If you need to produce professional looking prints and posters in full colour, or A3-size documents, this surprisingly compact all-in-one printer does a high-end job on a realistic budget.
USB port and an SD card slot for camera users
Large and advanced 4.3-inch touchscreen
Six colour Claria ink system works well with photos
High printing and scanning resolution
Flimsy paper trays and document feeds
Slow to print
Limited paper capacity
No ADF or fax
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There are plenty of all-in-one inkjet printers on the market, but not so many capable of handling A3 paper. Epson’s relatively affordable (£250 – that’s about $320, AU$435) lozenge-shaped MFP takes up no more desk space than its EcoTank ET4500, with a footprint of 148 x 479 x 356mm (H x W x D), but it doesn’t stop at A4 size, and it uses an extra colour in its six ink system to achieve higher quality prints.
Add a scanner capable of capturing documents at 4,800 dpi and three document trays that will accept envelopes and blank discs as well as paper, and you have a machine suitable for a home office or a medium-sized business.
Design and build
The rounded sides of Epson’s Expression Photo XP-960 reduce bulk as much as possible, so although it has the capacity to handle A3 paper, it’s small enough to share an average-sized desk with a computer and still have room to spare. The glossy black finish is an absolute magnet for dust, but because all the trays and flaps fold neatly away, it’s very easy to wipe it down with a duster.
When you’re ready to print, the motorised LCD panel whirrs upwards, while the out-tray extends from the front by a few inches. Below this tray are two drawers, one for loading plain A4 paper and another for photo paper and envelopes. Sheets of A3 drop into the rear speciality media feed, where a plastic assembly pulls up telescopically to support the large sheets of paper as they feed in.
The colour display is a generously-sized 4.3-inch touchscreen, and it’s quite easy to print directly from an SD card without any need to access a computer (yes, there’s an SD card slot for printing directly from a camera’s memory card).
At the rear you’ll find a square USB port and an Ethernet port, which could be useful if you prefer not to overcrowd your Wi-Fi network.
Here are the full specs of the Epson Expression Photo XP-960:
Type: Multifunction colour inkjet printer
Functions: Print, copy, scan
Ink: 6 cartridges (C, M, Y, BK, LC, LM)
Connectivity: Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, USB
Data storage slots: USB port, SD card, MemoryStick, CF card
Print speed: 8.5 ppm mono, 8 ppm colour
Main paper tray capacity: 100 sheets
Print quality: 5,760 x 1,440 dpi
Scan quality: 4,800 x 4,800 dpi
Apple AirPrint: Yes
Google Cloud Print: Yes
App support: Yes (iOS/Android)
Consumables included: 6 ink cartridges
Size/Weight: 148 x 479 x 356mm (H x W x D); 8.7kg
The ability to handle A3 paper is what sets the XP-960 apart from your average all-in-one photo printer, but besides that, you have a fairly full feature set. Duplex printing is possible with A4 plain paper, for example, and in this mode, the print speed accelerates from 8 to 28 pages per minute.
Having two paper in-trays is an advantage as well, because it means you can load one with plain A4 and the other with photo paper, envelopes, or printable blank CD-sized discs, and not have to empty the tray each time you switch media. The XP-960 can usually select the correct paper setting when you ask it to print.
The scanner, meanwhile, can capture very high resolution scans of 4,800 x 4,800 dpi, which is good news for designers who can save the scanned documents onto a USB thumb drive, or a mobile device via the app – or have it emailed to a PC.
Epson’s Claria Photo HD ink system uses six, instead of the usual five, colour cartridges (magenta, light magenta, cyan, light cyan, yellow and black) to achieve superior colour fidelity.
All that’s really lacking here is an ADF (automatic document feeder) for lining up, or scheduling printing and scanning jobs. NFC connectivity for linking your phone with a single touch could also have been included, but wasn’t.
Setup and operation
Getting started was a smooth process thanks to the large and user-friendly touchscreen walking us through the procedure. We managed to hook the device up to our Wi-Fi network in just a few minutes.
The LCD’s logical on-screen menu also makes it easy to adjust paper settings and select a function, so you shouldn’t need to reach for the user manual.
Beginning with a black text on plain paper test, the Expression Photo XP-960 achieved average results after its print heads were cleaned and realigned. The print speed is a little slow at less than 9 pages per minute compared to similarly priced MFPs, but text looks sharp enough. Characters lack the light touch of a laser and look a little heavy-handed by comparison, but they’re perfectly acceptable for an inkjet.
At one point, the print head must have fallen out of alignment as the lines of black text turned grey half way down the page, but after running the automatic calibration tests, printing remained crisp and consistent during the remainder of our testing.
Colour documents benefit from the six ink cartridge system and show good separation and consistency. When it comes to printing photos on photo paper, the Expression Photo XP-960 really shines. There’s no unwanted ink mixing or smearing here and a real boldness to the colour palette that gives quality images professional production values.
Jim is a seasoned expert when it comes to testing tech. From playing a prototype PlayStation One to meeting a man called Steve about a new kind of phone in 2007, he’s always hunting the next big thing at the bleeding edge of the electronics industry. After editing the tech section of Wired UK magazine, he is currently specialising in IT and voyaging in his VW camper van.