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Epson R1900 review - stunning prints at a price

March 2008

Article from: The Advertiser


March 18, 2008 05:30pm

WHAT does the R in Epson's R series printers stand for? Odds on it's for reliable. Or maybe good. As in really good. When you want to print glossy photos with high fidelity, it's hard to go past an Epson.

Here at The Advertiser we've relied on them for years to print the images ordered through our photo sales department.

The R1900 lives up to expectations, delivering vivid prints on glossy paper that are good enough to sell.

While other papers were tried in testing - Epson's lovely fine art Velvet paper and the premium semigloss paper printed from the roll feeder - it was on premium glossy paper that the R1900 really shines. And shine it does, with the eighth ink tank a gloss optimiser that helps add further lustre to the print.

You can choose to print without the gloss optimiser if you prefer, or indeed need to depending on the media.

The LUT technology in the feature list deserves some detail. The eight-colour inkset creates 18,446,774 trillion colour combinations.

To calculate the right combination for the best print results, Epson has developed its Look Up Table (LUT) technology in partnership with colour experts the Munsell Color Science Laboratory of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

In conjunction with the Micro Piezo print head, the Epson LUT technology decides how much of each colour is used to translate an RGB source file into a print. The result is prints with smooth gradations, reduced graininess and a wide colour gamut.

Certainly, there were some test prints of high-contrast subjects that took me by surprise with their clarity and which on lesser machines looked muddy in the tray. It's easy to be blinded by the science with Epson's LUT wizardry but there's no denying the excellent results.

One thing of special note is the excellent skin tone reproduction, helped along by the inclusion of an orange ink. Most of my test prints were action shots of tennis players, whose deep tans can easily look fake when using a cheap printer. If you are a sports photographer, the R1900 is highly recommended.

There was only one thing that bothered me with the R1900 and that was the absence of a built-in trimmer, which would be very useful when printing from the roll feeder. If you were printing in high volume from a roll you could easily enough set up a guillotine on a flat bed or table in front of the output tray. However, when printing A3s infrequently, you would be better off using single sheets. Of course, the absence of a trimmer does help keep the cost of the printer down.

The printer driver is excellent. Mac users will be pleased to hear the R1900s driver and software works fine under Leopard (OS 10.5). The bundled Print CD software retains the clunky interface of earlier versions but gets the job down.

Advanced or professional users likely won't have much use for the other bundled software but it will be handy for those setting up a home or small business print workflow for the first time.

Print times seem to me a bit irrelevant when you're printing for best quality output but for those who care, an A4 print at best setting (PhotoRPM) took 6min 13secs.

As for ink consumption, the R1900s photo black cartridge was the first to run out after completing 13 A3+ prints (or about 50 A4s). That doesn't sound like much mileage but those prints were of images with large swathes of black background with the printer setting at PhotoRPM, which with its DPI optimisation is well known for its thirst.

With lower quality print settings, the R1900s economy seems acceptable. Ink tanks are about $23 each, so a full set comes in at under $200. And a word on inks for A3 printers. Supplies tend to be constrained. Be sure to first contact a supplier to ensure you can replace the ink tanks of any A3 printer you might want to buy and can do so at an acceptable price. My experience is that prices and availability vary greatly. Caveat emptor.

In general, the R1900 was easy to set up and easy to use, though the CD printing tray exhibited the usual cantankerousness of such things. Seeing how nobody else seems to have perfected the disk printing mechanism (though Canon and HP have come close) I won't hold it as a black mark against the R1900.

As for appearances, the R1900s seemingly de rigueur gunmetal grey and black finish is neither especially stunning or in any way offensive and should look fine in just about any setting.

But it's the print quality that is paramount in a unit of this type and there can be no complaints here. If you want richly detailed, vivid A3 or A3+ prints, the R1900 should sit at the top of your shopping list, especially at this great value price.

FEATURES: A3+ inkjet printer. Eight ink tanks: Photo black, matte black, red, orange, cyan, magenta, yellow and gloss optimiser. Epson UltraChrome Hi-Gloss2 ink. Advanced Epson LUT colour processing for smooth and accurate colours. Dual USB 2.0 Hi-Speed ports.

PRICE: $1100

RATING: Five stars

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