Epson Stylus C84
At a Glance
Though Epson doesn't sell the Stylus C84 as a photo printer, it rendered photos on glossy paper surprisingly well. Even so, the prints weren't as attractive as those some other similarly priced models produced. The C84's prints looked too dark overall and lacked detail in heavy shadows. Gray-scale prints were another story, however: Like most other inkjets we tested, the C84 produced very appealing glossy prints of gray-scale photos. In most other print-quality tests, the C84 produced fairly attractive output: Text looked sharp overall, though diagonal strokes had slightly jagged edges; gray-scale photos and color photos on ordinary paper looked a bit blocky and grainy but had good detail. Coated inkjet paper helped the quality of text, gray-scale, and color printouts a great deal.
The Stylus C84 is pretty quick: It printed text at 5.2 pages per minute and our test graphics documents at 1.6 ppm, making it faster than most inkjets we've tested to date.
The Stylus C84's weak point seems to be line art: It printed our test array of narrow parallel lines with severe overlapping and drop-outs. And it didn't handle the test any better at high resolution on coated inkjet paper.
The support tray for the paper feed is flimsy and comes off easily, but the paper feed is unnecessary in any case because Epson doesn't provide roll-feeders or other options that would require removing the standard tray. Oddly, the driver's watermark feature doesn't let you pick the watermark's font, and it prints only in six colors and black.
If you have more peripherals than available ports, you'll appreciate that the C84 has a parallel port in addition to its USB 2.0 port. Installation was a snap: We turned the printer on, plugged it into the PC, and waited for the installation wizard to request the driver CD. Epson has added a summary box in its driver that recaps, in one window, all of the settings you picked in the various print setup tabs. Other vendors have done something similar recently, but Epson's implementation is the easiest to read and interferes least with using the driver. Epson's manual and on-screen documentation, which includes animations of many basic tasks such as installing ink cartridges and using the driver settings, provide thorough information on working with the C84 and fixing print-quality problems.
Fast and versatile, the Stylus C84 is a fine low-cost choice for home users.