Epson Artisan 725 Arctic Edition

The Epson Artisan 725 Arctic Edition color inkjet multifunction (print/copy/scan) is a step or two down in features from the company's flagship Artisan 835. For its lower $200 price, however, it delivers the same high-quality output and cheap inks. Note that the glossy-white version we reviewed is available only through Best Buy stores and BestBuy.com; an all-black model is available everywhere else.

Epson Artisan 725 Arctic Edition color inkjet multifunction printer
You can set up the Artisan 725 via wireless, USB, or ethernet. We chose the first method, and the process was painless. The hard-copy setup guide is nice, but the full user guide is Internet-only and of no use unless you are connected. The software that Epson bundles is minimal but competent. Easy Photo Print offers templates and layouts for enhancing photo prints. Epson's scan utility provides both novice and advanced modes.

The tilt-up control panel on the Artisan 725 is easy to use, although the multicolored lighting scheme looks a bit haphazard—especially on the Arctic-white, Best Buy-only model we tested. The 2.5-inch color touchscreen LCD sits within a backlit touch panel whose controls appear and disappear contextually.

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Dell 2350dn

Dell's 2350dn offers small and medium-size workgroups a well-rounded monochrome laser printer, with peppy performance, impressive print quality, and reasonable toner costs for a low price ($300 as of November 16, 2010).

A less-expensive sibling to two other well-regarded Dell monochrome lasers—the high-end Dell 5230dn and midrange Dell 3330dn—the 2350dn outperformed all competitors in its class. In our PC-platform tests, it achieved a swift 22.8 pages per minute while printing pages consisting mostly of plain text with a sprinkling of simple monochrome graphics. The same files on the Mac tumbled out at a somewhat slower pace of 19.2 ppm. Graphics performance, never a monochrome laser's strong suit, was above average. On the Mac, a complex PDF file containing text, finer graphics, and photos emerged at a middling speed of 4.2 ppm, while a page of snapshot-size photos and color bars printed on the PC popped out in the equivalent of a zippy 14.1 ppm. I observed some background roughness in the samples, but it was evenly distributed and thus less jarring. A limited range of middle grays flattened some images and created excessive shadows in another, but the output still looked better than the harsh images we see from most monochrome lasers.

Covering the basics well, the standard configuration includes a 250-sheet input tray and a 150-sheet top output tray. Duplexing is standard. A second, 550-sheet input tray is a $100 option. Pull open a front panel to use the 50-sheet multipurpose tray—not to be confused with the access door for the toner cartridges, which you can reach by pressing an easy-to-overlook right-side button to open the entire front of the printer. Inside, another discreet button (a little more signage would have been nice) separates the toner cartridge from the imaging drum. A single DIMM slot lets you augment the standard 32MB of memory with 128MB or 256MB of DDR1-DRAM ($60 or $80, respectively) from Dell, but the equivalent memory is probably cheaper from a third-party source.

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Samsung CLP-670ND

Samsung’s CLP-670ND color laser printer performs satisfactorily or better across the board, making it a viable choice for your workgroup or small office. Samsung’s suggested price for the CLP-670ND is $858 (as of October 29, 2010), but we’ve seen it online priced at anywhere from $500 to $750. Unfortunately, the consumables are expensive unless you opt for the high-yield supplies.

The two-tone gray CLP-670ND has a minimal onboard interface: a two-line LCD; four-way rocker navigation; and Okay, Cancel, and Sleep buttons. It’s easy enough to use, but the printer’s Web page (if you’re connected via ethernet), driver, and Windows software monitor are far more informative and capable interfaces to the printer.

The CLP-670ND’s standard configuration includes automatic duplexing, a 250-sheet input tray, a 100-sheet multipurpose tray, and a 200-sheet output top tray. The output tray exits toward the back of the printer. Its foldout extension is essential for keeping paper from spilling over the back edge, but it’s a bit annoying, too, because it’s narrow and allows the paper to droop around it. We’d like to see something more substantial. An optional bottom-mounted, 500-sheet cassette ($286) is available. A single empty SODIMM slot on board lets you upgrade the unit from 256MB to 768MB. The standard warranty covers one year.

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AirPrint works as far as it goes

When you think about it, it’s amazing how much actual work you can get done with just an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. You can create, read, and edit everything from documents to email and spreadsheets from just about anywhere.

A new print button appears when you tap the Share icon.

But let’s face it, beautiful as it is, the iPhone’s screen doesn’t allow you to view much of a large spreadsheet or document all at once. Sometimes you just need a hard copy. While you can get most anything from your iOS device to a printer, it can be a clunky, time consuming hassle. That explains why AirPrint was the one of the most anticipated features of iOS 4.2, the new operating system for Apple's mobile devices. At launch, however, AirPrint is so limited as to be of little use to most people.

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Kodak ESP 9250

Kodak ESP 9250 color inkjet multifunction printer
Kodak's flagship ESP 9250 color inkjet multifunction prints, scans, copies, and faxes, and does it all wirelessly, for less money ($250 as of November 5, 2010) than the majority of the competition. Although its speed and print quality vary, its low ink costs could be a reasonable trade-off for some users.

We breezed through the wireless setup (USB and ethernet are also available). The layout of the front-panel controls, including a 2.4-inch color LCD, is intuitive. However, the rubber buttons tended to wiggle when pressed, slowing operations that involved them.

The ESP 9250's paper handling includes a 30-sheet automatic document feeder for the scanner. The scanner lid telescopes about an inch to accommodate thicker material. A 100-sheet input tray takes most kinds of media, and the printer also has a second, dedicated tray for up to 40 sheets of photo paper. Sheets exit onto the lid covering the two input trays. Automatic duplexing works on both the Mac and PC.

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Lab report: Mac vs. Windows graphics performance

The Mac has come a long way as a gaming system. Apple’s switch to Intel processors and the Mac’s growing market share has helped lure more game developers. But despite the gains, Apple is still playing catch-up with Windows and game consoles.

Now is a good time to explore the graphics performance differences between Mac and Windows, with so many games now common across both platforms. To test for graphics performance, we used Boot Camp to create a dual-boot Mac. For the Mac, we ran Mac OS 10.6.4 with the Snow Leopard Graphics Update. For Windows, we ran Windows 7 Home Premium Edition. We tested on four different Mac systems: a 27-inch 2.66GHz Core i5 iMac, a 2.66GHz Xeon quad-core Mac Pro, a 13-inch 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, and a 15-inch 2.53GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro.

With some help from Valve, we created a demo in Portal ( ) that would appropriately tax each Mac’s graphics subsystem. In an early level of Portal, we did everything from jumping through a endless portal tunnel to getting shot by half a dozen military robots, being careful to manipulate and interact with as many objects as possible. We also ran a framerate demo of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ( ), as well as Cinebench R11.5’s OpenGL test (both of which are components of our Speedmark 6.5 benchmark suite).

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Epson Artisan 835

The Epson Artisan 835 is the company's flagship, photo-oriented color inkjet multifunction (print/copy/scan/fax). Although it isn't specifically designed for office use (as is Epson's WorkForce line), the Artisan 835 has nearly every feature a home-office user could want and then some, making its $300 price justifiable, if still dear.

Epson Artisan 835 color inkjet multifunction printer
Setting up the Artisan 835 wirelessly was a breeze (USB and ethernet are also available); the dialog boxes were concise and easy to understand. Bundled software includes ArcSoft Print Creations for projects such as calendars, cards, and brochures, as well as Web to Page for formatting online content to fit better onto paper.

Automatic duplexing (two-sided printing) and an automatic document feeder for sending multipage documents through the scanner help make the Artisan 835 one of the best-equipped inkjet multifunctions we've seen. It also handles printable optical media (CDs, DVDs): Press the CD Tray button, and a 5.25-inch disc tray descends from the output area. The bottom-mounted, 120-sheet letter/legal paper tray is adequate; a dedicated, 20-sheet photo paper tray nestles inside it. Two media-card slots take CompactFlash, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card.

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