Stylus Photo R2880 review: speed tests

We’re continuing to work on our full review of Epson’s new Stylus Photo R2880, which we hope to have online in the next week or so. In the interim, we have been able to finish our benchmarking of the new inkjet, comparing it with its predecessor, the Stylus Photo R2400, and the two semi-pro printers closest to the R2880 in fighting weight: HP’s Photosmart Pro B9180 and Canon’s Pixma Pro9500.

We know that speed is usually a secondary or even a tertiary consideration when looking at photo printers, but, with today’s increased competition, it can be a factor for some people when they’re choosing an inkjet. Below are two charts, noting the print speeds for six different print sizes, ranging from 4" by 6" to 12" by 18" on the R2880 and the other three printers.

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HP Photosmart Pro B8850 review

b8850-small.pngIn mid-2006, HP entered the archival printing market in earnest with the Photosmart Pro B9180, the company’s first fully pigment-based printer. The B9180 produced great prints in both color and black and white and had a number of innovative features, including a smart mechanism for adding third-party paper types directly into the print driver. While the B9180 hasn’t knocked Epson off its perch as the king of the archival print, it has made it a much more competitive market, especially in that all-important sub-$1,000 market.

Now, hot on the heels of Epson’s Stylus Photo R1900, HP has released the $550 Photosmart Pro B8850 (Amazon link), which retains the best qualities of the B9180, at a lower price point (identical to the price of the R1900). We’ve been working with both pre-release and shipping versions of the B8850 for a few months now, and we’ve had few surprises: it produces very good prints with a few minor issues, much like its older sibling.

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Stylus Photo R1900 speed test results

We received our Stylus Photo R1900 recently, and have been quite busy testing Epson’s new pigment-based photo printer. We should have a full review online in the next week or so, but overall, we’ve been quite impressed with the R1900’s output. The glossy prints are as beautiful as we’ve ever seen from a pigment printer, which is no surprise, given the gloss optimizer and the new screening technology. But we’ve also been quite taken with photos printed on matte and fine art papers — they are rich and vibrant, and look as good, if not better, than output from other printers in its class.

While we’re finishing up the review, we wanted to post the initial results of our benchmark tests. While print speed is rarely the first concern when choosing between two higher-end photo printers, it can still be a consideration — especially if you feel that the output is comparable. Below are two charts, noting the print speeds for six different print sizes on the R1900 and its predecessor, the R1800, as well as against the immediate competition: HP’s Photosmart Pro B8850 and Canon’s dye-based Pixma Pro9000.

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USB vs. FireWire: does it matter for printing?

When it comes to printer interfaces, most photo printers sold today have a single USB 2.0 port for connecting to your PC or Mac. Both Epson (with the Stylus Pro 3800 and HP (Photosmart Pro B9180, among other models) ship printers that include an Ethernet port, which is great for networking your printer, but USB is the general standard. And, in the case of HP’s Photosmart C7280 All-in-One, you can get a very good printer that is also WiFi-enabled (more on that printer in a future post).

Epson also ships a few printers with both FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 interfaces, notably the Stylus Photo R1800 and R2400, and some of Canon’s higher-end printers have FireWire instead of USB interfaces. We’ve had a few people ask over the years if there was any advantage to using one or the other port, so while we were running some speed tests on a group of printers here in the office (for an upcoming round-up), we ran some tests on an R1800 and a series of 300-dpi photos. The result? No difference at all, from a borderless 4- by 6-inch image all the way up to an expansive 12- by 18-inch print.

The results (shown in the tables below) really aren’t that surprising: USB 2.0 has theoretical throughput speeds (480 Mbit/sec) that are slightly higher than FireWire (400 Mbit/sec), although USB 2.0 tends in practice to be a bit slower for things like file transfers between disks (when other factors are equalized). In this case, even with a 300-dpi file, you still aren’t throwing that much data down the data pipe to the printer.

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