Epson Stylus Photo R800
At a Glance
The Stylus Photo R800 adds red and blue inks to the standard set of cyan, magenta, and yellow inks; but it omits light photo cyan and light photo magenta. Other cartridges supply photo black, matte black (for text), and a gloss overcoat. The matte black helped the R800 produce text that looked bold yet clean even at small sizes. While gray-scale photos exhibited punch that other printers' output lacked, they also displayed precise detail and realistic shading.
Like other Epson inkjets, the R800 made a mess of narrow parallel lines. And when we tried to print our CMYK-format test photo with this model, we ran into the same problem that we did with Epson's Stylus Photo R200: The photo sometimes printed too dark and appeared severely underexposed. Even when it did print correctly, the image was a little duller than when output from other printers we tested. (CMYK is not typically used with PC printers, but most of our test models handled it without difficulty). Images printed on the R800 in the more-common RGB format looked gorgeous, with realistic textures, sharp detail, and strong, rich colors.
The printer applies its gloss overcoat to photos in areas with light-colored ink to prevent dull patches. Epson's driver allows you to turn the gloss cartridge on or off; PC World's panel of judges could detect no difference in quality between prints that used the overcoat and those that did not. Epson says that prints made with the R800's pigment-based color inks won't fade for 80 years if placed behind glass.
Based on tests conducted by the Rochester Institute of Technology for PC World, black ink pages cost 2.8 cents each, and pages of black plus the three standard colors (not photos) cost 11.1 cents each; both figures are somewhat lower than the average for recently tested photo printers.
The R800 doesn't win any medals for speed: Text pages emerge at 2.1 ppm, a hair faster than the slowest rate we've seen lately, and photos take a more ordinary 0.4 ppm.
The R800 can print on rolls of photo paper either 4 inches or 8.3 inches wide. The printer has a button that pushes finished photos out to be cut off, and then retracts the excess paper to avoid waste. You don't have to remove paper from the main tray before feeding in a roll--an improvement on Epson's previous roll-printing models. The R800 carries a tray for feeding a CD or DVD through the paper path, and it provides a bare-bones utility for designing labels. One minor inconvenience: To print on a CD or DVD, you must reposition the output tray. The R800 doesn't have a control panel or a direct-to-camera port, but it does provide USB 2.0 and six-pin FireWire ports.
If you plan on printing a lot of snapshots, you'll appreciate the R800's roll feeder; and as long as you stick with RGB files, the R800 will reward you with great-looking photo prints.