Sometimes patience is a virtue, especially in regards to tech gear in categories where the improvements are actually incremental. Although manufacturers might try to make you believe otherwise, improvements in consumer-grade printers is actually a slow going affair. Which makes the price drop of this once prosumer $550 pigment photo printer a notable one. If you've ever had aspirations about upgrading from your throwaway sub-$100 inkjet to something with the capability of producing truly beautiful archival quality photos to frame, gift or decorate your home with, this may be your printer.
Compared to our previous bargain basement inkjet (aka the Staples special of the week), the EPSON R1900 is built like a tank, tipping the scales at 27 lbs and with a solid exterior casing requiring both hands for moving it around. The printer just barely fit onto our floating wall shelf, but considering the wide format capabilities, the 30 x 12 x 14" dimensions are actually quite reasonable; just make sure your setup allows for it or consider connecting it to a network capable router like the Apple Airport for more flexible positioning.
As noted above, we had previously been utilizing the services of budget printers where performance took a backseat to affordability, so this was quite an upgrade. The first thing we noticed about the R1900 was the seven…yes seven…slim ink cartridges you'll be arming your printer with before turning the "ON" button: photo black, matte black, cyan, magenta, yellow, red, and orange (the inclusion of orange aids in skin tone reproduction). An additional gloss optimizer makes for an 8th cartridge, which adds a layer of perceptible gloss in look and feel on paper, with the option to add/forgo this feature from the print dialog box. A quick glance over at Amazon reveals replacing all 8 cartridges at once will set you back around $100 for EPSON brand replacements, but users have noted a full setup will produce 120+ 8x10" full printouts, coming out to somewhere around $1.16/per ml.
Besides the lengthy ink cartridge installation process, setup is plug-and-play easy. We tested the R1900 first with the most common printout job home printers will be tasked with: text. Using the R1900 with general text printouts sometimes feels like using a mop where a paintbrush should suffice, with monochrome printouts produced in above average quality and fairly quick, but with the sense day to day document printing is overkill. But whether printing out text or photos, the R1900 is very quiet, with the printhead mechanism producing a smooth sound while the MicroPiezo print head travels across while producing droplets as small as 1.5 picoliters (see image below). Vibration is minimal, though if your printer sits ontop of a wall shelf like our unit does, you might notice additional shake while printing, previously not noticeable when compared to a desk bound setup.
Those looking to print directly from digital cameras can connect via front USB port, while two rear USB ports can connect two separate computers for use (one knock against this higher-mid tier printer is the exclusion of an included USB cable). Since we always like to do a little post-processing, we tested out the photographic print capabilities connected to our laptop, printing from Photoshop. Media type, color settings, print quality and the option to turn on/off gloss are all available via your print dialogue box and there wasn't any surprises for anyone used to customizing print options according to different papers.
And thus we get to the reason why some of us might want to consider upgrading to a printer like the R1900: partnered with the EPSON Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster, the pigment printer produces archival quality photos of exceptional quality, with prints capable of holding their colour for up to 200 years. We snapped a few 16 megapixel images from our Nikon D7000 and after a little colour correction, printed out a 8.5"x11" sample. Even with a bit of scaling, our prints looked beautiful. They ran a little darker than our screen preview, but this is attributed more to the inaccuracy of our screen than any fault of the printer, and otherwise the prints created a natural radiant image even with the gloss coating applied.
Closeups reveal a very detailed, near continuous tone print out even when reviewed under a macro lens.
The R1900 can print onto a wide variety of paper finishes, included CDs, if you're still one to save and create onto recordable discs. And there's even an option to add a roller feed for huge 13"x44" panoramic printouts. More common sizes include 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, 8.5x11, 11x14, 12x12, and 13x19 sizes.
With the $200+ price drop the EPSON R1900 is a hard to ignore bargain for anyone who still treasures the beauty and appeal of a photographic print and looking for a step up from an everyday printer (the more serious buyer looking for the latest might want to check out the specs of the forthcoming R3000). In an era of Facebook, Flickr and cellphone photos, the appeal of a dedicated archival quality printer seems limited. But we recently found ourselves in charge of a project involving the scanning and transferring of old family photos for digital archival purposes. The option to print out high quality prints of these valuable family commodities to family members made the value of such a printer more recognizable, not to mention the ability now to print out some of our more memorable DSLR images for framing and gifting (parents and grandparents wholly approve).
Pros: Exceptional near photo-lab print quality, wide variety of print options in material/size, prosumer-quality construction, print speed, anti-clogging features
Cons: Prints slightly dark, small capacity ink cartridges, USB cable not included, larger footprint not for small spaces
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.