Epson Expression Premium XP-820 review

EPSON XP 820 front tray

Epson Expression Premium XP-820

“Epson’s Expression Premium XP-820 makes great photos and provides excellent utility. Its small and awkward paper tray is the only thing that cost it an Editors’ Choice, but we still recommend it.”
  • Great photo quality output
  • Handles specialty media, print CDs and DVDs
  • XL ink cartridges have good page yields
  • Auto duplexing in printer and scanner
  • Small-capacity paper tray
  • Paper tray is awkward to load

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If you can get a three-function all-in-one printer for less than a hundred bucks, does it make sense to spend twice that on a four-function MFP? Epson’s Expression Premium XP-820 Small-in-One retails for $200, but with five colors of ink, it provides excellent photo output, and gives you a fourth function: faxing.

Even if the last time you faxed something was in the 1990s, the XP-820’s print quality might fit the bill nicely if you make photo or color prints.

Features and design

There’s nothing flashy about the Expression XP-820, but its all-black case is attractive enough yet unobtrusive (measuring only 15.4 x 13.3 x 7.5 inches, and weighing in at a fairly light 21.5 pounds). Only the power button, memory card slots, and a front-mounted USB port [which is useable for both PictBridge-enabled cameras or a USB flash drive] are visible when the unit is powered down. Press the power button, and the 4.3-inch color touchscreen lights up.

The main paper tray is awkward to use, and can be a bit troublesome to pull out.

The touchscreen is located on a tilt-out panel, and you will need to tilt the panel when the MFP is in use because of an output paper support that automatically extends when you print or copy. When the unit is powered down, this support retracts so that the tilt panel can be returned to its normal vertical position.

Swiping horizontally on the touchscreen lets you select a function (such as printing from a memory card), and swipe vertically within that selection to make further choices. The screen is responsive, and large enough to be easy to use.

Many of Epson’s Premium-labeled machines are designed for photo printing, and that involves using multiple ink tanks. The XP-820 uses Epson’s Claria inks (number 273), and includes Photo Black in addition to the standard CYMK four-color lineup; this provides more detail in the dark and shadowed areas of an image. These colors are available in standard and high-capacity ink tanks that yield about 250 black and 300 color pages for standard-capacity cartridges, and 500 black pages and 650 color pages for the high-capacity cartridges (which are good numbers for high yield).

The printer and the automatic document feeder (ADF) offer duplex printing and scanning, a worthwhile feature especially if you are scanning, copying, or faxing double-sided documents, or to save on paper by printing on two sides. The ADF, with the lid closed, has a nice design that blends in with the rest of the printer, instead of sticking out like a sore thumb.

The XP-820 has several paper-feed options. The main paper tray is located at the bottom of the unit, and can be a bit troublesome to pull out to refill paper. It holds 100 sheets; this is small, but unless you’re making hundreds of copies (which you shouldn’t with this kind of machine anyway), most users shouldn’t find this a problem. There is also a separate feed for photo paper at the top of the primary paper tray. This smaller tray has a capacity for 20 sheets of glossy photo paper, but as with the primary tray, using it can feel awkward. One other awkward thing: you also have to withdraw the auto-extend output paper support in order to access the paper drawer or the secondary tray for smaller photo papers.

There’s also a rear paper feed for heavier media; this tray was easy to access and use, and fed heavy media (Epson’s Premium Photo Paper Matte—64 pound) without any problems.

Lastly, there’s a special tray used for printing onto blank CDs or DVDs that have a printable surface coating. It’s stored at the very bottom of the MFP, and this is very easy to use. Epson includes a Print CD utility that works well for this feature.

Whether you’re using the scanner’s flatbed or the ADF, you can scan to a network or flash media/memory card without the use of a PC. This is controlled through the front panel, and there’s also some rudimentary photo editing capability from the touchscreen.

EPSON XP 820 front tray closed

We are also impressed with the connectivity options. Connecting to your network by wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi is available, as is a direct USB connection. Apple’s AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and Epson’s own Epson Connect are all supported. The XP-820 is also a Mopria Print Service-certified printer, which enables it to print from many Android KitKat (4.4) applications.

What’s in the box

True to its name, the XP-820 isn’t very large, and neither is its packaging containing the printer, five ink cartridges, power cord, and disc with drivers for Mac or Windows. There’s also a separate tray for printing onto CDs/DVDs as well as a dedicated photo paper tray, both pre-installed. There’s a quick-start poster and a user’s guide. Supply your own cables (USB and telephone).

Warranty

Epson provides a limited one-year warranty, but extended service plans are available. Click here for details.

Setup and Performance

We rarely run into setup problems these days, and the XP-820 is no exception. Setup, from unpacking to placing the ink cartridges into the printhead, was accomplished in about 10 minutes. Running the installation routine on the included CD installs the drivers and software for the printer and scanner.

With five inks, the photos are well saturated, with accurate color and very good detail in shaded and dark areas.

In our testing, the XP-820 excelled in both speed and quality. Epson claims a speed of 11 pages-per-minute (ppm) in color, and 14 ppm in black and white. With our test document of mostly monochrome text with a small color logo, we achieved an average speed of 16 ppm.

Image quality is excellent. We printed our three test images on three different papers _ Epson Glossy Photo Paper, Epson Photo Paper Matte, and Hammermill Premium Inkjet and Laser Paper. While the color was somewhat under-saturated on the Hammermill paper, it was spot-on in both color and saturation on the two Epson Photo Papers. But even on the Hammermill paper, charts and other graphics contained in a report or craft project should be of high-enough quality to please most users.

We also tested the copy and scan functions. Copying is unfortunately slow, as is our usual finding on inkjet printers in general. As we mentioned, these home printers aren’t designed to be heavy-duty copiers. However, doing two-sided copies is very easily accomplished due to the duplexing in both the ADF and printer.

Our test scans came out sharp and accurate, and the TWAIN driver Epson provides worked flawlessly, letting us scan directly into Picasa. You can also scan to the cloud if you have a Dropbox or similar cloud storage account.

We also tested the DVD print capability. Epson’s Print CD utility isn’t very fancy, nor does it offer a wide option of background or images to choose from, but it worked just fine with the jpeg images we wanted to print on our DVD.

Conclusion

We really like Epson’s XP-820. Its compact, provides excellent utility, and has automatic duplexing on both the printer and scanner. With five inks, the photos are well saturated, with accurate color and very good detail in shaded and dark areas.

While we have mixed feelings about the paper handling, the additional rear paper feed lets the XP-820 handle heavier paper stock with no jamming, and the included special CD/DVD tray makes printing your own CDs just as simple. We are also not overly pleased with the need to verify the paper type on the MFP’s control panel every time we removed the paper tray. With most printers and MFPs, you simply set the paper type in the print driver.

Additionally, the primary paper drawer is awkward to get in and out of the MFP, and when you do, you’re presented with a small capacity. You also need to withdraw the auto-extend output paper support any time you want to access the paper drawer or the secondary tray for smaller photo papers.

But in all other respects, the XP-820 lives up to its “Premium” labeling. It may be a lot to spend $200, but you get a lot of utility and great print quality.

Highs

  • Great photo quality output
  • Handles specialty media, print CDs and DVDs
  • XL ink cartridges have good page yields
  • Auto duplexing in printer and scanner

Lows

  • Small-capacity paper tray
  • Paper tray is awkward to load

Editors' Recommendations

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