Epson rates the Stylus Photo 1500W at 16ppm for both black and colour documents, but you should take these figures with a chunk of salt. We saw barely more than half that speed, 8.1ppm, and then only when printing in draft mode.
Draft print comes out faint and in a pale brown, which is readable, but only really for your own use. In normal print mode, the printer does a lot of self-checking before starting to print, usually 20s or so and sometimes nearly double that. We saw speeds of 2.4ppm for black text and 1.9ppm for text with colour graphics, neither of which is impressive.
A five page A3 document took 4:12 to complete, but then plain paper print isn’t the main reason you’d buy this printer. A 15 x 10cm photo took 2:01 at highest quality, printed from a PC and 53s from a camera, at normal quality, via the PictBridge socket. An A3 photo completed in 4:12. Again not fast, but acceptable.
Print quality on plain paper is fair, though there’s some spread of ink in the Epson Stylus Photo 1500W's prints, giving a slightly spiky appearance to emboldened headings. Colour graphics are solid and black text over colour is well registered, though never looks completely sharp.
It’s the photos you buy this printer for, though, and the Stylus Photo 1500W does a fine job. Colours are natural and true with no noticeable colour cast and good levels of detail. Darker areas, such as shadows in brightly lit landscapes, can reproduce a little too dark by default, but it should be possible to compensate for this.
The six inks in the ‘owl’ ink set are the only ones compatible with the Stylus Photo 1500W and give page costs of 3.3p for black and 8.6p for colour, neither of which is particularly high. Remember that the colour costs is based on something like 20 percent coverage of an A4 page and colour photos are likely to use a lot more ink.
There are far fewer A3 printers to choose from than there are A4 ones, and few A3s can meet the print quality of this one at the price. You might consider any of Brother’s new occasional A3 printers, such as the MFC-J4710DW, or HP’s only single-function A3 printer, the £160 Officejet 7110, though both these are four-colour machines.
The Epson Stylus Photo 1500W is a good, A3 printer that benefits from the larger ink set and can produce some very good looking colour photos. It’s comparatively low in price, in comparison with professional-level printers. And economical running costs must make it a contender, if you can’t run to any of Epson’s pro A3 printers.