Epson Stylus Photo R380
At a Glance
Epson Stylus Photo R380 Inkjet Printer (30 PPM, 5760x1440 DPI, Color, PC/Mac)
CD/DVD printing is a cool enough feature to compensate for shortcomings in speed and output quality.
Epson's Stylus Photo R380 offers photo features galore, plus a cool bonus: CD/DVD printing. Are these features worth the trade-offs of mediocre print speed and indifferent plain-paper print quality? Some users will think so.
Like many printers in its price range, the Stylus Photo R380 can print photos directly from a PictBridge-enabled camera, a media card (CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD, or xD), or an infrared port. A generously large 3.5-inch color LCD on the control panel lets you preview photos and navigate menus easily, and Epson bundles ArcSoft's PhotoImpression 5 software for editing images.
Most of these features are readily accessible via the front control panel. Unlike the ones on Epson's Stylus Photo R260, all of the buttons here have clearly marked word labels instead of icons. Navigational arrow buttons surrounding a central OK button make it easy to find and choose settings shown on the LCD.
The Stylus R380's standout feature, CD/DVD printing, involves putting the CD into a special insert, sliding that insert into the output tray, printing (Epson provides label-design software), then waiting 30 minutes for the disc to dry.
We paused first over the control panel's Mode buttons. One is labeled 'Memory Card'; the other, 'Print CD/DVD'. The lever for switching between regular and CD/DVD printing is unintuitive, as well: You flip it up to move the output tray down, and flip it down to move the tray up. Epson mentions all of these components in the careful directions, but it neither explains them nor offers helpful visual cues for recognizing them.
The Stylus Photo R380 uses Epson's Claria six-color, dye-based ink system (consisting of black, cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, and light magenta ink cartridges).
The printer produced photos and graphics quickly, while text straggled out at 3.9 pages per minute--slow compared to most competing printers' text times. Photos printed on glossy paper looked smooth and natural, but on plain paper the same images looked washed-out and fuzzy. Meanwhile, text suffered from noticeable feathering and lightness.
Other inkjet printers offer a better balance of performance and features than the Stylus R380 does. Few models can print on CDs and DVDs, however; and for some potential buyers, that feature will make the sacrifice worthwhile.