The Epson Stylus Photo R200, a stripped-down version of the Epson Stylus Photo R300, is a low-cost, six-color photo inkjet printer with a unique feature: it can print directly onto CDs and DVDs, which should appeal to photographers who like to burn their photos to share with friends and family. However, that feature aside, the R200 is a fairly average printer. Photos came out OK, but text and graphics didn't fare very well. Speed isn't this printer's forte either. The Epson Stylus Photo R200 photo printer has the same oblong, oversized-loaf-of-bread shape as its cousins, the Epson Stylus C64 and C84. It measures 18.5 by 10.5 by 7.8 inches and weighs 11.4 pounds--not svelte but sturdy. The body is dressed in burnished silver and dark-gray plastic, and it's topped off by a smoky-black-tinted cover. An oval opening in the cover gives access to the power, ink, and paper buttons.
At the back, the R200 has a 100-sheet input tray, a USB 1.1 port, and a connector for the power cord. An alternate USB 1.1 connection port sits under a cover at the front of the printer, next to the output tray. While the R200 doesn't work with &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecipa%2Ejp%2Fenglish%2Fpictbridge%2F">PictBridge, it supports both Print Image Matching and EXIF Print for easy printing from devices that take those technologies.
Setting up the Epson R200 and connecting it to your PC or Mac is very easy, but note that you have to supply your own USB cable (this isn't unusual; all printers ship without them). Epson includes a well-illustrated poster to guide beginners through the six-step setup process. The R200 works with Windows 98 SE through XP and with Macintosh OS 8.6 through 9.x and OS X 10.2 or higher (Epson recommends 9.1 and above). The Epson Stylus Photo R200's most notable feature is its ability to print directly onto CDs and DVDs. Inkjet-printable CDs and DVDs are widely available on the Internet and from local retailers, but they'll cost a bit more than the regular kind--typically $30 or so for a pack of 50.
The R200 prints on DVDs and regular (12cm) and mini (8cm) CDs by way of a special CD/DVD tray that fits inside an insert above the printer's output tray. It takes roughly three minutes to output a printed CD or DVD, depending on the complexity of your design. Coming up with the right combination of photos, text, and graphical elements can take much longer, but that's the fun part. The R200 comes with Epson Print CD, an easy-to-operate program that helps you bring in photos, images, and text to decorate your CDs and DVDs.
Lest we forget, the Epson Stylus Photo R200 also prints on a variety of stock, from plain copy paper to fancy photo papers, with a maximum resolution of 5,760x1,440dpi. For creative projects, the R200 also comes with Film Factory, a photo-optimizing and photo-organizing program that includes templates for making greeting cards, photo albums, and calendars. The fun never stops. The Epson Stylus Photo R200 turned in its best print quality with photos on glossy paper. This isn't the best output we've seen from Epson, but your average shutterbug should be able to live with it. We don't, however, recommend using this printer for general tasks. At first glance, the text turned out by the R200 on Epson's Premium Bright White paper was dark and legible, but on closer inspection, we saw ragged rather than sharp edges around and inside of most characters, as if the printhead were not properly aligned. This made text smaller than 4 points illegible. With larger fonts, we also saw the horizontal banding typical of a vertical printhead misalignment. Color graphics printed by the R200, again on coated inkjet paper, didn't come out that well, nor did the embedded photographs in the test document, primarily because of poor dithering and problems with horizontal color registration. As a result, the output looked adequately sharp, but the colors were inaccurate and dull, and we saw color banding in the gradients.
Speed is not the Epson R200's forte either. In CNET Labs' tests, the printer took just more than four minutes to produce an 8x10 photo. In contrast, the competing took almost a full minute less. On the plus side, the R200 cranked out a CD with a graphics-heavy label in about three minutes. This printer is also pretty slow with text, running at less than two pages per minute. The R200 is, however, a quiet, smooth performer. Note that this printer, like all other Epson inkjets, doesn't print if any of its six cartridges is empty. While that may be a drawback if you're in a hurry to get a print, it can save you from unintentionally printing pages of unusable graphics.
CNET Labs project leader Dong Ngo contributed to this section of the review.
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