With the incredible transformation in printers these days it's often hard to find everything you want in one unit.
On my desk until a month ago was a black and white laser printer, a flatbed scanner, a 4x6 photo printer and a color deskjet printer.
That's before I got a chance to use the amazing Epson Stylus Photo RX700, which takes the place of all of those and adds copying and photo editing to boot.
It is not often that one all-in-one printer works well on all cylinders (often one that is good at photos is rotten on text, or bad at scanning).
Not this one. I have run this one through its paces and found it can do it all. It even can print on the surface of printable DVDs and CDs, so you can design your own discs without those stupid labels. (More than once I have had the labels ruin a player or toss a disc out of balance.)
Anyway, installation of the Epson was straightforward. The printer, believe it or not, actually comes with a USB cable (are you listening HP and Dell?). It takes six slim ink cartridges, which conveniently plug in the front and are simple to change. Once you install the software suite you can fire up the printer and you'll see real-time status of the ink capacity. (Best of all, the replacement cartridges are $12 to $17, a modest price in comparison to others.)
The black and white prints on normal paper were fine; that technology has been around a while and there's no surprise there. Color prints on normal paper were also good, with sharp color and instant drying. It is important with printers like these to select the properties when you print and select the exact paper you're using and the type of printing (image, text or both).
Where this thing excels is as a home color photo printing lab. I honestly never thought that I'd need or use one, considering there's a one-hour photo store on every corner. However, I found that impression dead wrong.
The very week I installed the beast two of my kids had school projects that required photos (that we found out about at about 8 p.m. the night before). A couple more of my kids needed copies made. Who has a copier in their home? Turns out we do when we added this little guy.
Printing photos was a snap — open a slot in the back, load the right paper and away you go. Printing an 8x10 in the highest mode took less than a minute and the image looked equal to most photo labs. Printing a 4x6 was just as easy.
Printing onto a CD or DVD involves using a provided sleeve.
A major plus of this printer is the 2.5-inch color display on the front. Because it also has built-in slots for photo cards, you can simply eject your card from your camera, insert in the printer and scan through your photos . . . no PC is needed. You even can crop or make modest adjustments to the images prior to printing.
Other features include direct printing from color slides or negatives, a feature usually reserved for much more expensive units. (My first negative scanner was $1,200.)
As for traditional scanning, it performed well. Its 3200 dpi resolution will handle consumer tasks easily.
At $399 the unit is not the cheapest on the market but probably is when you consider all of the features it includes and that is performs well on all of them.
The only con I see is lack of a fax capacity. It's not something I would use, but some all-in-ones have this.
You can see photos of the unit and all of the specifications at www.epson.com. Street price is $365 to $390.
WEEKLY WEB WONDER: Google Base, the application everyone claims will kill eBay and newspaper classifieds all at once, is now live in Beta. See it at base.google.com.
James Derk is co-owner of CyberDads, a computer repair company, and a computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.