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July 29, 2004|By Kevin E. Washington

Epson's RX500 great all-in-one for photos, but not so with text

My initial reaction to all-in-ones that you could set up in your home was pretty negative. My worry was that the all-in-one would stint on at least one or all of the functions it was designed to perform.

I think that's the problem with the Epson Stylus Photo RX500 ($200 to $250 if you shop around), which was somewhat disappointing in its printer functions while handling the scanner functions with aplomb. After trying out Epson's 4870 scanner and coming to believe it is one of the best consumer scanners on the market, I am happy to report that the RX500's scanning abilities are particularly good by comparison with the 4870, even though the RX500 is an all-in-one package.

If you're excited by the promise of digital photography and plan on doing some picture printing at home, you'll not be disappointed by the RX500. It's print quality when it comes to photography is excellent compared with the all-in-ones that I've looked at. The color is really good and the clarity is extreme.

But when I started printing text, I was really disappointed. I thought the color graphics produced by this printer were a bit muddy - a real difference from the beautiful color photographs I printed. I would have an easier time recommending that a home-based business go with the Epson Stylus Photo CX6400 (which prints text pages even faster than the RX500) if you need to get really good text out of a printer as well as solid photographs.

As is the case with some of the finer printers out there, this printer has card readers for digital media. Among them, are the Secure Digital, Memory Stick, Compact Flash I and II, SmartMedia, MicroDrive and XD cards. I'm starting to think that no printer should come without these easy-to-use readers. Epson has made my collection of card readers downright obsolete.

Also included is an LCD screen with two lines for text to tell you what's going on with the printer. I have a tendency not to load in enough paper for big jobs, so seeing the text screen say, "load paper," is a good cue for me.

The buttons are large and easy to read. No confusing double talk on the screen, but straight forward instructions on how best to use the printer.

I also thought the extras on here, designed to help you to scan in negatives and slides, were pretty useful. I wouldn't mind using this all-in-one to handle digitizing the old photo album. In fact, the RX500 is a perfect choice for someone with little desk space who needs a good photo printer and scanner combined in one device.

Information: 800-463-7766 or www.epson.com.

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