Epson Expression Photo XP-8600 full review
Most inkjet printers use four coloured inks to produce text, graphics and photos - cyan, magenta, yellow and black (traditionally referred to as ‘CMYK’). However, Epson’s Expression Photo printers use two additional inks, with light-cyan and light-magenta also used in order to provide more subtle shades of colour in your photos.
Using six inks means that these printers are more expensive to run than a conventional four-colour printer, but they’re a good choice for professional photographers, or hobbyists who want the very best quality for their photographic prints.
Epson has launched two new ‘compact’ models for the Photo Expression range, with the XP-8600 reviewed here providing conventional A4 printing, along with a scanner and copier for £129.99. It's available at Amazon for a little bit less.
It's not the cheapest inkjet printer around then, but you are paying extra for the high-quality 6-colour printing (not to mention the cost of all those ink cartridges, which we’ll come to later). There’s also an A3 model, called the XP-970, which is available for £199.99.
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Design & Features
The XP-8600 has an admirably compact design, measuring just 349mm wide, 340mm deep and standing 142mm high, so it will fit easily onto a shelf or desk at home, or in an office where space is a bit tight.
Epson has crammed in an impressive range of features, though, including a 1440x5760dpi printer and 1200x4800dpi scanner. There are two paper trays at the front for A4 paper and photo paper, along with a manual feed at the back of the printer for heavier photo papers or speciality art papers.
This means you can print a wide range of documents without ever having to empty the primary tray to switch between different types of paper. And, when you’re printing, the motorized output tray automatically slides out of the front of the printer to catch your documents, and then slides back in with just a quick tap.
The printer provides both USB and Wi-Fi connectivity, and supports Apple’s AirPlay for the iPhone and iPad as well as Google Cloud Print for Android devices. Epson also provides its own Connect app, which provides remote printing and scanning features when you’re out and about.
With photography in mind, the XP-8600 includes both a USB interface and SD card reader so that you can quickly transfer and print photos from a camera. You can print on CD and DVD discs as well, or use automatic two-sided (duplex) printing for brochures and booklets, and the large 10.9cm touch-sensitive control screen makes it easy to quickly find the options you need.
The XP-8600 performs well as we begin testing with our standard text and colour graphics documents, although its speed and quality with these non-photographic files can be matched by many less expensive inkjet printers.
Epson quotes 9.5 pages per minute (ppm) for mono documents and 9ppm for text and colour graphics. Our test results were closer to 8.5ppm for both mono and colour documents, so the XP-8600 won’t be a good option for a busy office or a home worker who needs to print lots of business documents every day.
Text quality is good, and perfectly adequate for day-to-day use, but text characters lack the crisp smoothness of Epson’s best inkjet printers, which can use different types of black ink that rival the text quality produced by more expensive laser printers.
But, as you’d expect, the 6-colour printing of the XP-8600 comes into its own and produces really outstanding results for photographic printing. It has a light touch that produces subtle, natural-looking skin tones on portraits and selfies, while also creating rich, vibrant colours when shooting landscapes and scenery.
Darker areas within an image are crisp and well defined, with strong contrast, but without losing the fine detail provided by the high-resolution printer. Epson also points out that its special ‘Claria’ inks can last for 300 years, so you can be sure that your photo albums and happy memories won’t fade away too soon.
But again, photo-printing speeds aren’t terribly fast. Epson quotes a time of 10 seconds for a 4x6in post-card print, but our test photos took 30s on glossy paper using the printer’s Normal setting, and doubled that to a full minute on Best.
Printing a larger photo at full A4 size took 65s on Normal and, again, doubled up to 130s when we stepped up to Best quality. The results were worth it though, with impressive lab-quality photo prints that you could easily frame or use in calendars and other creative projects. The printer’s duplex printing and booklet options mean that it can handle business and marketing materials as well.
The disadvantage of using six coloured inks, of course, is that the replacement ink cartridges can work out far more expensive than for a conventional 4-colour printer. Epson does sell multipacks, though, which contain all six inks, with the standard size multipack costing £60.99 and the high-yield XL multipack at £112.99.
The standard black ink cartridge lasts for just 240 pages, which works out at 4.2p per page, while the 360 pages provided by the five standard colour cartridges adds up to 14.1p per page. Both figures are rather high, even given the use of six separate ink cartridges, but you can bring those prices down a bit if you opt for the XL multipack instead.
The XL black cartridges lasts for 500 pages, which brings mono printing down to 3.8p per page. That’s still above average for simple mono printing, so the XP-8600 isn’t a good option if you simply want an office printer for letters and other text documents.
However, the five XL colour cartridges last for 830 pages, giving a cost for colour printing of 11.3p per page. That might be a little high for a conventional four-colour inkjet printer, but it’s not at all bad given the high-quality 6-colour print system provided by the XP-8600.
The 6-colour printing of the XP-8600 will obviously be overkill for home users who simply want an affordable general-purpose printer.
But, if you’re a keen photographer and you don’t mind paying a little extra for top-quality photo prints then the XP-8600 will fit the bill nicely. It's not overly fast but the resulting quality is worth the wait.
This is a compact printer with useful features including a decent touchscreen, scanner, Wi-Fi, two paper trays and the ability to print on discs.
Epson Expression Photo XP-8600: Specs
- A4 multi-function printer
- 1440x5760 dpi resolution
- 6-colour photo-printing system
- 1200x4800 dpi scanner/copier
- 100-sheet A4 tray, 20-sheet photo tray, manual paper feed
- Connectivity – USB, Wi-Fi
- Dimensions – 349x340x142mm, 6.7kg
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