The Epson Stylus SX610FW looks like a conventional all-in-one inkjet printer. It's got a sheet feeder, memory-card slots, built-in fax and scanner, and Ethernet and Wi-Fi networking capability. Epson has played this one safe, and the result is a well-specified machine that, at around £150, is perfect for home workers and small groups alike.
The SX610FW is a bulky machine by any measure. It's almost twice the height of its sibling, the Stylus Photo PX710W, and taller still with the paper support extended. Much of this bulk is due to the sheet-fed scanner, which is a boon for business users, particularly when used with the built-in fax.
It connects by USB, Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and there's a port for your phone line. Towards the front, you'll find two memory-card slots for the xD-Picture Card, Memory Stick, SD and CompactFlash formats, and there's a USB port for PictBridge photo printing.
Those are all useful features, but, with only four individual inks, the SX610FW's photo prints aren't quite as good as we'd hoped. Comparing them directly to the photo prints produced by the six-ink PX710W, colours are slightly less vibrant and blacks slightly softer, and they don't display quite the depth and density we'd been expecting. Well-lit street scenes are less vivid and contrast is reduced. If you want an all-in-one printer for photo output, look elsewhere. The SX610FW's photo prints aren't bad by any means, but it's a business inkjet.
The SX610FW's text performance is excellent. It pushed out ten pages of draft-quality plain text in 37 seconds, and took just 46 seconds to do the same at normal quality. If you compare the latter to 2 minutes and 6 seconds for Lexmark's business offering, the Prospect Pro205, it's an impressive achievement. Normal-quality results are excellent and indistinguishable from a laser printer's output on photocopy paper.
Draft-quality printouts are another story, though. They should be reserved for personal use. The results are still good, but characters are blocky and jagged, and look more like dot-matrix output. At less than 4 seconds a page, though, you shouldn't expect much more. The same goes for draft-quality printing of business graphics. In our tests, they appeared at a breakneck 5 seconds per page (plus a 3-second spool) but were light, greyish and poorly defined.
If you steer clear of the draft-quality setting, black characters on white are clearly legible down to two points in both serif and sans-serif fonts, and four points when printing white on a black background. Edges are crisp and sharp at best and normal quality, and solid blocks of black used as backgrounds are dense and unflecked. There was excellent distinction between each of the 21 tones of grey we use in our business-graphics test. If not handled carefully, they can merge into one another in the middle of the scale.
Black characters printed on a solid colour background pose no problems. There was no ingress of the black into the lighter backgrounds, where you might expect it to feather in the damp weave of the page, making the SX610FW a great choice for printing handouts, and confirming this printer's status as a first-class business device.
A scanner loudly
The scanner is good but noisy. The results are a very close approximation of the originals, and it delivered ten colour pages in 2 minutes and 55 seconds using the sheet feeder (2 minutes and 10 seconds for mono). But don't think you can get away with copying someone else's work unnoticed. The drive unit is particularly vocal, and, in a small workplace (we tested it in a two-person office), it can be intrusive.
The Epson Stylus SX610FW hits every target as a business inkjet. It's fast and excels at printing black text on cheap paper stocks, making it a great, versatile alternative to a low-end laser printer. Home users should probably look elsewhere -- the Stylus Photo PX710W delivers better photographic results -- but we'd have no hesitation in installing this device in a small home office for regular daily use.
Edited by Charles Kloet