Buy a 'cheap' inkjet printer for around £50 and you know what you're in for – massively expensive running costs to help the manufacturer claw its money back. Sure enough, a full set of four high-yield cartridges for the SX425W costs a couple of pounds more than the printer itself.
To be fair, though, the mono ink cost of about 3p per page is pretty much the same as for the much-vaunted Canon MG5150 and MG5250 printers. However, colour printing is pricier than average at about 10.5p per page, compared with between 5p and 8p per page for most of the latest Canon, HP, Kodak and Lexmark inkjets.
At only half the price of some wireless all-in-one printers, such as the Canon MG5250, the Epson SX425W looks like an attractive proposition, bolstered by a pleasingly curvy design and smart piano black finish. But its main claim to fame is hidden away under the covers.
Running on Epson's resin-based DuraBrite inks, the SX425W creates prints on which the ink is completely dry by the time the page hits the output tray, even when you're printing with standard plain paper. Better still, pages printed on plain paper are brilliantly smudge-proof, unlike those from practically every other kind of inkjet printer.
The trade-off is that the resin-based inks are less than ideal for photo output on glossy paper, and the results look a little dull and lacklustre. Having only four inks, the SX425W's colour range is also quite limited, so it's not a great choice for photo printing.
On the plus side, if you need to print photos on plain paper – for example, in newsletters or adverts – the results tend to look rather bolder and more vivid than from most inkjet printers, which use dye-based colour inks.
Hardware and print speeds
A neat range of control buttons runs down the left side of the printer's top panel, enabling quick access to stand-alone photocopying, scanning and photo printing from SD, MemoryStick or xD memory cards. You can also run printer maintenance functions such as nozzle checks and print head cleaning in standalone mode, and the onboard Setup facilities include hooking into Wi-Fi networks.
The printer includes a USB port for conventional connection to a PC or Mac as well.
Onboard control is driven via a 3.8cm colour LCD, which works out to just 1.5 inches in old money. Compared with the large, lavish touchscreens of printers such as the Lexmark Interact S605, which has a 10.9cm (4.29-inch) LCD, or even the 8.9-inch (22.6cm) touchscreen fitted to the HP Photosmart Plus, the Epson's LCD is very much a poor relation. It serves the purpose but isn't exactly easy on the eye.
Mono text printing is reasonably nippy at about 10 seconds per page. Mixed text and colour graphics pages are a little sluggish at 35 seconds, while photo printing is downright slow.
At just over two minutes, the Epson takes over four times as long as the HP Photosmart Premium or even the Epson P50 to print a 6 x 4-inch photo in standard photo quality mode. The Canon iP4850 and MG6150 are over six times as fast. In top-quality photo mode, the SX425W slows to a crawl, taking over nine minutes to output a single borderless A4 print.
If you're only really interested in document printing, though, the SX425W performs well at the price. That said, you'll have to forego little luxuries like auto duplex printing. Or, indeed, the ability to stack paper neatly into an input tray cartridge, since there's only a single upright sheet feeder mounted on the back of the printer, which can hold about 100 sheets of 80gsm A4 paper.
In our tests, the SX425W also proved quite a lot noisier in operation than most competing printers.
The SX425W ticks most of the right boxes for a low-cost all-in-one printer. Print quality is pretty good on plain paper and running costs aren't especially high for mono, although colour inks are a little pricey.
Wireless connectivity at this price is a bonus and the set-up procedure is easy. It's nice having the option of standard-yield or high-yield cartridges for a printer at this price point too. However, while the high-yield cartridges last more than twice as long, they're also more than twice as expensive, so actual running costs are only marginally reduced.
Smudge-free output on plain paper is a major benefit for document printing too, with colours looking very bold and well saturated.
There's no auto duplex facility, which is a shame, because the super-fast drying time of the printer's pigment-based inks would be ideally suited to one.
Meanwhile, print speeds are a bit on the sluggish side for colour document printing and dreadfully slow for photo output, both in normal and top quality photo printing modes.
Finally, the colour LCD is tiny at just 3.8cm, and the SX425W is also quite noisy in operation.
Considering its budget price tag, the SX425W is attractively styled and immaculately finished. Performance and quality are more than acceptable for document printing, but while mono running costs are reasonable, colour inks are a bit expensive. Smudge-proof printing is the printer's stand-out feature but Wi-Fi is another bonus at the price.