Epson Expression Premium XP-820 Small-in-One Printer

Strong performance, excellent print quality, and feature-rich

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Epson Expression Premium XP-820 Small-in-One Printer. Epson

Pros:

  • CD/DVD labeling
  • Decent print speed
  • Auto-duplexing ADF
  • Highly-respectable print, scan, and copy quality
  • Compact footprint
  • Multipurpose and dedicated photo paper trays

Cons: 

  • High cost per page
  • Being phased out

Bottom Line: This is a great printer, and it's still around the Internet at great prices, because it's being phased out by the Expression Premium XP-830 Small-in-One Printer.

What do you get when you shove every possible modern multifunction-printer feature—printing, copying, scanning, faxing, even CD/DVD labeling—into a very small and stylish chassis? Well, until a couple of years ago, say, back around the end of 2012, we’d always called the result "all-in-ones" (AIOs), whatever their size. At that time, this line of compact AIOs consisted of some the smallest full-featured machines available. Epson called them (cleverly) “Small-in-Ones.” 

That was November 2012, almost two full years prior to the initial appearance of this review. The machine was Epson’s $279-MSRP Expression Premium XP-800 Small-in-One Printer, the flagship of the line. Since then, I’ve looked at the XP-800’s replacement, the $229-MSRP XP-810, and now, here’s my review the XP-810’s replacement, the 2014 $199.99-MSRP Epson Expression Premium XP-820 Small-in-One Printer. As I reported about both of the XP-820’s predecessors, this Small-in-One is relatively fast, it prints well, and it’s loaded with features. Unfortunately, even though this AIO lists for about $80 less than the original XP-800, its cost per page, or CPP, is the same—making it too costly to use as a document printer for most home-based businesses and small offices.

But then, this is a photo-centric printer, meaning that it’s optimized to print photos. Unfortunately, photo printer ink tanks, even though it’s usually the same ink inside, traditionally cost significantly more (on a per-page basis) to print. So, unless the CPP is way out of line, I usually don’t ding photo printers for a high cost per page—again, within reason.

Design and Features

Small footprint, compact—the XP-820 needs very little space. While working, this AIO measures 17.2 inches across, 23.5 inches up and down, and just 8.1 inches high. To use even less space, when idle, the control panel and output tray retract automatically, reducing the front-to-back depth to 13.3 inches; when you print again, the control panel tilts up and out of the way, and the output tray extends. Then, when you remove your print job, the output tray slides back into the printer, and the control panel closes down over it. It's a slick space-saving implementation.

The XP-820 truly is loaded with features, and all this automation gives the machine a smaller footprint when idle. Besides, the printer is certainly more attractive when it’s closed up. (It looks more like a piece of entertainment equipment than a printer.) The control panel resides on a high-resolution 3.5-inch touch display that allows you to print directly (that is, PC-free) from or scan directly to several different types of memory devices, including USB keys and ​PictBridge-compliant digital cameras and other peripherals. Epson’s AIO control panels, rivaled perhaps only by HP’s, are straightforward and easy to use.

Also impressive (and not necessarily a given on under-$200 machines) is the auto-duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF), for feeding two-sided, multipage originals to the scanner without user intervention. 

As for mobile printing options, like its predecessors, this Small-in-One reflects its era by providing a wide range of options, including Google’s Cloud Print, Apple’s AirPrint, as well as Epson’s own iPrint Mobile App for connecting smartphones, tablets, and laptops to services like email-to-print, and so on. (If you are unfamiliar with today’s mobile printing options, check out this About.com “Printing from your Mobile Device” article. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that the XP-820 lets you print labels on CDs and DVDs—a great feature and convenient when you need it.

Print Quality and Performance

The XP-820, like the XP-800 and XP-810 before it (as well as the XP-830 after it), prints, well…great. Thanks to its extra “Photo Black” ink tank, it does an especially nice job of printing photos—not quite up to the six-ink Canon Pixmas, such as the Pixma MG7720, but darned good. It also did a good job with business documents, with better-than-passable text and great-looking embedded graphics and photos. 

As to print speed, all the tests I’ve seen put the XP-820 at about midrange—definitely fast for its size, but about average for its price, plenty fast enough for most tasks.

Cost Per Page

No matter how you look at it, this AIO costs too much to use, in terms of the ongoing cost per page. When you use the highest yield ink cartridges with this printer, black-and-white pages will cost you 4.3 cents and color about 13.3 cents. Keep in mind, though, that these numbers don’t include the Photo Black ink. When that cartridge kicks in, it can add as much as another 4.6 cents (or more) to the cost of your pages. To find out why choosing the wrong printer can be a costly error, check out this About.com “When a $150 Printer Can Cost You Thousands” article.

Hey, this printer is primarily a tool for a photo enthusiast—a hobbyist’s printer. If you require quality photos with only the occasional (costly) business document, the XP-820 should be a good fit. It would also make a good second (photo) printer, with a more practical business-centric model with a low CPP for printing documents in the wings.

And all of that, of course, depends on how much and what you print.