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Epson Stylus Pro 3880 review

Verdict:

If you're after gallery-quality output, and the flexibility of a 17in desktop photo inkjet, look no further.

Review Date: 5 Jan 2010

Price when reviewed: (

Reviewed By: Kevin Carter

Our Rating 5 stars out of 5

Epson's new Stylus Pro 3880 is the much-longed-for replacement to the best-selling, competitively priced A2+ Stylus Pro 3800. That model garnered praise for the quality of colour and mono output, as well as the ability to print on a wide range of cut-sheet media from 3.5 x 5in to 22 x 17in, including artboard up to 1.5mm thick, while remaining compact enough to be called a desktop printer.

Like the previous model, the Stylus Pro 3880 adopts the earlier eight-ink UltraChrome pigment inks demanded by imaging pros for colour accuracy and fade resistance, but it supplements the two full- and half-strength magenta inks for Epson's newer Vivid Magenta inks. This extends the colour gamut to include more intense blues and purples. There are other improvements, too.

Working alongside the Munsell Colour Science Laboratory, Epson has developed a new screening technology to improve ink placement accuracy and reduce colour shifting through metamerism and ink wastage, while delivering prints with smoother gradations and colour transitions. The Stylus Pro 3880 also features Epson's new MicroPiezo AMC printhead, ejecting 3.5pl droplets with greater precision and accuracy. The printhead also has a new ink repellent coating that's said to require less-frequent maintenance and improve reliability.

Setup was a breeze and, while the printer weighs close to 20kg, is manageable by one person alone within an hour or so. All eight colours sit not above the printhead but in an easily accessible compartment at the front. A ninth cartridge, containing Matte Black ink, shares the same feed as the Photo Black with automatic switching between the two from the driver, based on media selection.

While this optimises the ink for the substrate, the process demands wasteful ink-flushing when switching between coated and uncoated media. Even though the sizeable 80ml cartridges are more cost-effective in the long term than the more usual 12-13ml cartridges of A3+ desktops, with 1-4ml being flushed at a time, print queuing is inevitable.

At the rear is the usual USB port and there's a handy 10/100Base-T/TX Ethernet port for network connections using the supplied EpsonNet utility for setup with Bonjour, Rendezvous, AppleTalk or Epson TCP/IP. Like its predecessor, the Stylus Pro 3880 has three paper paths. The usual path for the majority of standard media, such as Epson's Premium Glossy and Enhanced matte papers, is via the usual extensible tray at the top of the printer, which works well.

A supplied manual rear-feed tray is required for speciality fine-art media, and while it's fine for smaller sizes up to A4, larger sizes require an operator to feed the paper through. It's the same story when using the front manual tray, with its flat paper-path for artboard. This can be an issue when working remotely on a network, for instance, but it's not necessarily a deal-breaker.

With the exception of 8- and 16-bit printing options supported from Mac OS X 10.5, users of the earlier model will find the printer driver familiar, and the results were first class. On Epson's coated papers, skin tones were reproduced realistically and blacks were deep with no bronzing.

Metamerism was very well controlled, but while purples and mauves were spot on when compared to out test chart, reds were still quite orangey, even when leaving the high-speed printing option unchecked. To the naked eye, the dithering of ink dots or grain is invisible. Job times doubled in this mode but the colour tone, gradation and transitions were all superior as a result. Using uncoated Epson media the results were even more impressive, and they're our choice for printing the very best, gallery-quality mono output.

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