Epson Stylus C88
At a Glance
The Epson Stylus C88 is attractively priced at $80. It does best at printing photos, though you'll need a PC to make use of this ability: The C88 lacks a PictBridge port and a media card slot. On the other hand, it's the only printer we tested this month that prints 8.5-inch wide banners at lengths of up to 44 inches.
Print quality was relatively poor on plain paper. Text looked charcoal gray instead of black at large sizes, and we saw narrow horizontal banding across solid areas. Diagonal edges appeared jagged and fine lettering seemed fuzzy. Artifacts in our line art document looked like pajama stripes, while diagonal lines resembled a staircase. Color graphics had a grainy appearance; solid areas looked washed out, edges had a harsh appearance, and fine details that many other models reproduced were missing.
Prints on photo paper looked much better. Skin tones were smooth and natural, though slightly grayish. Facial details appeared sharp, but shadow areas looked too dark. Our grayscale image also seemed a little dark, but had plenty of crisp detail.
In our performance tests, the C88 printed text pages at a reasonably swift 5.3 pages per minute. Color graphics printed slower than average, at 1.6 ppm. Our 5-by-7-inch color photo, printed at best quality on letter-sized photo paper took a tedious 3 minutes and 37 seconds. In contrast, the $50 Canon iP1600, which earned the same score of Good for photo quality, printed a glossy photo in 1 minute and 17 seconds.
The C88's four pigment-based inks come in individual cartridges, a rarity in a model priced at under $100. The upright paper feeder at the back can hold 100 sheets. The 30-sheet output tray folds down from the front of the case, and you can flip it up when it's not in use, reducing the bulky footprint. The simple control panel has three buttons: power on/off, cancel print job, and change ink cartridges.
The Epson Stylus C88's only distinguishing feature is its ability to print 44-inch-long banners--longer than the other brands of inkjets can produce. But aside from that, you can do better with models from HP or Canon for the same price.