Epson Stylus Photo R2880 review
Needs USB 2 port + Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later
Review Date: 30 Jan 2009
Price when reviewed: (?357 ex VAT)
Reviewed By: Kenny Hemphill
Epson's Stylus Photo R2880 is an A3+ colour inkjet that features a number of improvements over its predecessor, the Stylus Photo R2400, to improve both colour and black and white output.
The printer employs Epson's UltraChrome K3 pigment ink in eight cartridges, which can be configured to include either Photo Black or Matte Black. This means that you need to swap cartridges when you change from printing on glossy media to matte, or vice versa. There are two other black cartridges as well as a Vivid Magenta and Light Cyan, alongside the regular cyan, yellow and magenta (which Epson calls Light Vivid Magenta). The new Micro Piezo print head in the R2880 is Teflon-coated that, according to Epson, improves dot placement and print quality.
In addition to borderless printing on paper up to A3+, fed through its rear automatic sheet feeder, the R2880 has support for A4 and A3+ rolls, a fine art paper holder, a slot for printing onto the surface of printable CDs and DVDs, and a front feed for rigid media up to 1.3mm in thickness.
Refreshingly, Epson doesn't attempt to claim print speeds in terms of pages per minute. Instead, it supplies an image and quotes the time that the R2880 should take to print it at 8in x 10in (91 seconds) and 11in x 14in (156 seconds). This makes it much easier to verify its claims.
The R2880 connects to the Mac using USB 2 and has a second USB socket to connect another computer, although you can only print from one machine at a time. There's also a USB socket on the front to connect to a PictBridge compatible digital camera for direct printing, but there are no memory card slots.
Setting up the R2880 was easy. Like most A3+ printers, it's an imposing beast, although not particularly heavy, and comes liveried in Epson's, by now familiar, black and silver trim. There's a row of buttons, including the power switch, on the top of the printer, and the PictBridge port is at the bottom left. Other than that, and with exception of the input and output trays, the sleek lines of the chassis are uninterrupted.
Set-up was trouble-free, although as always, installing the drivers adds tens of megabytes of applications you'll never use to your Applications folder, unless you choose custom install and deselect them.
In our tests, the R2880 performed remarkably well. We particularly like the fact that as a document is printed, the driver displays the levels of remaining ink in each of the eight ink tanks. Printing our test image on A3+ Premium Glossy Paper at 300dpi took just under 4 minutes 30 seconds from the time we confirmed the instruction to print until the paper landed in the output tray. That's a reasonable time to wait for a print of that size, and particularly where the result is as good as the prints from the R2880.
We printed our test images using the Epson's built-in colour profile and were impressed with the results. There was excellent definition in even the most detailed areas of our reference print, and images like a reel of black cotton, which can trip up lesser printers and cause them to over-saturate, losing all detail, were re-produced with care and precision. For the most part, colours were vivid and punchy, without being garish, and subtle gradations were handled with aplomb. Our only criticism of the output was a tendency to over-use that Vivid Magenta, so that reds took on a purple hue. On the other hand, deep blues looked great.
In terms of print costs, re-stocking the R2880 with eight cartridges, based on the cheapest online stockist we could find, costs about ?50. Based on Epson's page yield data, which is calculated using the ISO standard test prints, it costs 4.8p to print an A4 page. The test suite comprises a number of pages of text and graphics, with varying coverage. So printing a full colour photo at A4 will cost significantly more and printing at A3+, more than twice as much as that.
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