Epson Stylus Photo R220
At a Glance
HP Officejet Pro K550 Printer
This no-frills printer produces wonderful photos, but it's slow and print quality on plain paper is lackluster.
The Epson Stylus Photo R220 costs just $99, but it omits many of the features that set photo printers apart from everyday inkjets. On the front panel, you won't find a color LCD or media card slots, and the USB 1.1 port located there connects only to a PC, not to a digital camera. (Another USB port is at the rear, but it also connects only to a PC and you can only use one of these ports at a time.)
The upright feeder at the rear of the printer holds up to 120 sheets of plain paper, but the output tray becomes full after just 30 sheets. On the plus side, the R220 can print directly onto specially coated CD and DVD discs, and you don't have to rearrange the paper tray because it has a separate tray that feeds one disc at a time. Unlike with most modern inkjets, aligning the print head is a manual process; you have to examine a test print and fiddle with some figures on screen. The R220 uses six individual ink cartridges.
The R220 prints faster than its predecessor, the Stylus Photo R200. However, like the Epson Stylus Photo R340 we reviewed at the same time, it can't keep up with its Canon and HP competitors. When timed in the PC World Test Center, the R220 printed text at a pedestrian 2.1 pages per minute and color graphics at just 1.6 ppm. Photos crawled out in 82 seconds.
On plain paper, the efforts of the R220 looked dismal beside the printouts from the other photo printers we tested this month. The R220's text was gray and spidery, with horizontal banding that was especially noticeable in large characters. Line art resembled pajama stripes composed of fuzzy, speckled lines, earning a Poor rating. Color graphics appeared washed out and blurred.
But on photo paper, the R220 produced some of the best photos of the bunch. Our panel of judges saw excellent detail in shadows and exceptionally vivid colors. Close up, we noticed a little graininess and exaggerated facial shading, but of no great concern. The grayscale test had a slight greenish tint, but showed plenty of detail and natural-looking tonal gradations. Both color and grayscale photos earned a Superior rating. However, some of our 4-by-6-inch snapshots showed a slight banding mark toward the trailing edge of the print.
The Epson Stylus Photo R220 is a slow, no-frills budget printer that produces weak prints on plain paper, but wonderful photos on photo paper.