Want to make big, gorgeous, color and black-and-white prints? We put three
pro-level printers to the test.
It's hard to believe that this printer can make 17x22-inch borderless prints, since it's similar in size and weight to the 13x19-inch HP. It's also the quietest of the three and handles a variety of media -- even 1.5mm-thick poster board up to 16 inches wide.
Print quality beats Epson's more expensive Stylus Pro 4800 (using the same eight-color UltraChrome K3 ink set), thanks in part to advanced screening algorithms and a new, 1-inch-wide MicroPiezo Active Meniscus Control (AMC) print head. It creates droplets as small as 3.5 picoliters for incredible detail in highlights and saturated color areas, and controls the size and curvature of individual ink drops.
The 3800 uses up to eight inks per print, including three blacks, and switches between matte (a ninth ink) and photo black to accommodate fine-art and other papers. This takes about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and wastes only a little ink in the conversion. Prints on Epson's Premium Gloss Photo paper have a WIR Display Permanence rating of 85 years (framed behind glass).
The 2.5-inch monochrome LCD tracks ink levels and can be used to change paper path and media settings, or to predict print capacity.
In our tests, it produced excellent prints on a number of surfaces, including Epson's Velvet Fine Art paper, and deep, rich blacks on glossy and luster papers (with a maximum black density of 5.9L). We saw no gloss differential between dark shadows and midtones on glossy and luster surfaces. The Epson driver includes a control to minimize gloss differential in highlight areas.
Epson's free, downloadable color profiles are incredibly accurate and take advantage of the 3800's large color gamut, which has more saturated yellows and reds than the Canon or HP. With Epson's award-winning Advanced Black and White print-panel driver, we made nearly perfect b&w prints (using all colors for increased detail) while controlling the contrast, tonality, sharpness, and overall brightness of shadow and highlight areas. The Canon has similar controls, placing it and the Epson on a higher b&w level than the HP.
The Epson uses a permanent printing head that doesn't need to be installed in the initial setup, so it's easier to get started. Use the 2.5-inch monochrome LCD to select paper types and paths, and monitor ink levels. You can also track (and download) everything from the amount of ink used on individual prints to remaining print capacity, time, and date of print jobs.
For its size, incredible print quality in color and b&w, paper options, auto switching of black inks, speed, control, and price, this Epson is the bargain of the three. But we miss a roll-feeder option.
Maximum DPI: 2880x1440.
Droplet size: 3.5 picoliters.
Inks: Nine individual pigment inks (C, Lc, M, Lm, Y, Lk, LLk, PK, MK) in 80ml cartridges ($60, street).
Print size: 4x6-in. bordered or borderless to 17x22-in. borderless.
Connections: Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and 10/100 Base-T Ethernet. Size/weight: 27x10x15 in.; 43.2 lb.
For info: www.epson.com.
Color: Excellent image quality. Prints on Premium Luster Photo paper showed Excellent color accuracy (Avg. Delta E of 5.65) and saturated colors, plus very high details in shadows, midtones, and highlights.
B&W: Excellent. Prints show superb details and neutral tones, and print driver allows precise fine-tuning of contrast, tonality, and sharpness.
Speed: Very Fast. 17x22-inch borderless: 6 min, 30 sec in High (1440 dpi) mode. 13x19-in. borderless: 9 min in Highest Quality (2880 dpi) mode; 5 min, 15 sec in High. 8.5x11-in.: 2 min, 43 sec in High (borderless): 2 min, 20 sec in High (bordered).