Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 Review
Pros: Consistent color, easy set-up, broad format options
Cons: Microbanding in grayscale, relatively low definition in dark areas
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Of all the machines in our review capable of producing 13" wide images, the Epson Expression has the smallest footprint. This machine makes use of piezo dot on demand inkjet technology to produce multiple drop sizes that, when combined with its 6 color ink palette, produce rich colors in a broad dynamic range. Thanks to the LCD screen, set up is easy, too. Considering all these features, the quality of its prints and a competitive price point, it should be no wonder why we were so impressed with this machine.
The Epson Expression produces some of the better color outcomes that we observed during our testing. These outcomes were exhibited across both high and low-cost papers and in all but the largest print formats. The exception being seen in the 13" x 19" format where skin tones were noticeably off. Yet, the resolution rendered by this machine is well above average for the class.
The testing criteria we used to rate the color printing capability of this printer focused on overall impression and resolution. Resolution is an assessment of the amount of detail that is present in the print. We rate the quality of resolution by comparison to the original image and also by comparison to the prints produced by the other machines in the review class. Overall impression takes stock of print features such as definition and color fidelity. Additionally, we look for issues such as microbanding and streaking. Taken as a whole, our appraisal of this printer based on these criteria was high.
Black and White
While the Epson's color prints left us with little to complain about, the black and white renderings presented a few problems. First, the best results were seen on the more expensive, high-quality paper. Even when using the best paper, the test prints displayed some streaking in lager, dark areas of the images and some banding in the middle gray tones. Additionally, the prints tended towards a sepia hue that, while not unpleasant, did not match the original. That said, the grayscale gradients were smooth, and the resolution was quite good by comparison to all but the highest-end models.
The assessments of the Expression's black and white renderings were made along the same lines as those of the color prints. Namely, we looked at resolution and overall impression. However, grayscale offers the opportunity to look at print characteristics such as dynamic range and tonal transitions without the masking effects that color can produce. This is one reason why the criticisms listed above were not apparent in the color evaluation. Despite these shortcomings, we were quite pleased with what this relatively low priced machine could achieve.
In many ways, the print capabilities metric is a printer classification exercise. The Expression falls into what we call the full-size model category not just because of its physical proportions, but because of the wide range of print dimensions and material it can accommodate. While we are not going to list all the materials that this machine will print on, suffice it to say that it covers everything from plain printer paper to high-end glossy photo paper, as well as adhesive-backed sticker paper and iron-on transfer sheets for making t-shirts. Additionally, this machine can print on photo sheets ranging in size from 4" x 6" to 13" x 44", making large panoramic renderings possible.
We also looked at printing speed and the capacity of the paper tray. The Epson did not fail to impress. This machine will kick out a 4" x 6" color photo in just 36 seconds — way below the average for the class. Additionally, it can hold up to 50 sheets of photo paper. These two features make photo album printing and the like more manageable.
The operating cost metric provides potential buyers with an estimate of the long term cost of running a printer. To make this estimate more digestible, we have broken it down to the amount of money it will cost on average to produce a single 4" x 6" color print. The Epson Expression will set you back around $0.45 per photo. To put this in context, the national photo developer that we used for comparison costs $0.33 per print. However, we should say that we weren't all that impressed with the quality of those prints.
Getting a cost per print figure is a bit of a challenge. The difficulty lies in calculating the average amount of ink used per square inch when rendering a photo. To get at this figure we relied on data provided by printing labs that ran inkjet printers for hundreds of hours. We then compared that data to the ink we consumed printing over 320 test photos and found the number to be pretty accurate, if not higher than what we observed. The other part of the equation is the cost of the paper, which requires no estimate at all.
As the name of this metric indicates, this was an analysis of the printer set-up process from opening the box to printing the first picture. As desktop printers go, this was one of the easier machines to get going, though we did have some issues with our computer disconnecting from the printer post set-up, a problem that was not observed with any of the other machines in our review.
This printer requires you to download a drive, which is software that converts the image on the computer to a format that the printer can use. This is not an uncommon step for desktop printers. Epson hosts a page to facilitate this process and it was easy to navigate. This printer does have a relatively long initializing phase, but it was not complicated. More importantly, the first prints came out looking pretty good.
Plain and simple, we think this machine is a fantastic value. It does have some shortcomings when compared to the other full-size machines, but the reduction in cost more than compensates for them. The only scenario in which this machine would not be seen as a good value is if it is more printer than you require. In which case, the not insignificant cost and size of the Epson Expression may be burdensome. That said, this machine is a great tool for those looking to expand their printing capabilities without breaking the bank.
The Epson Expression is a competitively priced, full-size photo printer that doesn't cut too many corners to keep the cost low. We were more than impressed with this machine's color printing capabilities, as well as the range of formats and mediums that it can use. This model did display some shortcomings when working in grayscale, but they were tolerable considering all the other benefits. All and all, this machine is a good choice for those who want a full-size photo printer but don't need to produce professional-quality prints.
— Nick Miley, Jason Peters and Austin Palmer