Epson's Stylus R300 series demonstrates the quantum leap photo printers have taken recently. The R300M includes a color preview screen and offers a wealth of direct camera-to-printer options. Best of all, in addition to producing high-resolution photo-quality prints, the R300M prints straight onto blank CDs or DVDs--all for less than $250. Intended primarily as a photo-quality printer for the digital camera crowd, the R300M also prints text and graphics. Of course, it doesn't print text and graphics as well as an ordinary inkjet printer, and the R300M's sluggish print speeds also leave something to be desired. But to digital photo enthusiasts, the many pros with this photo printer will outweigh the cons.
The bread-box-size Epson Stylus R300M measures 19.6 inches by 10.4 inches by 8.6 inches (W, D, H) and looks like many other inkjets on the market today, with its input tray in the back and its output tray at the bottom. The R300M includes a 2.5-inch color LCD for previewing your digital photos (without the preview monitor, the R300M sells for $50 less). There's also a smaller monochrome LCD on the control panel with a text menu that allows you to resize and crop photos before printing or to change settings such as brightness, saturation, and sharpness--all without a computer attached.
The setup process is seamless. The R300M uses a high-speed USB 2.0 port for its connection to a Mac or a PC (USB cable not included), and its drivers work with Windows 98 and above, as well as Mac 8.6 and above. Epson supplies ample printed documentation, such as a Start Here poster that walks you through the initial installation. There's also a quick-reference card for printing without a computer.
What sets the Epson Stylus R300M apart from other photo printers is its various built-in features. Perhaps the most compelling is the built-in CD/DVD tray, which allows you to print directly onto CD or DVD media--one step beyond printing CD or DVD labels. Using the included Epson Print CD software, simply create a design, insert a blank CD or DVD disc, then print. Potential uses include personalizing holiday or vacation photo CDs and saving thousands of dollars on the cover artwork for your garage band's latest CD or DVD release.
The R300M offers an unprecedented level of connectivity and compatibility with cameras and removable media. Below the monochrome LCD, there's a smoked-plastic lid that flips to reveal a bank of removable media cards. The R300M will print directly from Secure Digital, Memory Stick, CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Microdrive, and xD cards. There's also a USB 1.0 port for PictBridge- and USB Direct Print-compatible cameras as well as Zip, CD, and Magneto-Optical drives. The software inside the printer transfers digital photos to a media card or transfers data from a media card directly to your PC or Mac. And if you add Epson's Bluetooth Photo Print Adapter ($69), you can send and print images to the R300M wirelessly from any Bluetooth-enabled device.