Despite a slight increase in costs, the Epson Stylus CX7300 is a much more efficient and better quality choice than the low-end Stylus CX5500. Inexpensive running costs and decent print quality make the CX7300 an excellent choice for families.
A problem we commonly find in Epson products is poor build quality. However, this wasn't an issue with the CX7300. While the multifunction's hinges and trays felt slightly fragile, it is clear that the printer doesn't have serious build issues.
Media support is satisfactory, with the CX7300 capable of reading SD, CompactFlash, XD and MemoryStick flash cards. The multifunction's front USB port also provides support for PictBridge-capable mobile phones and digital cameras. The CX7300 has direct photo printing from supported media, but we were unsatisfied with the function's implementation. As opposed to the conventional method of utilising a monochrome or colour LCD to identify the desired photos, this multifunction uses a two-step process. Since it lacks an LCD, users are required to print an index sheet of all photos, indicate their desired photos by filling in circles on the sheet, and then scan the sheet back in. While this process is functional, it is rather convoluted.
In terms of printing speed, the CX7300 performed on par with the more expensive Stylus CX8300. Draft quality text documents printed at 14.3 pages per minute, slowing to 4.3ppm at normal quality. Text documents with graphical elements printed faster, with draft quality documents printing at 18.75ppm and normal quality documents at 4.8ppm. 4x6in photos printed at an average speed of 1min 10sec. While not the fastest speeds around, the CX7300's is fast enough for a family-oriented printer.
In normal text and graphical documents, quality is adequate. We didn't see too much difference in quality between the CX7300 and the Stylus CX5500 when printing text documents; both provided clear and readable text. In graphical documents, colour was markedly darker than the CX5500, but we still found the quality in this regard to be acceptable.
We began to notice distinct quality differentiation between the models during our photo printing tests. The banding and colour accuracy issues we noticed with the Stylus CX5500 aren't so much of an issue with the CX7300. Detail is much finer with the CX7300, with realistic colour and slightly better blacks. Quality still isn't perfect — blacks aren't very realistic and banding still exists on close inspection. While not professional quality, this multifunction should provide adequate results for families.
Scan quality was acceptable. As with most Epson multifunctions, the CX7300's scans exaggerate flesh tones somewhat, leading to a reddish hue. The multifunction produces an image that is slightly darker than the original; this allows for greater detail in lighter images. A scanning resolution of 1200dpi is, for all practical purposes, acceptable.
The CX7300 provides a great compromise between the features and costs of the more expensive Stylus CX8300 and the lower end Stylus CX5500. At a cost per page of 19c, the CX7300 has very low running costs and is an ideal mid-range multifunction for families.