The Stylus CX5500 is Epson's entry-level multi-function printer, offering basic functionality in an inexpensive package. Although its relatively low price point will inevitably entice buyers, potential users should be aware of its poor build quality and unimpressive performance.
Although the build quality of most Epson printers and multi-function units is questionable, this is particularly the case for the CX5500. The unit is constructed almost entirely of plastic and is bulky compared to competing units. Its sole paper feeder is found at the rear, making it difficult to adjust; the flimsy back support for media does little to change our opinion regarding build quality. Most moving parts feel as if they are on the verge of breaking, and everyday use of the machine around the home could easily lead to broken hinges. Although this can be attributed to the CX5500's price tag, there is a better-built alternative available: the Canon PIXMA MP210.
During testing, we found the CX5500's printing speeds to be largely unimpressive. Although draft quality text documents printed at 14 pages per minute, normal quality slowed output down to 2.8ppm. Text documents with graphical elements had significantly slower printing speeds, with the multi-function managing 6.7ppm at draft quality and 1.12ppm at normal quality. Speeds for 4x6in photos weren't fast either, with normal quality photos printing in 4min 27sec. Although we don't expect the CX5500 to meet the standards set by more expensive models, the stark difference in speed and quality between draft and normal settings is a big problem for this multi-function.
Print quality was adequate for a family-oriented printer. Although printed text documents were at points a little ragged, the text remained clear at all levels of quality. Draft quality documents are much lighter than documents printed at higher quality settings. Documents with graphical elements generally had clear text across all quality settings. However, colour reproduction was quite inaccurate, with best quality tests revealing washed-out colours that lacked intensity.
The same was true of photo printing tests. A red overtone is immediately noticeable in 4x6in and A4 photos. This lends well to flesh tones, but impacts harshly on blues and blacks. As a result, blacks and greys are poorly defined, and outdoor shots involving skies will inevitably carry a reddish hue. There is also some evidence of banding. This is particularly noticeable in A4 photos, but shouldn't be an issue for those who only want 4x6in photos.
Although the CX5500's 1200dpi scanning resolution is low in comparison to the 4800dpi typical of more expensive models, the lower resolution should be sufficient for everyday use. Scanning quality was adequate. As with many Epson multi-functions, the CX5500 exhibited a darker image in comparison to Canon products, which allows for a more realistic image. It can also result in a slight loss of detail in darker images, although the compromise is generally acceptable.
The CX5500's cost per page of 17c is excellent. In combination with its low initial price, this will easily convince some buyers. However, if you're looking for a long-term, budget multi-function there are better quality options than the CX5500.