A compact MFP which can produce highly professional results
T here are plenty of all-in-one inkjet printers on the market, but not so many that are capable of handling A3 paper.
Epson’s relatively affordable lozenge-shaped Multi-Function Printer (MFP) takes up no more desk space than its EcoTank ET4500, with a footprint of 148x479x356mm (HxWxD), but it doesn’t stop at A4 size, and it uses an extra color 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 both for your home office or even 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 of the printer’s 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 Expression Photo XP-960’s color 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 using the straightforward interface (yes, there’s an SD card slot for printing directly from a camera’s memory card).
At the rear you’ll also find a square USB port and an Ethernet port, which could be useful if you prefer not to overcrowd your Wi-Fi network – at home or at work.
Features The ability to handle A3 paper is what sets the Expression Photo XP-960 apart from your average all-in-one photo printer, but besides that, you have a fairly full feature set. Duplex (or both sides) printing is possible with A4 plain paper, for example, and in this mode, the print speed accelerates from eight 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 Expression Photo XP-960 can normally select the correct paper setting automatically when you ask it to print, an incredibly useful feature.
The scanner, meanwhile, can capture very high resolution scans of 4,800 x 4,800 dpi, which is good news for designers, photographers or anyone else who needs large, decent-quality images. You can save the scanned documents onto a USB thumb drive, or a mobile device via the Epson iPrint app (available for iOS and Android only) – or have it emailed to your PC.
Epson’s Claria Photo HD ink system uses six, instead of the usual five, color cartridges – magenta, light magenta, cyan, light cyan, yellow and black – to achieve superior color fidelity.
All that’s really lacking here is an automatic document feeder (ADF) for lining up, or scheduling printing and scanning jobs. NFC or Nearfield communication connectivity for linking your phone with a single touch could also have been included, but wasn’t.
Setup and operation
Getting started with the Expression Photo XP-960 is a smooth process thanks to the large and user friendly touchscreen, which walks you through the setup procedure.
With luck, you should be able to hook up the MFP to your Wi-Fi network in just a few minutes.
The LCD’s logical on-screen menu also makes it easy to adjust the printer’s paper settings and select a function, so you shouldn’t need to reach for the user manual very often, if at all.
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 nine impressions per minute (IPM) compared to similarly priced MFPs (especially the Canon Pixma iP7850, which has a print speed of 14.5 ipm with mono prints and 10.4 ipm with color), but text looks sharp enough. Characters lack the light touch of a laser and look a little heavy-handed by comparison, but they are perfectly acceptable for an inkjet printer like this one.
At one point during our testing, 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 for the remainder of our review. Color 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 color palette that gives quality images professional production values.
For any business or home user that needs, on occasion, to produce A3-sized documents or posters, the Expression Photo XP-960 should be a definite consideration. Thanks to its accurate six ink cartridge system, it turned out professional production quality prints every time in our full color tests. Printing onto photo paper yields especially vibrant and stable colors with print speeds averaging eight impressions per minute.
For plain text documents this machine looks expensive to buy and run, but its feature set and ease of use justify the costs if you plan to do any kind of A3 printing as well.
If you need to produce professional-looking prints and posters in full color, or A3-size documents, then this surprisingly compact all-in-one printer from Epson does a high-end job on a realistic budget.Q A compact, highly-capable A3 printer for home or business with professional-looking results.
Epson Expression Photo XP-960
Functions: Print, copy, scan
Ink: 6 cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light cyan, light magenta)
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 color
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
A compact, highly-capable A3 printer for home or business with professional-looking results.