Epson's Artisan 800 color inkjet multifunction printer has many tempting photo features. It's expensive--and not quite perfect--but it's still worth considering, especially for serious shutterbugs.
The Artisan 800 boasts a large (7.8-inch), tiltable touch-screen control panel, with a 3.5-inch color LCD. I found navigating the menus easy, but the sheer number of options made me wish for a comprehensive overview (Epson doesn't provide one). Two media slots take CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD Picture Card; the unit has a PictBridge port too.
This model's star feature is its integrated CD/DVD printing mechanism. The caddy lowers itself automatically from its lair in the open front bay. I like this self-contained design even better than what HP offers on models such as the Photosmart C5280.
The Artisan 800 has speed to spare. In the PC World Test Center's speed tests, it churned out plain-text pages at an impressive rate of 9.8 pages per minute. Its 5.4-ppm graphics speed topped the charts.
Given this model's photography slant, I probably shouldn't have been surprised that the Artisan 800 performed better on photo paper than on plain. But given that its six separate inks offer a wider color palette, I was disappointed in its results, as all the samples we printed on plain paper looked dull, feathery, or grainy. On Epson's own photo paper, colors occasionally erred on the pinkish side but otherwise looked natural. The ink is reasonably priced: Based on the industry-standard ISO test pages for ink yields, each color costs 1.8 to 2.2 cents per page, while black costs 3.3 cents. Scans were good; copies seemed a bit fuzzy.
The Artisan 800's paper handling wants to be versatile but is sometimes annoying. A 30-sheet photo tray piggybacks atop the 120-sheet, letter/legal main tray. The 50-sheet output tray--a series of telescoping panels--pulls out from the photo-tray area. Loading the main tray is an involved process: You must retract the clumsy output extensions, slide and lift the photo tray, fish for the width adjustment underneath said tray, and then put everything back the way it was before. At least the 30-sheet automatic document feeder ADF is simple.
Most of the manuals are good, but I'll never understand why Epson buries the parts diagram in the troubleshooting section of the HTML-based user guide. A few of the Artisan 800's features aren't covered anywhere. And although automatic duplexing requires a US$30 optional accessory, you can choose the feature in the printer driver regardless, which is confusing.
The Artisan 800 offers so much that one might forget its less-friendly aspects. Business-minded users looking in this price range might find a better fit in the Canon Pixma MX7600, or one of Epson's new Workforce multifunctions (which we have yet to test).