Although multifunction devices seem to be all the rage these days, especially in the small office/home office market, there's still room for low-cost single-function printers designed to do one thing well -- print.
Epson knows desktop printing as well as any company, and has produced many excellent personal printers, in particular, over the years. However, Epson is less prominent in the business space, which is dominated by the likes of HP and Lexmark. The company has just one business inkjet printer -- the Stylus D120, which costs around £50 and delivers high-quality output.
The Stylus D120 measures 435 by 240 by 161mm, weighs 3.9kg and is relatively unassuming in terms of design. Its black exterior lends a touch of sophistication. Free from LCDs, memory card slots and other multimedia paraphernalia, the Stylus D120 looks like it means business.
However, it's under the surface where this printer gets interesting. Twin high-capacity black ink cartridges deliver better-than-normal yields for printing high-volume black-and-white text documents, while individual cyan, magenta and yellow ink cartridges mean that only the colour that's exhausted needs to be replaced.
Featuring the latest generation of Epson's DURABrite Ultra ink, documents from the Stylus D120 are durable, smudge-proof, water and highlighter pen resistant. Double-sided prints are also of good quality, as the quick-drying DuraBrite Ultra ink typically doesn't bleed through the page.
The Stylus D120's fast print speeds are achieved as a result of the new Epson Micro Piezo print-head mechanism. The number of nozzles dedicated to black ink has been doubled to 360, with 177 reserved for colour (59 each for C, M and Y); when combined with an increase in the speed of ink ejection, this results in a maximum of 37 pages per minute for black-and-white and 20ppm for colour pages.
Other features of the Stylus D120 are straightforward. It connects to a PC or Mac using a single hi-speed USB interface -- cable not supplied in the box -- but there's no support for memory cards or computer-independent printing. Thankfully, for about £30 more, the Stylus D120 Network Edition is available for those who want the convenience of wired and wireless network printing.
It's as good as most at printing text on plain paper, although you'll still need to splash out on expensive inkjet paper to get laser-like crispness. The four-colour Stylus D120 is also one of the fastest inkjets in its class and can handle most small-office workloads, even though you can expect well under the rated speed in practice.
Meanwhile, low power consumption (15W typical, 2W idle) helps to produce a more efficient printing system compared to regular desktop inkjets or lasers. The Stylus D120 is also flexible enough to print borderless colour photos at up to 5,760x1,440 optimised dots per inch using a variable droplet size down to a minimum of 3 picolitres.
Paper handling is probably where the Stylus D120 fares poorest compared to lasers: the top-loading paper tray accommodates just 120 sheets of A4 plain paper, so high-volume users will have to constantly load paper and clear the output tray. All the vital media types are supported though, including A4, Letter, Legal, A6, A5, B5, Half Letter and Envelopes (No.10, DL, C6).
Designed specifically for small businesses or the home office, Epson's Stylus D120 has a lot going for it. In addition to its solid build and print quality, ease of use and fast print speeds, the high-yield dual black ink system offers extra convenience for those requiring relatively large volumes of black-and-white text printing.
But let's not get carried away: colour laser printers have much better paper handling, sit better on a network, produce better-quality text documents, and cost less to run. Replacement Stylus D120 colour cartridges cost around £6.99 each. But if you're sold on the all-round capabilities of an inkjet and don't print hundreds of pages a week, the Stylus D120 is an excellent choice.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday