Review: Epson Stylus NX430
- — 16 May, 2012 22:00
|Name||Multifunction printer: Epson Stylus NX430|
|At a glance:||Slowest print speed in roundup.,Extremely high image quality.,Direct printing from SD cards, Memory Stick and xD.|
|Summary:||A slow but compact printer/scanner combo for photo enthusiasts.|
Epson’s Stylus NX430 is a compact matte black printer with a piano-black lid and control panel. The controls are smartly designed touch-buttons beside the LCD screen, so you don’t obscure the menu with your fingers. Usable buttons illuminate a dull orange, while any that aren’t applicable disappear, making the interface even easier to work through.
Blank paper loads in the back, vertically, in a semi-transparent caddy. Compared to flat, front-loading paper trays this has the disadvantage that paper will warp over time when left in the printer. However, it means that the printer can sit at the front of a desk, or on a narrow shelf, without overhanging parts. You only have to pull out the front tray when printing, to catch the ejected sheets.
Unpacking and setup is simple enough, taking a little over ten minutes to install the necessary drivers and utilities from the included CD. However, if you have an existing (or former) Epson printer that uses the same software, you’ll need to uninstall the old printer, or play ‘driver hunt’ on the CD manually. I connected via Wi-Fi using WPS, which proved fast and simple.
The menu system is straightforward, but there are a few odd lapses in user-friendliness. For instance, when running a head alignment (a good idea before printing a large batch of top-quality photos, or a few hundred pages of small-font text), you’re required to manually enter values from a printed head-alignment sheet. Many competing models just print the sheet, then ask you to insert it into the scanner – leaving the printer to correct itself.
Claimed print speed is 33ppm (pages per minute) for draft quality monochrome, 15ppm for draft printing in colour. During testing, the NX430 proved the slowest printer in our roundup, averaging just 6.7ppm for monochrome text and lineart, 4.4ppm for monochrome text and graphics, and just 1.6ppm for colour text and graphics. Full A4 photo prints clocked in at a coffee-break-inducing 9min 21sec per page.
On the plus side, print quality was among the best in our March 2012 roundup, with brilliant colour accuracy and sharpness. There’s a bit of fine-grained noise, but there’s also a lot of fine detail that the less-noisy models don’t produce. It offered the best photo quality in particularly dark shots, and second-best (equal with the Epson Workforce 435) quality overall.
With standard cartridges, print costs based on vendor-information are 10 cents per black page, 31 cents per colour page. With expanded cartridges, that falls to seven cents per black page, and 25 cents per colour page. Upfront costs are $100 for a full set of standard cartridges or $120 for the expanded versions. Direct printing is supported from SD card, memory stick and xD card.
The Stylus NX430 includes a 1200 x 2400dpi scanner, which averages 15 seconds per monochrome page at 300dpi settings, 1min 56sec per colour page at 600dpi (slowest in our March roundup), and 6:03 per colour page at 1200dpi (second-slowest).
Scanned images show a good balance of low image-noise and fine detail, though edges are quite soft. The quality is good overall, but not so much higher than the average that it justifies the much slower image acquisition.
The Epson Stylus NX430 offers slow printing, but extremely high image quality and good scan quality. It can’t quite match the Brother MFC-J430W, but offers a more compact alternative for the photo enthusiast in a space-starved bedroom or office.