Epson Stylus C64
At a Glance
Most of the Epson inkjets we've tested recently are better at producing gorgeous photos on high-quality paper than at generating clear sharp text on plain stock. The low-priced C64 sticks to that pattern, in spirit. It printed our test photos with accurate colors (including flesh tones), though the output looked a bit grainy in places and, not surprisingly, lacked the sharp details we've seen in prints from more-expensive Epson models. Text appeared choppy and shadowy, especially at commonly used font sizes, and the narrow parallel lines in our line-art test document overlapped so much that the image resembled tweed fabric. (Text quality improved markedly on coated inkjet paper, but line art quality did not.) The C64 was also one of the slowest inkjets we've tested recently, printing graphics at 0.7 ppm (many inkjets print graphics twice that fast) and turning out text at 2.5 ppm, considerably slower than most others.
Not surprisingly for a printer in this price category, the Stylus C64 omits some useful features offered in higher-priced models. For example, there's neither a photo paper roll holder nor a bypass slot for feeding single sheets and envelopes. On the other hand, the C64 has an internal power supply, so the power brick doesn't hang off the printer (as it might if it sat midway down the cable) or block electrical outlets when plugged in (as it would if situated at the plug).
Most inkjet printers we've tested use one tricolor cartridge that users must replace when the first color runs out, but the C64 uses four independent ink tanks so you can replace each ink separately.
The C64's driver installation is virtually idiot-proof. You connect the USB cable, turn on the printer, and wait until your PC requests the driver CD. Then, like most Epson inkjets, the C64 runs a print head alignment routine that requires you to evaluate four sheets of test patterns; this takes about 15 minutes. An excellent setup poster walks you through unpacking, assembling, and installing the printer, and a mediocre 24-page booklet covers paper handling, correcting print quality problems, interpreting flashing status lights and a few other basics. The on-screen documentation contains further information, including a thorough guide in HTML format and animated demonstrations of common maintenance tasks.
For a simple inkjet, the Epson C64 is a bargain at $60, but at the same price the Canon i350 offers faster print speeds and superior print quality.