Epson Stylus Photo R340
At a Glance
HP Photosmart 475 Photo Printer
The R340 prints top-notch photos, but slow print speeds and middling print quality on plain paper limit its versatility.
Like its predecessor, the R320, the $199 Epson Stylus Photo R340 offers many connectivity and file transfer options. Three media card slots let you print directly from most common media card formats and transfer images to your PC. You can use the direct-print port to print from a PictBridge-compatible camera. But you can also use the port to offload photos to a host of USB-connected storage devices, including hard drives, CD and DVD writers, and USB flash drives. If you have a Bluetooth-equipped camera phone or PDA, you may want to get the $69 wireless adapter.
The R340 has a 2.4-inch color LCD for previewing images and accessing menu functions; it's mounted in the center of the front panel. Though the screen doesn't swivel, it's angled upward for easy viewing. The R340's documentation is better than average, and includes a four-page quick reference guide to printing without a computer.
Compared to its rivals, the R340 skimps on paper capacity. Its single feeder holds only 120 sheets of plain paper, and Epson offers no optional paper tray or duplexer. The output tray holds just 30 sheets. However, the R340 does come with a front-loading tray for printing straight onto specially coated CDs and DVDs, a feature that competing printers from Canon and HP lack. Also, the R340 prints on discs from edge to edge, while its predecessor left a border at the outer edge and around the hole in the center of the disc.
Using its six individual ink cartridges, the R340 printed excellent glossy photos in our tests. Viewed close up, some highlights looked a little grainy and facial shading seemed exaggerated, but we saw plenty of detail in shadows. Our grayscale image didn't come out quite as well, and it had some brown and green tinted areas that gave it an almost sepia appearance. Plain paper was a different story. Text looked grayish and characters had very fuzzy edges. Line art looked so unappealing that it earned a score of Poor; it printed with bizarre stripes composed of speckled lines--reminding us of a string of beads. Color graphics looked washed out and blurry. The R340's text and graphics overall earned scores of just Fair, but photo quality earned a score of Superior.
In our speed tests, the R340 printed our color photo in 82 seconds. That's nearly twice as fast as the earlier R320, but still lags behind the two Canon printers we tested this month and well behind the fastest model, the HP Photosmart 8250, which output the photo in 29 seconds. At 2 pages per minute for text and 1.6 ppm for color graphics, the R340 is among the slowest of recently tested models.
The R340 prints superb color photos and connects to a wealth of storage devices, but it's slow.