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“Landscape” takes on new meaning with Epson’s R1900.
If high-gloss color photos turn you on, the new Epson R1900 will give you a real thrill. Using long-lasting pigment inks and a special gloss optimizer, the wide-format printer puts out shiny, eye-popping photos up to 13 by 19 inches that’ll bring on the oohs and aahs.
If you already own its predecessor, the R1800, there’s no urgent need to trade up, however. The difference in output quality between the two inkjet printers is very subtle, except when it comes to flesh tones. For those, the R1900 has new orange ink formulated to capture the color nuances of lighter skin tones. In combination with its other inks—photo or matte black, cyan, red, yellow, and magent-a—the results are impressive. Adding gloss optimizer to the mix virtually eliminates the topographical effect of color layering that can occur when pigment inks are used on glossy paper.
Epson has paid attention to small details too, such as integrating handles in the R1900’s wrapping so that you can more easily lift its nearly 30 pounds from the box. There are twin USB 2.0 ports (but no FireWire or Ethernet) at the rear that allow two computers to connect to the printer, in addition to a front port for direct-from-camera PictBridge printing.
After powering on the R1900, we inserted the ink cartridges and connected a USB cable (not included) to our Mac. Then, we installed the Epson driver and used the Mac’s Printer Setup Utility to get the printer running.
We first let the printer’s stock driver run the show— with excellent results. Then, after calibrating our monitor with ColorVision’s Spyder 3 Pro, we downloaded a special set of premium-paper profiles from Epson’s site that enables Photoshop (and other color management programs) to accomplish more precise color output. The resulting prints were awesome.
The R1900 runs quietly, handles borderless output, and is extremely versatile. The printer can use roll paper via included holders, prints on CD and DVD disks, and handles thicker-than-normal papers through an easily attached loader. It also prints well on oversized third-party media: Red River’s 13-by-38-inch-long panorama papers rolled through smoothly.
Output quality is determined by three settings: Photo, Best Photo, and Photo RPM (Resolution Performance Management), each with a high-speed option. We printed a 20MB, 8-by-10 TIFF image at 300ppi on Epson’s premium glossy paper and logged output times from when the R1900 began to print. Our results with the Photo setting were unacceptable, however. Banding was evident across the image and it actually took longer (2 minutes, 32 seconds) than the Best Photo setting (2 minutes, 16 seconds). Selecting Best Photo at High Speed, the R1900 cranked a print out in 1 minute, 39 seconds. Photo RPM took 5 minutes, 16 seconds, but setting it to High Speed reduced the output time to 2 minutes, 44 seconds. Our advice is to start with Best Photo/High Speed and bump up the quality settings only if you don’t like the first results.
We also ran a test print to determine ink consumption—a tricky endeavor since photos rarely use the same amount of each ink color. After printing 35 glossy 8-by-10 prints, the Gloss Optimizer cartridge needed replacement, and at 50 prints the Photo Black, Cyan, and Magenta ran out (the other colors were still half full). We estimated ink costs at about 1.5 cents per square inch ($1.20 for an 8-by-10).
The R1900 also prints good-looking black-and-white glossy and matte prints. We noticed very slight metamerism (color casts under different light sources) with certain papers—which occurs when colored inks are mixed with black to achieve certain gray tones.Don’t buy the R1900 if you print mostly black-and-whites. High-gloss, color-packed photos are what this printer rolls out best.