Review In some cases, replacing inkjet cartridges can work out almost as expensive as buying a new printer. What makes one machine stand out from another, aside from operating costs, is print quality - and as an effective home office offering, the Epson Stylus D120 is worth a look.
Despite roughly adhering to the standard appearance of a typical low-end, desktop inkjet, the D120 looks more stylish than most: with an attractive matte black casing and gloss black finish on the main hood that covers the workings of the printer, including the print-head and the five ink cartridge slots.
Epson's D120: two black cartridges - clever
This is the main innovations with this particular printer: there are two slots for black cartridges alongside the standard cyan, magenta and yellow ink tanks. Usually you only get one. While a second cartridge doesn't prevent you from running out of ink, it does mean that it takes longer to happen.
The simple, yet sensible design of the paper tray and 120-sheet (up to A4) feed means that when not in use and probably sitting on a shelf, the important bits are covered up so little dust can build up in anywhere crucial. It doesn’t take up too much room either, with a footprint of 43.5 x 24 x 16.1cm. It weighs in at 3.9kg.
The instruction manual isn’t so much a manual but more of an A3-sized pamphlet, with very easy-to-follow instructions on how to insert the ink cartridges and get printing.
The ink cradle dances around a little as they tend to do when first switching on the power and then by pressing the button marked with the droplet the cartridge cradle shifts along a bit and presents itself ready to receive ink.
A complete set of ink cartridges will cost around £35
Printing a 24-page monochrome DTP document from Microsoft, including page processing time, took an average of four minutes and 50 seconds - effectively five pages per miute (ppm). A 12-page colour Excel document took an average time of four minutes ten seconds - giving 2.8ppm. A 50-page colour letter print test took an average time of eight minutes and 22 seconds for 5.9ppm, and a 50-page plain-text print test took an average time of four minutes and 20 seconds, or 11.5ppm. This, being the most basic of tests, still fell way short of the quite frankly ambitious claim of 37ppm. Our four-page colour DTP PDF test averaged at one minute 40 second, giving 2.4ppm.
Print quality is generally good on ordinary paper - we tested on 80gsm - with only a little fuzziness evident around some characters. Some of the images within the four-page colour DTP PDF test did appear a little grainy, but generally the quality was respectable. The colour test page was printed perfectly, so a little trial and error seems to eventually correct any discrepancies in detail.
Colour graphics are also reasonable, with a little dithering to around subtler shades. Text over colour seems to reproduce well and draft print, which is noisy but quicker than normal mode, is better quality than many similarly-priced desktop inkjet printers occupying the same space in the market.
The Stylus D120 is a good all-round, general-purpose desktop inkjet printer and the inclusion of an extra black ink tank is a smart move. The print speeds are not at all bad but nowhere near the bold claims made by Epson. The print quality is about average for similarly-marketed desktop inkjet printers. As we see personal colour laser printer coming down in price, £70 seems a little expensive for this – lovely looking, granted – inkjet.