The Epson Stylus C120 colour inkjet printer has something going for it other than a low price, namely blazing text-printing speed. That speed seems to come at a cost, though, both in inks and in print quality.

Printing plain-black text on plain paper, the Epson Stylus C120's tested speed of 15.6 pages per minute (ppm) was out of this world for an inkjet. It left even the fancier and far more expensive HP Officejet Pro K8600dn in the dust. In its price range, the next-fastest printer currently is the Lexmark Z2420 - and that unit was over 5ppm slower in our tests. The Epson Stylus C120 returned to earth when printing graphics, posting average-level speeds.

The results of the Epson Stylus C120's prints, however, were somewhat disappointing. On plain paper, text looked a little feathery around the edges and lacked the desirable deep-black, crisp quality. Photos seemed naturally colored but grainy. On Epson's own paper the images improved considerably, but they still had a grayish or slightly faded cast.

The Epson Stylus C120's design is typically - and unfortunately - minimal. You unfold a panel to open the rear input area, but the extension (without which the paper would flop over) is hard to see. The output tray - another series of extensions, from the front - is prone to bending. The control panel has three buttons with symbols rather than word labels; each also has an LED status light. The lights turn on, turn off, or flash to indicate various things, almost none of which are clear unless you read the documentation. The Epson Status Monitor, an onscreen dialogue box that shows ink levels and plain-English status messages, helps.

Epson's documentation seemed a little careless. Neither the setup poster nor the HTML-based user guide offers an up-front overview of the Epson Stylus C120's parts or control panel. Most of that data is hidden in troubleshooting files at the back of the user guide, or dealt with in the course of discussing other topics.


The Epson Stylus C120 is just like any other low-cost inkjet printer: You have to weigh its better and worse parts. In this case, the printer may be amazingly fast, but its print quality and design, and even its documentation, all involve some compromise.