine, but color scans looked dark and, in some samples, a little rough.
As is often true of low-cost inkjet printers, replacement ink is expensive. The machine ships with four standard-size cartridges--one black, plus cyan, magenta, and yellow. If you buy the three-color multi-pack, each color cartridge costs about $12.34 (which works out to 3.7 cents per page each at Epson's specified yields, for a total of 11.1 cents per page for all three colors). The high-yield (385-page) black cartridge is pricey, too, at $20 (or 5.2 cents per page).
Epson gets some of the unit's details wrong. For example, the Stylus NX400's rear USB port is very difficult to see. The documentation does not provide a thorough overview of the control panel, and a survey of the printer's parts is hidden in the troubleshooting section. Epson logged an average overall score in our most recent Reliability and Service survey.
If you're printing out your novel, don't get the Epson Stylus NX400: its text speed is way too slow and its ink prices too high. But in most other respects, it's as good as or better than its peers. Bargain-hunting users should be pleased.
Melissa Riofrio, PC World