Ep­son Ex­pres­sion Photo XP-960

£249.99 | $299.99 www.ep­son.com A com­pact MFP which can pro­duce highly pro­fes­sional re­sults

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There are plenty of all-in-one inkjet print­ers on the mar­ket, but not so many that are ca­pa­ble of han­dling A3 pa­per. Ep­son’s rel­a­tively af­ford­able (£250/$300) lozenge-shaped Multi-Func­tion Printer (MFP) takes up no more desk space than its EcoTank ET4500, with a foot­print of 148x479x356mm (HxWxD), but it doesn’t stop at A4 size, and it uses an ex­tra colour in its six ink sys­tem to achieve higher qual­ity prints.

Add a scan­ner ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing doc­u­ments at 4,800 dpi and three doc­u­ment trays that will ac­cept en­velopes and blank discs as well as pa­per, and you have a ma­chine suit­able both for your home of­fice or even a medi­um­sized busi­ness.

De­sign and build

The rounded sides of Ep­son’s Ex­pres­sion Photo XP-960 re­duce bulk as much as pos­si­ble, so although it has the ca­pac­ity to han­dle A3 pa­per, it’s small enough to share an av­er­age-sized desk with a com­puter and still have room to spare. The glossy black fin­ish is an ab­so­lute mag­net for dust, but be­cause all of the printer’s trays and flaps fold neatly away, it’s very easy to wipe it down with a duster.

When you’re ready to print, the mo­torised LCD panel whirrs up­wards, while the out-tray ex­tends from the front by a few inches. Be­low this tray are two draw­ers, one for load­ing plain A4 pa­per and another for photo pa­per and en­velopes. Sheets of A3 drop into the rear spe­cial­ity me­dia feed, where a plas­tic as­sem­bly pulls up tele­scop­i­cally to sup­port the large sheets of pa­per as they feed in.

The Ex­pres­sion Photo XP-960’s colour dis­play is a gen­er­ously-sized 4.3-inch touch­screen, and it’s quite easy to print di­rectly from an SD card with­out any need to ac­cess a com­puter us­ing the straight­for­ward in­ter­face (yes, there’s an SD card slot for print­ing di­rectly from a cam­era’s mem­ory card).

At the rear you’ll also find a square USB port and an Eth­er­net port, which could be use­ful if you pre­fer not to over­crowd your Wi-Fi net­work – at home or at work.

Fea­tures

The abil­ity to han­dle A3 pa­per is what sets the Ex­pres­sion Photo XP-960 apart from your av­er­age all-in-one photo printer, but be­sides that, you have a fairly full fea­ture set. Du­plex (or both sides) print­ing is pos­si­ble with A4 plain pa­per, for ex­am­ple, and in this mode, the print speed ac­cel­er­ates from eight to 28 pages per minute.

Hav­ing two pa­per in-trays is an ad­van­tage as well, be­cause it means you can load one with plain A4 and the other with photo pa­per, en­velopes, or print­able blank CD-sized discs, and not have to empty the tray each time you switch me­dia. The Ex­pres­sion Photo

XP-960 can nor­mally select the cor­rect pa­per set­ting au­to­mat­i­cally when you ask it to print, an in­cred­i­bly use­ful fea­ture.

The scan­ner, mean­while, can cap­ture very high res­o­lu­tion scans of 4,800 x 4,800 dpi, which is good news for de­sign­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers or any­one else who needs large, de­cent-qual­ity images. You can save the scanned doc­u­ments onto a USB thumb drive, or a mo­bile de­vice via the Ep­son iPrint app (avail­able for iOS and An­droid only) – or have it emailed to your PC.

Ep­son’s Claria Photo HD ink sys­tem uses six, in­stead of the usual five, colour car­tridges – ma­genta, light ma­genta, cyan, light cyan, yel­low and black – to achieve su­pe­rior colour fidelity.

All that’s re­ally lack­ing here is an au­to­matic doc­u­ment feeder (ADF) for lin­ing up, or sched­ul­ing print­ing and scan­ning jobs. NFC or Nearfield com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­nec­tiv­ity for link­ing your phone with a sin­gle touch could also have been in­cluded, but wasn’t.

Setup and op­er­a­tion

Get­ting started with the Ex­pres­sion Photo XP-960 is a smooth process thanks to the large and user­friendly touch­screen, which walks you through the setup pro­ce­dure. With luck, you should be able to hook up the MFP to your Wi-Fi net­work in just a few min­utes.

The LCD’s log­i­cal on-screen menu also makes it easy to ad­just the printer’s pa­per set­tings and select a func­tion, so you shouldn’t need to reach for the user man­ual very of­ten, if at all.

Per­for­mance

Be­gin­ning with a black text on plain pa­per test, the Ex­pres­sion Photo XP-960 achieved av­er­age re­sults af­ter its print heads were

“Colour doc­u­ments ben­e­fit from the six ink car­tridge sys­tem and show good sep­a­ra­tion”

cleaned and re­aligned. The print speed is a lit­tle slow at less than nine im­pres­sions per minute (IPM) com­pared to sim­i­larly priced MFPs (es­pe­cially the Canon Pixma iP7850, which has a print speed of 14.5 ipm with mono prints and 10.4 ipm with colour), but text looks sharp enough. Char­ac­ters lack the light touch of a laser and look a lit­tle heavy-handed by com­par­i­son, but they are per­fectly ac­cept­able for an inkjet printer like this one.

At one point dur­ing our test­ing, the print head must have fallen out of align­ment as the lines of black text turned grey half way down the page, but af­ter run­ning the au­to­matic cal­i­bra­tion tests, print­ing re­mained crisp and con­sis­tent for the re­main­der of our re­view.

Colour doc­u­ments ben­e­fit from the six ink car­tridge sys­tem and show good sep­a­ra­tion and con­sis­tency. When it comes to print­ing pho­tos on photo pa­per, the Ex­pres­sion Photo XP-960 re­ally shines. There’s no un­wanted ink mixing or smear­ing here and a real bold­ness to the colour pal­ette that gives qual­ity images pro­fes­sional pro­duc­tion val­ues.

Sum­mary

For any busi­ness or home user that needs, on oc­ca­sion, to pro­duce A3-sized doc­u­ments or posters, the Ex­pres­sion Photo XP-960 should be a def­i­nite con­sid­er­a­tion. Thanks to its ac­cu­rate six ink car­tridge sys­tem, it turned out pro­fes­sional pro­duc­tion qual­ity prints every time in our full colour tests. Print­ing onto photo pa­per yields es­pe­cially vi­brant and sta­ble colours with print speeds av­er­ag­ing eight im­pres­sions per minute.

For plain text doc­u­ments this ma­chine looks ex­pen­sive to buy and run, but its fea­ture set and ease of use jus­tify the costs if you plan to do any kind of A3 print­ing as well.

If you need to pro­duce pro­fes­sional-look­ing prints and posters in full colour, or A3-size doc­u­ments, then this sur­pris­ingly com­pact all-in-one printer from Ep­son does a high-end job on a re­al­is­tic bud­get. A com­pact, highly-ca­pa­ble A3 printer for home or busi­ness with pro­fes­sional-look­ing re­sults.

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