Epson Stylus Pro 7900
The most annoying thing about Epson pro printers has been the need to manually swap out black cartridges whenever you wanted to switch from glossy to matte paper, and back again. That task wasted time and expensive ink. The company's latest pro printers solve the problem with an extra ink channel. Epson calls it "auto sharing black ink channel technology," a complicated way of saying that the 24-inch Stylus Pro 7900 (and companion 44-inch SP9900) can simultaneously accommodate photo (glossy) and matte black ink cartridges-and that the printer switches between them on the fly, from sheet to sheet.
The ability to switch blacks automatically actually first appeared in the Stylus Pro 3800, a scaled-down 17-inch model, and in the massive 64-inch SP11880. Those models use an inkset called Ultrachrome K3 with Vivid Magenta, which required eight and nine channels respectively. But the two newest pro models use an inkset dubbed Ultrachrome HDR, for high dynamic range, which features new orange and green inks, for a total of ten channels. (There's an eleventh cartridge slot for the black not in use.) The green and orange inks are designed to further expand the color gamut of prints, and on paper (so to speak) they do. Whether the overall improvement is visible or not, the green and orange inks can make a real difference in the rendition of skin tones because both contain a measure of yellow, an inkjet nemesis.
There are other improvements: New heads and better dithering algorithms deliver even greater dot consistency, though only the most practiced eye will notice. Print speed has essentially doubled. Paper loading is greatly simplified-made painless compared to the competition's with a new, spindle-free system.
The printers' front panel now has a color LCD that makes ink information easier to read, and controls are less confusing. You can even get an add-on X-Rite spectrophotometer, an option aimed at the built-in one on HP's Z-series printers. Last but certainly not least, you can mix and match cartridge sizes, including new high-capacity 350ml and 700ml ones, for better ink economy- and serious sticker shock! About $4,000.