We have had over a dozen printers here in the past 10 years. Some HP, some Epson, and I believe one Canon. When it comes to print quality and driver compatibility, Epson has always come out on top. This week we looked at the Epson Stylus NX515, how does it compare with its predecessors? Before we even opened the box I was excited. It’s a WiFi printer, it’s pretty and it’s an All-in-One printer (it prints, it scans, it copies). Let’s take a look at it…
In the Box:
Packing was pretty standard, with a lot of plastic and little bits of tape to keep everything protected. There is our CD with the software, some sample paper, power cord and a set of four ink cartridges. The printer itself has a sleek look and a sturdy feel to all the parts. The paper trays were solid and opened and closed nicely. Unwrapping went quick and I was anxious to get printing. So I placed the printer on a desk across the room form my computer and started the setup process.
Epson included a very nice, detailed (yet easy to follow) setup guide. I am always tempted to bypass the printed instructions and just wing it, but I’m glad I didn’t. There are a couple important details that our easy to miss without the guide. For instance, when installing the ink cartridges, they seem to click right into place, but you need to exert just a bit more pressure in order to hear the proper ‘click’ which tells you they are in all the way. Once they are in the printer needs a few minutes to ‘prime’ the system. A note on the ink. Some complain that the cartridges are too expensive and it’s easier to just have one instead of four (or more). However, we see this is an economical system. It’s true that they are a bit pricey when you buy them all at once. But you don’t often use all the colors equally. Many times on an HP I could see that one color was low, but I had to toss the whole thing and buy a new one. I very much prefer Epson’s method of single color ink cartridges.
Now let’s move on to the software install.
Installation is pretty straightforward, though when it said it may take a few minutes, they weren’t kidding. I waited about 10 minutes for it to finish. Then I continued with the bonus software install. I usually don’t use such programs, as I generally prefer to use Corel or Photoshop to make cards, calendars, etc. However, for those who want the simplicity of a few click to create a greeting card or calendar, the bundled software seemed quite nice.
Installation on the Mac was quite a bit faster and just as painless. It was interesting that the ‘test page’ (that was printed to confirm the install) was a completely different style than the one produced from the PC machine. A little Mac favoritism maybe.
All that aside, let’s get to the printing. The NX515 produces very nice photo prints. Compared to our HP, they were crisper, looking more like a photograph rather than a ‘print’ of a photograph. A nice feature is the quick drying ink. There is nothing worse than picking up a newly printed photo and smudging the ink with your finger. Not with this printer! The ink is dry to the touch as it exits. This is important with border-less photo printing, since there are no lil’ white edges to hold.
They also claimed that you could splash water on these prints and the ink wouldn’t run. So I tried it. Amazing! And I used the matte paper for the test. You can see in the photos that I did more than ‘splash’ water; I put it under the faucet. Then immediately touched it and drug my finger across the page…no damage. It is important, should your print get water on it, to ‘blot’ it dry rather than wipe. The fibers in the towel do scratch. But the point is, this ink is high quality. Very nice.
Printing from the PC/Mac is straightforward. Epson has a nice set of drivers with a good amount of options. There is feature to ‘auto fix’ your photos. For those of you who don’t want to mess with photo editing software, you’ll like this. The ‘auto fix’ corrects/balances the colors/contrast in your image giving a bit more vibrancy. The ‘red eye’ fix also worked surprisingly well (See a sample in the image gallery).
One of the features of this printer is the ability to print directly from your camera’s memory card. On the lower-left front of the printer are your slots. Simply insert the card and select ‘memory card’ on the keypad. You are then given the option to view your images one at a time, watch a slideshow (though I can’t imagine why) or even print out a contact sheet. After selecting which images, how many, etc. You then let the Epson scan it and print you images automatically. I had never used this feature before, but it’s actually kinda fun and it worked fine.
The scanner worked great. Again, Epson provides good software with a variety of options for scanning. Print speed was phenomenal. I pitted the NX515 against a HP 4200 in a race to print a 6 page email. I started the HP first, then about 10 seconds later the Epson. The NX515 finished 2 full pages ahead of the HP! And this in spite of the fact that I had to reload the paper on the Epson twice! Crazy fast for an inkjet. The print quality was sharp and the way it handled the email header/footer was better than HP as well. The color of the text was a bit richer from the HP, but I didn’t take time to fiddle with settings either, just standard printing. But despite that, the Epson was a hands done winner.
There were two problems we ran into.
First, a couple of photos printed ‘washed out’ when printed directly from the memory card. But when those same images were printed from via the PC, they printed fine. I tried this several times and with several images, but the same ones consistently came out ‘washed out.’ (See images) For all intents and purposes the image files were identical to the others. I contacted Epson about this and they have not been able to give a reason.
Second, when using the Matte Presentation paper, we could print only 2 or 3 pages before it jammed. Or rather, it was unable to pull the next page in. It gave the error on the screen that it was ‘out of paper’ even though it wasn’t. Many printers have this problem, but I would have hoped it wouldn’t be present on this printer. Not good if you can’t count on consistent output like this.
The Epson NX515 is a solid machine, living up to its promise of speed and quality. Setup is easy and straightforward, though a bit lengthy. I’d like to see room for more paper, you’ll need to reload frequently, but that is the same with many printers. Aside from the memory card problem, everything works as expected or better. At $149 (now just $99 at Amazon) the NX515 is a good deal for a great all-in-one printer.
The Good: Great quality photo printing, very fast everyday printing, painless wireless network installation on PC or a Mac, affordable price tag.
The Bad: Lengthy Software installation, faulty matte paper loading, and an odd bug with printing images from the memory card reader.