We're going to resist the temptation to bang on about print speeds again, but suffice it to say that Brother and Epson are the two worst offenders in hyping the speeds you're likely to see. Here, Epson quotes 35ppm for black print and 15ppm for colour. We saw 5.5ppm for black, rising to 5.6ppm on longer documents, and 1.9ppm on our black text and colour graphic test.
To try and be fair to manufacturers, we added a draft mode print test to our suite a few months back and although the Stylus SX425W ran it nearly three times as fast as a normal mode print, it still only hit 15ppm. To get 35ppm out of this machine, Epson’s test document must have very little text on it. Epson is virtually testing the speed of the paper feed.
It's also surprisingly slow at printing photos, something inkjets are usually quite quick with. A 15 x 10cm high-quality photo from a PC took 2mins 36secs, but a standard mode photo print from an SD card took longer, at just a second off four minutes.
Black text print quality is only fair. Even to the naked eye, characters look jagged, both because of obvious drop placement and because of some spread of ink into the paper. Epson's DURABrite Ultra inks use pigments for colour, which means larger particles, so there should be less of this ‘feathering’ than from dye-based printers. Draft print is very faint and has a distinct dot-matrix look.
Colour print is generally good, with bright colours for business graphics. Photocopies showed some lightening of colours, though, and a little blotchiness on certain shades. Photo prints were sharp and smooth, with good colour rendition, though darker shades were reproduced too dark. Detail levels were high and photos overall looked natural.
There are two sets of ink cartridges that fit this machine, but using the higher capacity set for better economy gives page costs of 2.7p for ISO black and 7.7p for ISO colour. These are quite good, compared with most inkjet printers under £100, excepting Kodak. If you print a lot of photos, of course, you're page costs will be noticeably higher than these figures, which are based on five per cent and 20 per cent coverage, respectively.
There are good and bad points to the Stylus SX425W. Its feature set is impressive for a machine in this price bracket, with a colour LCD display, wireless connection and memory card slots. Running costs are also good in comparison with most of its competitors, but print speeds are low, whatever it may say on the box, and print quality isn't as good as rivals from Canon and HP, or even Kodak and Lexmark.