Epson claims a higher print speed from the SX400 than from the DX8400 for both black and colour, but this is only 2ppm in each case. Since the DX8400 came nowhere near the manufacturer’s claims, we weren’t expecting much from the SX400, either.
Just as well, as the new machine was marginally slower printing our five-page text document, completing it in 1 minute 26 seconds, or 3.49ppm. Our colour text and graphics pages took 1:35, equivalent to 3.16ppm, so in both cases around a tenth of the rated speed. In draft mode the text document took 32 seconds, which is 9.38ppm, so still only a third of what’s claimed.
Print in draft mode is so faint you’d be unlikely to use it even for memos and the noise level when feeding paper peaked at well over 60dBA, a good way above the 40dBA quoted in the spec sheet.
Print quality in normal mode is reasonable, though curves and diagonals have small jaggies that give them a slightly fuzzy appearance. Colour graphics are generally good, partly due to the pigmented inks, and text overlaid on colour is well registered. Photo output is detailed, though some shadow details are lost to black. Colours are natural and areas of varying colour change smoothly, with little sign of dithering.
The Stylus SX400 uses the same set of cartridges as the DX8400 and the only variation in page costs is the price these cartridges can be bought for. We priced the black page cost based on the high-capacity black cartridge twin-pack and the colour cost on a four cartridge multi-pack, since these are the most economic options.
The black page cost comes out at 3.10p and the colour at 6.41p. The colour figure is about average, but the black is a little high, with, for example, Kodak’s all-in-ones coming in at under 2.9p.
Marginal improvements to the paper trays and the printer driver aren’t really enough to warrant the price increase of the Stylus SX400 over the Stylus DX8400. While the difference is partly due to the older machine coming to the end of its sales life and the new one just being introduced, there’s over £40 between the two, over a third of the cost of the new printer. It’s hard not to recommend you look around for a Stylus DX8400 and pocket the difference.