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Photo output is generally of a very high quality, with vivid colours where they’re required, but also accurate reproduction of softer shades, with perhaps a slight emphasis to magenta. Darker shades are a little over-emphasised, so some detail is lost.
A final word on print quality of copies. Taking our mixed text and colour graphics test piece, we copied it at standard settings and were disappointed to see all the colours reproduced much lighter than the original and a green graphics border changed to light blue. Given Epson’s history of scanner development, this was unexpected, but in line with our experience of the RX520.
Print speeds are generally low. Our five page test piece took nearly two minutes, giving only just over 2.5ppm. The text and graphics print took even longer and give a speed of under 2ppm. Even photos, which you might expect to print quickly on a photo printer, took a long time. A 15 x 10cm print took two minutes, nearly twice as long as with some rival devices.
Epson is in the process of switching to ISO test pieces for its page yield estimates, so none were available at time of test. However, in comparison with the Stylus Photo R300, tested about a year ago and using the same cartridges, we produced more pages on the RX640. We achieved 558, 5 per cent black pages and 630 in colour at 30 per cent. These figures look impressive, but bear in mind, if you’re only printing occasionally, they are likely to drop. In typical use, the RX640 will perform more head-cleaning cycles than on our testbench.
The main component of photo printing costs is the price of glossy photo paper and we’ve managed to find a cheap source of branded Epson paper from Amazon. This can cut print costs dramatically.
When working out the cost of printing black pages, we have to take into account that the RX640 lays down some colour to improve the density. In our tests, it used about 20 per cent of the cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges, while emptying a full black cartridge. This gives a five per cent cover, black page cost of just under 2p and a six colour, 20 per cent cover colour page cost of 23.5p. These figures are both competitive and are based on the cost of a six-cartridge multi-pack, which is the cheapest option for consumables.
There’s no doubt about the functionality of the Stylus Photo RX640; it’s a very versatile machine. As well as the big four functions of printing, scanning, copying and uploading photos, it adds transparency and negative scanning and printing to CD and DVD. It’s a bit slow, but is cheap to run and worth considering at discount prices.