Epson Stylus Photo R240 review

£74
Price when reviewed

As the most expensive of the entry-level inkjets, the brand-new Stylus Photo R240 needs to outpace the cheaper models for speed, quality, features and running costs. In some respects, it succeeds; in others, it doesn’t.

The direct printing capability is an immediate attraction, especially if you intend to buy an inkjet the whole family can use. PictBridge support allows you to print photos from your digital camera by plugging it into the front-mounted USB port. Plus, there are four card readers hidden beneath the lid, which support all the common media cards, including SD, Memory Stick, CompactFlash, SmartMedia and xD-Picture cards.

Photos are displayed on a 1.5in TFT, which is a little small compared to the Lexmark’s 2.5in display. However, the front panel controls are generally intuitive and allow you to select what size paper you want, print quality, the number of copies and layout. Plus, photos are displayed much faster than on the Lexmark, so you can browse through a large selection to find the ones you’re after without frustrating pauses in between.

But, the Epson still needs to better the rivals in other areas too. One advantage Epson claims is the use of individual ink tanks, but the permanent print head means more ink has to be used for cleaning. Of course, with the R240, you only need to replace the colour that’s run out rather than potentially throwing away left-over ink in the tri-colour cartridges seen elsewhere. Although you should generally opt for Epson’s value pack (see Running costs), which means buying all four tanks at the same time, this still allows you to use all the ink before replacing each tank.

Fortunately, the R240 isn’t simply economical to run; it has another trick in reserve: great quality. In fact, our photomontage emerged looking almost as good as the best we saw this month. Colours and skin tones were true to life and detail was exquisite: grain was only visible up close. Naturally, the same quality was translated onto 6 x 4in prints, and the R240 will happily print photos without borders.

Printing black text at normal quality provided great results too – characters were sharp and almost as black as the Canons’. In the mono quality test, the R240 sharpened up our images and also printed them with great contrast. Our only gripe was with mono photo prints, which were plagued by a greenish cast.

Speed, however, wasn’t a strong point. Printing at normal quality saw our 5 per cent mono document print at 2.3ppm. This increased to 12.2ppm in the lower-quality, but still usable, draft mode. The R240 was slower than all bar the Dell for printing photos, taking just over three minutes for each 6 x 4in and well over six minutes for an A4 image.

We like Epson’s PhotoQuicker software, though. It won’t make photos print quicker, but offers a simple interface to choose a selection of photos and then print them borderless, leaving you to get on with other jobs you may have.

Photos won’t last as long as those printed on the HP 5940, but as you’ll be hard-pushed to notice any degradation within 23 years it doesn’t prevent us from recommending the R240 for its great value. As long as you can live with the speed, the Epson is our pick of the budget printers. It produces better quality overall than the HP 5940 and is the cheapest printer to run in the whole Labs.

Running costs

The Epson R240 is an exception to the rule of separate ink-tank printers: none of the other permanent print-head printers have final cost-per-6 x 4in-print figures of less than 40p, while the R240 has a final cost of just 25p. This doesn’t just make it the cheapest separate print head machine to run, it actually means the R240 is the cheapest for 6 x 4in prints of all the inkjets here.

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