Epson Expression Photo XP-850 full review

High-quality photo-printer with additional office features

Inkjet printers tend to fall into two categories – general-purpose printers designed for use at home or in the office, and more specialized printers that offer high-quality photo printing. Epson’s Expression Photo XP-850 attempts to offer the best of both worlds, providing high-quality, six-colour printing for photo output, along with features such as a fax machine and automatic document feeder for office use. 

It’s quite neatly designed too – the six-ink printing mechanism and document feeder mean that it’s larger than some of Epson’s other ‘small-in-one’ printers, but at just 190mm high, 390mm wide and 339mm deep it’s still small enough to sit comfortably on a desk or shelf. 

Epson crams a lot into that compact design, as the XP-850 provides 5760 x 1440 dpi resolution and two-sided printing, along with a 4800 x 4800 dpi scanner, and a built-in fax machine. It includes both wireless and ethernet networking, and supports Apple’s AirPrint for iOS devices and Google Cloud Print for other types of mobile devices. The front-loading paper tray holds 100 sheets, and there are separate trays for photo paper, CDs/DVDs, and a rear input for cards and heavier papers.

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That set of features ensures that the XP-850 can handle a wide variety of printing tasks but, of course, it’s the six-colour printing that is its main selling point. The XP-850 uses additional light-cyan and light-magenta inks in addition to the standard cyan, magenta, yellow and black, and produces excellent quality photo prints. The high resolution ensures that photos show plenty of fine detail, and colours are bright and bold – but also capable of subtlety too, as the additional inks work well on skin tones and other delicate colours.

Ironically, though, the XP-850 stumbles slightly when it comes to more basic printing tasks. Simple mono text output is good, but lacks the smooth, sharp outlines that you can get from other inkjet printers such as Epson’s own Workforce range – and, of course, from laser printers.

It’s not the fastest of printers either, with speeds for both mono and colour documents coming in at a modest eight pages per minute, and 45 seconds for a 4x6-inch postcard print.

Printing costs are reasonable, though, despite the use of six separate inks. The cheapest option is to buy a multipack containing XL-size cartridges for all six inks. This costs £74.99 – compared to £83.94 if you buy the XL cartridges separately – and should allow you to print 500 mono pages and 740 colour. That works out at about 2.5p per page for mono printing and 8.4p for colour, which is reasonable for a home printer that doesn’t need to produce very high volumes of documents.  

However, the XP-850’s speed and limited paper capacity mean that it’s less likely to appeal to office users – which perhaps renders the fax machine rather unnecessary for some users.

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