Epson's 2880dpi letter-size photo printer delivers *quality* prints, with BorderFree option, at an incredible price!
Page 4: Operation
Review First Posted: 7/19/2001
MSRP $129 US
The 780 works like any other desktop printer, with printer drivers and utility software for both Windows and Macintosh platforms. Together, they provide a diverse selection of quality and speed settings, image editing functions, color management, and page layout controls. The following is a list of the four basic printing modes and Epson's recommendations for the use of each mode:
Economy: This provides the fastest speed for text printing. The Economy mode is best for emails and draft text documents.
Normal: This is the printer's default setting. It is best used for Web pages, business letters, documents with text and graphics, PowerPoint shows, etc.
Fine: This is the printer's fastest mode for printing photos on Photo Paper. The resolution is 360 x 720 dpi.
Photo: Photo mode is best used for detailed photos and graphic images. This mode comes in three resolution settings:
720 dpi (best balance of speed and quality)
1,440 (preferred quality and resolution)
2,880 (best quality and resolution possible)
The printer driver has a full array of image enhancement controls, including Automatic or Advanced printing with Saturation, Brightness, and Contrast settings. It also provides Tone, Detail, Smooth Edges, and Color controls, with options for using Epson's automatic PhotoEnhance mode, No Color Adjustment, or sRGB or ICM color spaces. Within the Sharpness setting, are several special effects, including Soft Focus, Canvas, and Parchment.
The more standard controls include paper size options, paper types, BorderFree printing, page layout, and the Utilities section, which controls print head functions like nozzle cleaning, alignment and ink level checks. You can also create and apply a watermark to your images, with suggested templates for "Confidential," "Draft," "Urgent," and "Priority."
For more detailed explanation of the menus and options available in the PC Printing mode, see the "Computer Drivers" section below.
Like it's siblings the Stylus Photo 785 EPX and the large-format 1280, the Stylus Photo 780 shows market-leading characteristics in virtually every respect... excepting print speed, where it's only about average. While we like immediate gratification as well as the next person, we've generally been pretty tolerant of slow print speeds in photo-quality inkjet printers. Our usual approach is to just queue the prints up and walk away to do something else while the printer grinds them out. As a result, we're almost never in a situation where we're waiting for the prints to spool out so we can grab them and dash off someplace, hence our rather relaxed approach to photo-quality print times.
Problems on our main Windows workstation while we were testing the 780 prevented us from conducting timing tests on that platform. (We confess, we really *hate* Windows: Hopefully Windows XP will actually work some of the time, what a concept...) As a result, all our timing tests on the 780 were done on our 500 MHz G4 PowerMac, although print times should be pretty equivalent, as the pacing factor in print speed seems to be the print mechanism itself, not the computer or USB connection. As with other printers we've tested, source image size seemed to affect spooling time, but not print speed. (Spooling time for a 15 megabyte file on the Mac was about 30 seconds, very much in line with what we've found for other inkjet printers. Accordingly, the times we report below are only for the printing process itself, once the printer has grabbed the paper from the input tray.
720 dpi, High Speed
720 dpi, no High Speed
1440 dpi, High Speed
1440 dpi, no High Speed
Text Page: "Economy" 360
Text Page: "Normal" 360
Text Page: "Fine" 360
Text Page: Photo 720
Text Page: Photo 1440
We've included text-mode print times in this review, and intend to do so in the future. Many people need to buy a single printer to cover multiple uses, so text printing on photo printers is important. Photo printers will be *much* slower than so-called SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) multipurpose printers when printing text, but they can do it, and do it fairly well, if the 780 is any indication. Text-mode printing is quite rough in the Economy mode, but very fast, suitable for quick drafts. Printing in 720dpi mode though, the text is razor-sharp and beautiful, if not a little sluggish in spooling out. For occasional use though, the 780 is capable of excellent text output.
The 780's six-color printing requires two ink cartridges: one Black and one Color (cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, and light magenta), which sell for $22.46 and $17.96, respectively, through Epson's online store. These prices are reduced from the original list price and are very comparable to, if not a little less costly than, its competitors. Epson has also provided a wide range of paper options, from basic clay coated inkjet paper to premium photo glossy, and a Matte Heavyweight paper (see "Print Longevity & Durability").
Working almost exclusively in 2880 dpi mode, we were able to print about 24 7.6 x 9.5-inch prints on 8.5 x 11-inch paper on our 780 test unit before running out of color ink. At that point, the black cartridge was still about 80% full. Running the numbers, we come out with a per-print cost of about $1.08 per print for the ink, based on Epson's selling prices for the ink on their site. (Checking the internet, we found the color cartridge was available from multiple sources for $15 or less. This makes the ink cost only 77 cents per page.) Epson's premium glossy photo paper runs about $0.50 a sheet on the internet, while their standard photo paper is about $0.35 per sheet, again on the internet. The overall price per letter-size print is thus somewhere around $1.27 on premium glossy and $1.12 on standard photo paper.
As noted, we did essentially all our printing at 2880 dpi, since we were testing for maximum quality. We've heard that the 780's 1440 dpi mode uses significantly less ink, but did not have an opportunity to evaluate that in our testing.
Overall printing costs on the 780 are about in line with other inkjet printers we've tested.
Print Longevity & Durability
When used with Epson Inks, the Matte Paper - Heavyweight has an estimated print life of more than 20 years, based on accelerated testing of prints displayed indoors, mounted under glass. (Print life may vary depending on lighting, humidity, and Ozone levels -- all of which can significantly reduce longevity.)
Epson describes its inks as "water resistant," a big plus in the durability category. We don't have any formal test for water-fastness, but were quite surprised by how well the 785's prints held up to splashes of water. We tried dribbling a few drops of water on a print, waiting about 10-15 seconds, and then wiping it off. We were amazed that none of the color came off on the tissue we used to wipe the print with. The paper did absorb a fair bit of water, wrinkling its surface a bit. Pressing it inside a pad of paper (to absorb the moisture), under the weight of a book flattened it out pretty well again, although the surface of the print still showed a water mark. Overall, this is quite a bit more water-resistant than we were aware of inkjet prints being. (We confess though, that we haven't routinely performed this test, so other printers may well be as waterproof these days.)