The Epson RX520 is the giant of this round-up. It comes in a deep-grey, stylishly rounded box that’s bigger than any of the alternatives. It’s the only printer to use four independent ink cartridges, allowing for separate replacement of the most-used colours. It’s also the only scanner that offers film scanning, using a supplied 35mm strip and slide holder.
Like the HP, it offers a small colour LCD for previews. This is useful as a control panel, but too small to preview photos usefully. In general, the cryptic layout means the panel as whole could be easier to use – Epson could take some tips from HP here. This is frustrating because there are a lot of photo-preparation and correction features buried within the options, and they’re not as easy to get to as they could be.
Camera support is good with most memory types and PictBridge. One problem is that the USB connector and the card slots are located in an unlikely position on the front of the printer, buried so far in they’re hard to reach. It would have been better to sacrifice some of the clean lines for improved accessibility. The supplied software includes ArcSoft’s PhotoImpression 5, which is certainly worth having. There’s also the usual slightly dubious collection of Epson’s own web and photo-print tools and an OCR reader.
Print quality was the best of all the printers, especially in photo print mode. For some reason the default photo-quality colour copy mode was heavily distorted with extra contrast, and there was some noticeable banding in places, although less than on the HP and the Canon models on test.
Print speeds are a mixed bag. Printing from memory cards is very fast indeed – expect to see a photo print in less than a minute. But printing from a Mac is quite slow. A photo-quality colour copy took around two and a half minutes. Ink use is also an issue – this is a thirsty machine. An ink set costs £20, so this won’t be a cheap printer to run if you plan to do a lot of photo printing with it.