Like buses, we have waited a long time for a new multifunction device (MFD) and then two come along together. The first, HPâ€™s LaserJet 3015, with its compact design, broke away refreshingly from the bulkier, more box-like format of its competitors, even though this meant downgrading some of its features. And the second, Epsonâ€™s Stylus Photo RX600 shows the same willingness to break from the pack, but with very different intentions, setting its sights firmly on the photography enthusiast.
Now, most MFDs are made to be small office or home office (SOHO) workhorses, expected to handle the bulk of all printing, scanning, photocopying and faxing. The RX600 is a rather different breed of animal. Yes, the scanner and photocopier functionality remain, but there is no fax and the laser printer, the backbone of most MFDs, has been replaced by a six colour inkjet photo printer - hardly the thing to use for spinning out rough copies of web pages and emails.
Straight out of the box, the RX600 made a very favourable impression. Its chunky black and silver Dell reminiscent styling is pleasing to the eye and with dimensions of 45.6 x 43.9 x 25.6cm (WxDxH) it may not have the smallest footprint in the world, but it is conveniently squat. Tipping the scales at approximately 10kg, it is lighter than most MFDs as well, with the exception of the LaserJet 3015. Perhaps this could be expected with the removal of the fax and the loss of heavier laser printer, but it is nice to see that Epson has capitalised on this.
I have to say that the lack of fax capability surprised me a little. Even though this function may not be used very often, itâ€™s still worth having in a multi function device. That said, if you have a modem in your PC you can still scan documents and fax them via the PC modem. But of course this means that you have to power your PC on to fax anything.
Build quality is good too. It feels sturdy and almost everything from opening the scanner lid to installing ink cartridges responds with a firm click, clunk or beep. However, one exception to this is the front panel. Much like the snap on fronts available with mobile phones, this pushes over the deviceâ€™s buttons providing descriptions for each, but once attached, it feels loose and cheap. I can only presume Epsonâ€™s thinking was to produce a convenient way to cover all its language bases, but surely spraying the relevant language onto each machine would have proved simpler than designing this fiddly system.
It is worth noting the that RX600 comes with a captive USB cable, and while its fixed nature might not be to everyoneâ€™s taste, to my mind it is an improvement over the majority of manufacturers who still consider providing a printer cable with their hardware too much of an extravagance.
Setting up the RX600 is simplicity itself, as any printer or MFD should be, though that is not to say that the device is sparse. It comes with a myriad of extras, including attachments for scanning slides and negatives, and the RX600 itself has a built in multicard reader which eliminates the need to switch on the PC to access photos or save to media, an extra USB port for daisy-chaining devices and an intuitive, full colour LCD display.