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Review: Epson Artisan 800 - All In One Wireless Printer

Epson_Artisan_800.pngWith so many choices out there for photo printers, it's difficult to differentiate between them. Most 'photo' printers out there usually offer very good print quality. Epson brings the Artisan 800 into the game and not only adds excellent print quality, but throws in ease of use, speed, full functionality, and stylish beauty. If you are looking to bring out the 'WOW' in your photos, read on.

The Artisan 800 sets it's self apart by offering all of the features a home user could want. Not only is it physically attractive with it's piano black finish, but it's also full of features. Hi-def six-ink photo printing, color copying, scanning, and fax. One of the most impressive features is the ability to print your photos without your computer. If you just took a picture with your digital camera, you can pop out the memory card and slip it into the printer via it's built-in card reader. The LCD screen allows touch screen access to enable you to easily auto correct red eye, crop, and then print out the photo -- all without even using your computer.

Setup

Like most printers, the printer lacks an included USB 2.0 cable. While you can connect it via USB, I preferred to go Wi-Fi. I simply connected up the printer via the included ethernet cable to my router and then ran the setup installation disks. You need to connect it this way to provision your Wi-Fi network settings before you can run it wirelessly. The install in Mac OS X went pretty smooth, but it kind of aggravated me that it installed several programs consecutively. I would have liked to have seen what it was installing and provided a progress indicator showing how many apps it had left to install. It's a small thing, but it would be nice to know where you stand during the installation. During the install it added several apps to use with the printer (CD Labeler, OCR, Photo Printing software, Print Drivers, etc.). The ability to SCAN and PRINT via Wi-Fi or Ethernet is a key feature. Since this printer is on your network, you no longer have to have your computer hard wired to your Mac. This makes sharing a printer across the home a breeze. If you don't want to use it on the network, you can connect it to your Mac via USB, if you purchase a separate cable.

Printing

Photo printing is excellent and was very impressive. It produced extremely vivid colors when used with the Epson paper. I tried some old HP photo paper I had in the office and the results were not as good. I don't know if this was an issue with the photo paper being old, or if the Claria inks just adhere better to the EPSON brand photo paper. The printer offers a dual tray system. You can keep your regular letter sized paper in the main tray, and a special photo tray above it is for your photo paper. The photo tray takes standard 3.5 x 5, 4 x 6, 5 x 7, and 16:9 wide paper. If you have an optional inexpensive duplexer add-on, your Macintosh can also print dual sided pages. This is an exclusive Mac feature. During testing, we were easily able to select which tray we wanted to use from the print dialog. After the printer warmed up, it could print out a hi-def 4 x 6 photo in under 15 seconds. Epson claims as fast as 10 seconds, but I found it really varies with how detailed the photo is and whether or not you choose a borderless setting. Your mileage will vary. Even with a detailed image, we are still talking about seconds -- it is fast.

The longevity of these prints is undetermined. Epson touts that the fade resistance is 4 times longer than photo lab prints. Only time will tell. I can say the Claria Hi-Definition ink is supposed to offer smudge, scratch, water, and fade resistant photos. When I used the HP photo paper, I did experience some smudging, but not at all with the Epson brand paper. When printing on CD/DVD media, I found the output didn't look quite as brilliant as the printouts on photo paper. They looked good -- but viewing a side by side comparison, you will be disappointed. Colors seemed muted and much darker than I anticipated.

Plain paper printing is speedy. Epson says 38 pages per minute, and depending on how fast the document is spooled, I found that to be fairly accurate. The text output is on par with other printers in this class, but nothing special. Most of the printing can be done directly from the touch screen interface. When you insert your memory card with photos, you can navigate to the photo menu and choose several options, one of which is playing a slideshow of the photos on the card, right on the 7.8" touch screen. This printer is filled with a plethora of incredible features, most of which are available without even connecting to a computer. artisan-touchscreen.png

Scanning

The Epson scan drivers are included as part of the install. When you try to use the scanner, it launches the Epson TWAIN scan drivers. For the most part, this worked successfully. However, when I tried to use Apple's 'Image Capture' application, whenever I tried to Scan, the application would crash. When launching the Epson Scan app by itself, I had no issue scanning. The scans looked excellent when scanned via Photoshop or the Epson Scan app. After the scanner warms up, scanning zips along very fast and quiet.

Faxing

If you have a need for Fax, even occasionally, you will really appreciate the ease of use built into the Artisan 800. You can fax color or B&W documents and images. You can setup 60 speed dial numbers and also group dialing, for when you want to mass fax people. All of this can be entered directly from the intuitive touch screen interface. There are so many 'all in one' printers that don't offer FAX, and I really think this is a minimum requirement to be an AIO printer.

Extra Cool Features

Due to the length of this review, we can't cover all of the features. Be ready for a surprising amount of cool ones though. For example, you can plug in your USB drive and print photos from it. While you have it plugged in, how about scanning a document directly to it in PDF format without it even being connected to a computer. This is so handy, it is hands down one of my favorite features. Have you ever been in need of some notebook or graph paper? Press the touch screen and quickly print some out. It even offers the ability to print coloring book style images. Press a button and turn any image into an outline image that your youngsters can color. As you would imagine, you can also do color copies of documents and photos. The images typically looked very good, but I prefer to use iPhoto to get the best quality printouts.

Problems

There were a few small problems with the printer. For one, Ink Jet technology. While it offers incredible photos, it's takes a lot of ink to provide them. During my testing, I printed about ten 4x6, ten 5x7, five 8x10, and about 50 sheets of b&w text. I also printed several sheets of notebook paper, graph paper, and received a few faxes. I haven't run out of ink yet, but it's close. Luckily, Epson does throw in a bonus Black cartridge. However, if one of your ink wells runs dry, you will need to replace it, even if you aren't printing that color. Ink replacement is always costly, and it's unwise to use the re-fillables. I also noticed the first print of the day seemed to take forever to start up as the printer goes through some sort of priming. inklevel.png

Also frustrating is lack of full Mac compatibility. If you are a Mac user, some of the quick press scanning features don't work. In the touch screen menu scanning section, it offers the option of Scan to PC, Scan to PDF, and Scan to Email. After having it beep at me when I tried to activate these features and nothing happened, I called Epson support. They informed me that this is a Windows only feature. Can you do all of this with some extra steps? Sure. However, it would be nice to be able to take advantage of all the features the scanner has to offer. Conclusion: In the age of $50 photo printers, it certainly makes the $299 price of the Artisan sound expensive. When you step back and look at all of the features this model provides, it seems much more enticing. Even with a couple of little nuisances, we still love this unit. Hands down, this is the best home printer we have had the pleasure of working with. Epson hits a home run with this one.

Highly Recommended! 4.5 out of 5