Epson Artisan 837: Great Photos, Tons of Features and Cheap Inks

The Epson Artisan 837 (print/copy/scan/fax) is a high-end home unit that aims to give you pretty much every feature you could possibly want, plus stunning photo quality. Although its $300 purchase price (as of October 4, 2011) is dear, its ongoing ink costs are quite reasonable.

Setting up the Artisan 837 wirelessly is a breeze, as it offers both WPS and a Wi-Fi wizard. A series of concise and simple-to-understand dialog boxes guide you through the driver and software setup. Overall the Epson software is capable and easy to use. The HTML-based help files are informative and logically laid out, but they're available online only. USB and ethernet connections are also included, for anyone who wants a more secure and reliable connection.

The Artisan 837 is clad in midnight-blue casing that’s a subtle departure from the shiny black everyone seems to be favoring now. On the front you’ll find a 7.8-inch-wide, tiltable control panel that incorporates a 3.5-inch color touchscreen LCD flanked by backlit touch controls. The controls light up contextually, appearing only when required. Although this design is the wave of the future, we still find traditional buttons and LCDs more straightforward. Sometimes we couldn't easily tell whether we had to press something on the LCD or on the control panel, and in a few instances I couldn’t determine how to back out of where we were. Also, the slightly hazy plastic covering the control panel looks a little cheap.

Paper-handling features for the Artisan 837 are very good. It pairs a bottom-mounted, 120-sheet paper tray with an automatic duplexer. Sitting inside the main paper tray is a dedicated, 20-sheet photo-paper tray that accepts media up to 5 by 7 inches in size. The Artisan 837 also handles printable optical media: Touch the CD Tray button, and about 15 seconds later a tray appears, where you can place your CD or DVD. Epson includes a separate application for designing the labels.

In tests, the Artisan 837 proved fast at printing photos, and it did everything else pretty quickly as well. Scanning and copying speeds were brisk. Text pages printed at above-average speeds of 7.4 pages per minute on the PC and 7.3 ppm on the Mac. A snapshot-size photo took 11 seconds (5.4 ppm) printed at default settings on plain paper, and 28 seconds (2.1 ppm) generated at better settings on Epson’s own photo paper. A near-letter-size, high-resolution color photo printed on the Mac emerged at a swift rate of 0.9 ppm.

The Artisan 837 uses a six-ink printing system. The addition of a light cyan and a light magenta is meant to produce better-quality photos--and that's definitely the result we saw, with the Artisan 837’s smooth, accurate, and realistically shaded images. Text output at default settings on plain paper had the soft, slightly gray look typical of Epson products, but its quality improved drastically when we switched the driver to its fine setting.