Hands-On Review: The Epson Stylus Pro 3880
For over a decade, Epson has been producing an ever-improving family of Photo Stylus desktop printers designed to deliver faithfully-rendered, archival-quality digital inkjet prints at remarkably affordable prices. With this in mind, Epson's recently introduced Stylus Pro 3880 is the least expensive 17x22" desktop printer money can buy without compromising image quality.
With a footprint of 27W"x 15D" x 10H" the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 is compact enough to justify counter space in the most cramped of workspaces. As for inksets, the 3880 utilizes Epson's 8-color (C, Lc, M, Lm, Y, Lk, LLk + PK or MK) UltraChrome K3 inkset with Vivid Magenta, a pigment-based inkset that delivers wide-gamut prints in color or black & white that, depending on your choice of paper and storage/viewing conditions, can last upwards of 200-plus years.
Epson's 3rd-generation UltraChrome inkset offers improved renditions of blues and purples, and reduced levels of metamarism when viewing prints under mixed and/or high-UV light sources. The new inks also offer denser blacks (up to 2.55 with an L value of 2.9) when printing monochrome images. Scratch-resistance and gloss differential (differing gloss reflectance between shadows and highlights) has also been improved over previous UltraChrome inksets. Each of the individual inks are packaged in 80cc cartridges, which on a per-print basis, are far more economical to use compared to the cartridges used in Epson's smaller (13x19" and under) desktop printers.
The Stylus Pro 3880 utilizes a 1"-wide MicroPiezo AMC Print Head, which can precisely place ink droplets as small as 3.5 picoliters at print resolutions as high as 2880 x 1440. AccuPhoto HD2 Screening Technology, developed by Epson in conjunction with Rochester Institute's Munsell Color Science Laboratory, monitors the flow of ink through the print head for optimized ink usage and smooth transitions and gradations between highlights and shadow details.
Depending on whether you are printing on to matte or glossy media, the Stylus Pro automatically switches between the Gloss and Matte Black ink cartridges with minimal ink loss between swaps (about 1 teaspoon). In addition to the 2 primary Blacks, the 3880 also contains Light Black, and Light, Light Black inks to better ensure rich, detailed monotone imagery as well as smoother transitions when printing color images.
It's also worth noting you can convert color image files into richly-toned black and white by simply selecting Advanced Black & White in the print menu. The results, be they neutral, warm, or cool-toned, are drop-dead gorgeous.
The 3880 accepts most all print media up to 1.5mm thick (posterboard) in sizes varying from 4 x 6" through 17 x 22", with or without borders in most standard paper sizes (4" x 6", 5" x 7", 8" x 10", 11" x 14", 16" x 20", and 17" x 22"). Depending on your choice of print resolution, the 3880 can print an 8x10 image in 2:03 to 7:47 minutes (Normal in 4:08 minutes), and a 16 x 20" print in 5:32 to 19:40 minutes (Normal in 10:59 minutes). And with noise levels in the 47 dB (A) range, you can work comfortably in close proximity to the printer without having a hissy fit.
The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 is available in standard vanilla, or as the Graphic Arts Edition, which comes bundled with a Pantone ColorBurst RIP for those who need to combine images with text, graphics and other graphic art needs.