Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000

      Photo Review 8.6
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      In summary

      An entry-level A3+ photo printer that uses long-lasting Claria Photo High Definition ink and is designed for consumer and small business use.

      The XP-15000  could suit enthusiast photographers who make big prints of their best colour pictures every now and then, regardless of what type of paper they prefer.

      It produces excellent results when printing in colour, particularly on Epson’s Premium glossy media.

      For B&W you need to print with the plain paper, greyscale settings, and use high quality to reproduce image details and obtain genuinely neutral blacks.

       

      Full review

      Epson Australia announced the Expression Photo HD XP-15000 just as we were completing our review of the EcoTank Expression Premium ET-7750 multi-function printer. We mentioned the XP-15000 in the conclusion to that review as being more suitable for photographers because of its wider colour gamut and use of much more durable Claria dye inks. So it’s great to receive a printer to review so we can follow-up.

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       Angled view of the Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000. (Source: Epson.)

      Epson is maintaining a roughly five-year model cycle with the entry level models for its A3+ printer line-up. The XP-15000 replaces the Artisan 1430, which we reviewed in February 2012, and which itself replaced the 2007 Stylus Photo 1410.   Like them, it is designed solely for printing and can handle cut sheet papers up to 329 x 483 mm (A3+) in size. Its droplet size and output resolution are the same as the 1430’s but it uses a new ink set and differs in a few other ways, which are shown in the table below.

       

      Expression XP-15000

      Artisan 1430

      Nozzle configuration

      180 nozzles per colour  

      90 nozzles per colour

      Ink type

      Claria Photo HD dye inks

      Claria dye inks

      Ink cartridges

      312 Black, 312 Magenta, 312 Yellow, 312 Cyan, 314 Grey, 314 Red

      T0811 Black, T0812 Cyan, T0813 Magenta, T0814 Yellow, Y0815 Light Cyan, T0816 Light Magenta

      Fade resistance

      Up to 98 years under glass
       Up to approx. 200 years album storage

      Max. resolution

      5760 x 1440 ‘Optimised’ dpi

      Min. droplet size

      1.5 picolitre

      Power consumption  

      Approx. 21W

      18 W (printing); approx. 1.3W in sleep mode

      Acoustic noise

      49 dB(A) (plain paper); 34-36dB(A) with Premium Photo Glossy Paper

      43 dB(A)

      Paper handling

      Sheet feed only with Custom (user definable) up to 329 x 1200 mm

      Paper types supported in driver

      Plain paper, Matte paper, Ultra Glossy, Premium Glossy, Premium Semigloss, Photo Paper Glossy, Photo Quality Inkjet, Photo stickers, Envelope

      Plain paper, Bright White Paper, Photo Paper Glossy, Premium Photo Paper Glossy, Ultra Premium Photo Paper Glossy, Premium Photo Paper Semi-gloss, Ultra Premium Photo Paper Lustre, Presentation Paper Matte, Premium Presentation Paper Matte, Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte and Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte Double-sided

      RRP ink cartridges

      $18.99 standard; $31.99 high-capacity

      $30.99 high-capacity

      Connectivity

      Hi-Speed USB 2.0, Wi-Fi Certified 802.11 (b/g/n) 2, PictBridge, Ethernet

      Hi-Speed USB 2.0, Wi-Fi Certified 802.11 (b/g/n) 2, PictBridge

      Dimensions (mm)

      476 x 159 x 369

      616 x 322 x 215

      Weight (kilograms)

      8.5

      11.8

      RRP on release

      $499

      $399

      Printer Overview
       The XP-15000 is much more compact than its predecessors and considerably lighter, the latter due in part to a few compromises in build quality. Compared with the 1430, even though some features may be more convenient than their equivalents on the previous model, the overall construction   of the XP-15000 is less substantial.  

      Epson has made significant changes to most aspects of the design. Like the latest models in the Workforce and EcoTank ranges, the XP-15000  includes a tilting control panel with LCD screen, a powered print tray that deploys automatically, a cassette for plain A4 papers and a rear feed slot with central loading.

      The cassette is located below the print tray and accessed via a drop-down panel. Sadly, it and self-extending take-up tray are not as solid as we’d like and loading paper into the cassette can be tricky.Automating the deployment and storage of the tray has potential to create problems over time due to wear and tear. The rear paper support is also lightly built and easy to dislodge.

      The cassette has adjustable sliders plus marked positions for 10 x 15 cm and 13 x 18 cm sheets. It will also accept papers longer than A4 size, notably ‘legal’ papers that measure 21.6 x 33 cm for which a pull-out guide is provided.  

      The maximum capacity of the cassette is 200 sheets of plain A4 paper, 50 sheets of photo paper (all sizes) or ‘legal’ sized plain paper, 10 envelopes or 80 sheets of A4 Epson Photo Quality Ink Jet Paper, which is thinner than regular photo paper and used for printing documents with embedded photos. You can also set it up for printing on envelopes.

      Sheets of paper larger than A4 and ‘legal’ sizes must use the rear sheet feed, which can accept up to 50 sheets of plain paper or 20 sheets of photo paper. The maximum size supported through the User Defined option in the driver menu is 329 x 1200 mm (~ 13 x 44 inches), the same as in the previous models.

      Borderless printing is available for most of the standard papers listed in the driver’s menu, although not for double-sided paper, photo stickers and transfer paper. A tray for printing on optical discs is located on the base of the paper cassette.

      It fits into a dedicated slot behind the control panel, just above the output tray, which can be tricky to load because there’s not much space above the top of the cassette. The control panel must be fully raised and the disc tray must be carefully aligned before it will slide into place. Aside from that, disc printing hasn’t changed since previous models and relies on the same driver settings and Epson’s Print CD software.

      Setting Up
       Setting up the printer is straightforward and takes roughly 15 minutes. After removing the numerous strips of packing tape and plugging the power cord (supplied) into the mains, the instruction sheet supplied with the printer directs   you to Epson’s Singapore website, where you simply enter the model number for the printer and follow the displayed step-by-step instructions.

      The first step is to switch on the power, unpack and install the six ink cartridges in their clearly-marked slots and allow between 20 and 30 minutes while you go through the rest of the routine.  
       Initialisation takes about 10 minutes according to the screen displayed when you have installed the ink cartridges and printed a nozzle check page. You must then install the printer driver and software, either from the supplied CD or by clicking on the Download link on the website. This takes 10-15 minutes because part of the process involves updating the printer’s firmware and software.

      The setup guide lets you choose between three connection methods: USB (V.2.0), Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Selecting the Wi-Fi option takes you to a page with links to downloads for the Epson printing application at the App Store and Google Play. Once the app is installed, the next step helps you to configure the printer, smart device and app to work together. You can also enable a complimentary feature that lets you print from any smart device or computer anywhere in the world via an internet connection, a handy feature for travellers who want to send pictures home for printing.

      You can carry out many of these functions via the menus displayed on the printer’s LCD panel, which also lets you access the various maintenance functions as well as the printer’s status, printing and network settings, camera connections, guide functions and firmware updates. However, its facilities are limited compared with printing through a computer.

      The XP-15000’s driver is essentially the same as the drivers of other general-purpose Epson inkjet printers and is covered in our previous reviews. Interestingly, the Photo and Best Photo settings in the Artisan 1430’s driver have been replaced with Standard and High Quality ““ which have the same effects.

      Duplexing (double-sided printing) is available with two options: auto and manual, the latter for Windows only. The Settings menu lets you choose between long- and short-edge binding and a setting for folded booklets, which is also Windows only.

      As is usual for entry-level printers, aside from plain paper, ICC profile support is limited to Epson’s papers ““ and only those surfaces and thicknesses the printer can handle. Epson’s built-in colour management tools, PhotoEnhance, ICM and ColorSync, can be accessed via the Advanced tab when you un-click the Automatic colour correction button.

      Like the Artisan 1430, the XP-15000 can be used for monochrome printing and has a Black and White Photo setting as an alternative to the Colour setting in the Main tab. Selecting the More Options tab followed by Custom for Colour Corrections lets you click on the Advanced tab, which provides adjustments to the colour tone. It’s not a match for the Advanced B&W Driver found in Epson’s more up-market printers but better than no adjustments at all.

      Printing
       While most readers are likely to focus upon the photographic reproduction produced by this printer, we should also state that it can be used for general office printing. When paper is loaded into the cassette it prints multi-page documents as quickly as most general-purpose printers, averaging just under 10 pages/minute in our tests with plain paper and the Standard quality setting.

      We measured the following average times for printing at different quality settings on different paper sizes:
       A4 print at High quality – 3 minutes 45 seconds
      A3 at standard quality, high speed – 2 minutes 19 seconds
      A3 print at High quality – 5 minutes 46 seconds
      A3+ print at High quality – 6 minutes 49 seconds
      28 x102 cm print at High quality – 10 minutes 29 seconds.

      When printing photographs at high-quality with the optimal printer settings, it was difficult to fault the output quality. Slight differences could be seen in the tonal reproduction and detail in prints made with the standard and high quality settings and also when High Speed was selected. But you need an experienced eye to pick them up.

      We’d recommend de-selecting High Speed (a default setting) and using the high quality settings if you want the best quality, even though prints take a lot longer to emerge and they probably require a little more ink. We measured the following printing times for the review printer:

       

      Average Printing Times

      A4

      A3

      A3+

      Standard quality

      2 min 45 sec.

      4 min. 22 sec.

      5 min. 10 sec.

      High Quality

      3 min 45 sec.

      5 min. 46 sec.

      6 min. 52 sec.

      While glossy papers yielded prints with the highest impact, the XP-15000 also delivered excellent results on the matte papers we tested. Colours were richly rendered and tonal nuances were elegantly preserved. Blacks appeared rich and deep with good tonal separation in shadowed areas, while whites were clean and pure.

      Printing black and white originals is possible, although it’s made difficult by the driver, which has both greyscale and B&W settings but limits the ways in which they can be used. The Colour tab has three options: Colour, Black and White Photo and Grayscale.

      If you want to print on one of Epson’s photo papers and select Black and White Photo you’re forced to use the full ink set and the Quality setting defaults to High, which you’d think should yield the best results. However, the prints inevitably end up slightly flat looking and deficient in details. They also have slight colour casts, due to the use of the colour inks, even when they are made from monochrome originals.

      Selecting Grayscale forces the printer to use only the black and grey inks. This eliminates possible colour casts.

      However, the driver won’t let you print with anything other than plain paper selected for the paper type. Fortunately, you can actually print on any of Epson’s photo papers if you wish because the printer can’t recognise the type of paper you load. The advantage of using the Grayscale setting is that the Quality settings also become selectable and you can select High quality instead of the default Standard option.

      The B&W prints made with the High quality setting on each of the photo papers we tried when plain paper and greyscale were selected were completely neutral black. They also contained as much detail as we obtained in the colour prints we made so we’d recommend using these settings when making monochrome prints.

      Paper Handling
       Paper handling was a mixed bag. We had no problems printing on plain paper from the paper cassette, although when we loaded the cassette with A4 photo paper on a couple of occasions the printer failed to pick the paper up.

      Using the rear sheet feed the printer initially performed faultlessly with A4 and A3 sheets of photo paper. However, roughly halfway through our tests it began reporting ‘paper out’ when A4 paper was loaded and when we tried printing on larger sheets they would not feed into the relatively shallow paper chute.

      We solved this problem by placing a sheet of the cardboard supplied in the sheet paper package behind each sheet of paper and printing sheet-by-sheet. Once when we loaded four sheets of A4 paper at a time, the printer picked up a second sheet when the previous sheet was being printed. We were able to use this sheet but the event caused us to revert to feeding one sheet at a time. With the cardboard backing both A3   and A3+ papers were taken up by the printer with no problems.

      The other problem was encountered when printing a 90-cm long panorama photo on a one-metre long sheet of paper cut from a roll. We did this early in the testing period. The first print fed through without problems but subsequent attempts to make additional prints with similar sizes caused problems with getting the printer to take up the paper and feed in straight through the machine. We ruined three sheets of paper through mis-feeds before giving up.

      Printing Costs
       It’s impossible to obtain accurate figures for the capacity of Epson’s inkjet cartridges for printers at this level. This makes it difficult to determine the actual costs for printing photographs with the XP-15000.  

      Like other printer manufacturers, Epson does publish page yields, although these are based upon ISO/IEC 24734, which reflects typical office printing applications and cannot be translated to reflect photo printing. Yields for photo printing are much lower, as shown below.

      The best we could do was to weigh each cartridge before it was inserted and after it was declared empty by the printer. The figures we obtained appeared incredible, based upon what we know through reviewing previous printers.

      Capacity

      Weight of cartridge

      Weight of ink

      Price of cartridge

      New

      Depleted

      Standard

      17 grams

      14 grams

      3 grams

      $18.99

      High Capacity

      23 grams

      15 grams

      8 grams

      $31.99

      By way of comparison, we also weighed the cartridges for the Artisan 1430 printer, for which only High Capacity cartridges are available. The table below shows the figures we obtained.

      Capacity

      Weight of cartridge

      Weight of ink

      Price of cartridge

      New

      Depleted

      High Capacity

      30 grams

      19 grams

      11 grams

      $30.99

      From the start of our tests, the first low ink warning appeared for the cyan cartridge after we had made only three A3 prints and 10 A4 prints.  A final warning (shown below) appeared after printing the next sheet.
       

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       The final low ink warning that appeared when the standard cyan cartridge ran out of ink. Because the ink monitor showed some ink remaining we forced the printer to make additional prints by using the LCD screen on the printer.

      You have to drive the printing through the LCD screen and arrow pad to make the printer continue printing after the second ink low warning appears. We were able to get 5 extra prints from the cartridge by selecting the setting on the LCD panel that confirmed the cartridge was changed and continuing to print. After that no further prints could be made.

      The first warning for yellow cartridge appeared a further three A4 prints later, with a follow-up warning two sheets later. The   yellow cartridge ran out after a further three A4 prints and the magenta cartridge one print later. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to force the printer to carry on as we had when the cyan ink ran out.

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       The ink monitor display when the yellow ink cartridge needed replacing. Note that the level of the replacement cyan cartridge had fallen by approximately 20% after just four A4 prints.

      After replacing the cyan, yellow and magenta cartridges, the black cartridge was roughly 40% full, the grey cartridge was about 60% full and the red cartridge was close to 70% full. Assuming each standard cartridge holds 3 ml of ink, that would mean our total ink consumption to produce three A3 prints and 19 A4 prints was as follows:

      Ink

      Ink consumption

      C

      3.06 ml

      Y

      3.01 ml

      M

      3.00 ml

      K

      1.2 ml

      Grey

      1.8 ml

      Red

      2.1 ml

      Total ink consumption

      14.17 ml

      With standard cartridges priced at $18.99, a full ink set will cost you   $113.94 and give you 18 ml of ink. This means you pay $6.33 per millilitre and with an A4 print requiring 0.54 ml of ink, if you buy standard cartridges it would cost $3.41 per A4 print.    

      High Capacity (XL) cartridges are priced at $31.99 each, with a  full set valued at $191.94. This reduces the cost of ink to $3.87 per ml, so an A4 print will require $2.09 worth of ink. This is a powerful argument for using XL cartridges whenever a replacement cartridge is needed.

      We made some comparisons with our Epson Artisan 1430 printer, which we’ve been using for   the past five years, and which is the predecessor to the XP-15000. The Artisan 1430 is still listed on Epson’s website at AU$399 but it’s difficult to find resellers with it in stock (although we found one with it listed at AU$349).

      The only cartridges available for the 1430 are XL cartridges, which hold 11 ml of ink.  At AU$30.99 per cartridge the ink cost is $2.82 per ml, so the ink cost for an A4 print would be $2.70. This actually makes the 1430 more expensive to print with than the XP-15000.

      We’ve asked Epson to explain why the XP-15000  uses smaller 8 ml cartridges than the 11 ml ones in the Artisan 1430 yet the ink seems to go further. The reasons they gave us were the use in the XP-15000 of red and grey inks instead of the light cyan and light magenta used in the Artisan 1430, along with a different colour look-up table and an improved driver.

      The printhead in the newer machine is also different and there are improvements in the ink cartridges themselves. Taken together, these factors would probably explain why the XP-15000’s cartridges are smaller. But we don’t think they explain why we’re expected to pay more for less ink.

      Delivering the ink in separate cartridges means you don’t need to replace all the inks at the same time. The red ink is used very sparingly and still contained ink when we had gone through one standard cartridge plus one XL cartridge each for the cyan, magenta and yellow inks and replaced the black and grey cartridges with XL ones.

      Epson offers three-colour (CMY) Value Packs that sell for AU$56.99 for standard capacity cartridges or AU$95.99 for XL cartridges. Shopping around may save you a few dollars on the genuine inks but, at these prices we wouldn’t be surprised if alternative cartridges were substituted, particularly if the printer was used for office printing.

      Conclusion
       At AU$499, the XP-15000 is $100 more expensive than Epson’s Artisan 1430 when it was released, even though it’s not quite as solidly built. Again, there seems no viable reason for this discrepancy and, unfortunately, we were unable to find any re-sellers that listed it at a lower price, although there were plenty of cartridge re-sellers stocking the inks.

      The lowest price we could find for genuine Epson inks was $18.70 for the standard cartridges, which isn’t much of a saving. In contrast, we found the XL cartridges priced between $27.48 and $30 at a number of online re-sellers, confirming the wisdom of our recommendation to use the XL cartridges, particularly if you can obtain bargains by buying the Value packs.

      In our review of the Artisan 1430, we concluded it would be uneconomical to run when high output volumes are required, although fine for photographers who made the occasional large print. The same can be said for the XP-15000, notwithstanding its more efficient printhead and ink set.

      Both printers are relatively quiet to run and both provide wireless and Bluetooth interfaces. Each of them can be used to print images from a variety of sources, including cloud storage, desktop systems   and mobile devices like tablets and smart-phones.

      We made some comparison prints with the Artisan 1430 and couldn’t see any difference in quality and colour fidelity between the prints we made with it and the XP-15000. Prints made with the XP-15000 showed marginally better tonal separation in shadowed areas and well as the reproduction of the lightest tones in highlights. But you had to look closely to see this and it required an experienced eye.

      Overall, both printers produce excellent results when printing in colour, particularly on Epson’s Premium glossy media. But they have the same issues when used for B&W printing because the same processes are used in both printers. You have to print with the plain paper and greyscale settings and use high quality to reproduce image details and obtain genuinely neutral blacks.

      Either model could suit enthusiast photographers who would like to make big prints of their best colour pictures every now and then, regardless of what type of paper they prefer.   However, even when you opt for the XL cartridges neither printer is an ideal choice for anyone who makes lots of prints and photographers who want to print their own photo books. Consequently, we can’t see any reason to upgrade to the new model ““ unless you’re up for a new printer and short of space on your desktop.

       

      SPECS

       Printing method: On-demand Inkjet (piezoelectric)
       Nozzle configuration: 180 nozzles each colour ()
       Minimum droplet size: 1.5 picolitres
       Resolution: 5760 x 1440
       Paper sizes: A3+, A3, A4, A5, A6, Letter, B5, Legal, Envelope, Half Letter, 4″ x 6″, 5″ x 7″, 8″ x 10″, 12″ x 12″, 3.5″ x 5″, 11″ x 14″, 11″ x 17″
       Paper feeder capacity:Up to 200 sheets at 75gsm (Front Paper Tray), 50 sheets rear feed (Plain paper)
       Ink system: Claria Photo High Definition
       Ink cartridges: Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Red, Grey
       Print speeds: Approx. 9.2   PPM A4   black text,   9.0 PPM A4   colour text; 27 seconds for 10 x 15 cm borderless photo in draft mode
       Interfaces: Hi-Speed USB (2.0), Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), PictBridge, Ethernet 100BASE-TX/10BASE-T
       Power consumption: Approx. 21W        
       Acoustic noise:49 dB(A) (plain paper); 34-36dB(A) with Premium Photo Glossy Paper
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 476 x 159 x 369 mm  
       Weight: 8.5 kg

       Distributor: Epson Australia; (02) 8899 3666; www.epson.com.au  

       

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$499; US$349.99

      • Build: 8.5
      • Features: 8.6
      • Print quality colour: 9.0
      • Print quality B&W: 8.5
      • Paper Handling: 8.0
      • Consumables costs: 7.5

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