One feature we found particularly fun is the ability to print stills from digital videos. You can watch the entire video, stop it at the frame you want to print, and make all the photo adjustments mentioned above. It's a simple task to rewind or fast-forward through the video, and if your clip is particularly long, the printer will set chapters so that you can quickly step through the whole thing. This feature is great for capturing that perfect moment or creating a flip book, if you're so inclined. Generally, video resolution is lower than print, though, so you'll have to set your video camera's resolution very high to get quality 4x6 prints. The video stills we printed had that "captured from a video" blurriness to them.
Another nifty feature on this printer is the ability to print directly on specially coated CDs and DVDs. A number of companies, including Memorex and Verbatim, make these inkjet-compatible CDs and DVDs, and you should be able to find them easily in office supply stores or online. Push down on the lever next to the output tray to correctly orient the tray for CD printing. The printer comes with a special sleeve designed to hold a single CD. Load a CD onto the sleeve and insert the sleeve into the guides on the printer's output tray. (Epson recommends burning the data onto the CD before printing on it.) Printed arrows help you align the sleeve correctly. If you want to print directly from a memory card, you have the option of choosing layout (1, 4, 8, or 12 images), adjusting the print position, and making the normal range of image enhancements. If you want to get more creative, you can use Epson's Print CD utility, which comes on the driver disc. Here, you can make creative layouts, overlay text, and add shapes, among other options. We prefer the printable discs to technologies such as Lightscribe (which etches an image onto disc) for a couple of reasons. First, you can print color images to inkjet-compatible discs; so far, Lightscribe is limited to grayscale images. Second, printing an image to a disc taeks about as long as printing a similar size photo, whereas to fully cover a disc with an image using Lightscribe is a patience-testing process. To complete the package, the R380 also gives you the opportunity to print jewel case inserts. Using letter-size paper, you can select a single image or up 24 images to print, and the outputted sheet will have hash marks recommending where to cut and fold so that the print fits into a jewel case.
Finally, you can quickly backup or move images to or from a memory card. To move photos from a card to your PC, simply navigate to the removable drives, select the printer, and drag-and-drop the images from the card to your PC. Moving images from your PC to a memory card is the same procedure. Alternately, you can back up the contents of a memory card to a USB storage device plugged into the R380's USB port, including flash thumbdrives, USB hard drives, or USB CD/DVD burners. To do so, you'll have to turn off your PC, navigate to Backup Memory Card under the Setup menu on the printer, and press OK to begin copying the files.
When printing from your PC, the Canon Pixma iP6700D offers more image adjustment options, such as color balancing, but overall the Epson Stylus Photo R380 trounces the Canon when it comes to features.
As the Epson Stylus Photo R380 is an inkjet printer, and a photo-oriented one at that, we didn't expect fast text prints. True to form, it printed black text at a rate of 2.97 pages per minute (ppm), slightly faster than the Canon Pixma iP6700d, which printed text at 2.86ppm. The slightly less expensive HP Photosmart 8250 nearly doubled that rate, with 5.34ppm. The Epson made fast work of 4x6 photo prints, though, spitting them out at a rate of 1.83ppm; the Canon did the same prints at a slightly slower 1.35ppm.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Photo speed||Text speed|
The Epson's print quality is quite satisfactory for amateur photo hobbyists. Its text quality in our tests wasn't perfect--not surprising given its photo focus. We saw fuzziness along the edges, but the characters were otherwise consistently well formed and nicely dark. In the color graphics print, the R380 showed nicely saturated color blocks, very smooth color gradients, and excellent color reproduction. The photo elements were impressive, and even the text looked good. The 4x6 photo prints revealed great detail, good color reproduction, and not a trace of graininess, though we would have liked to see a bit more warmth and brightness. The photo had an overall muted quality to it. The print quality isn't up to par for professional photographers, but hobbyists will be pleased.
Service and support
Epson backs the Stylus Photo R380 with a standard one-year warranty. Phone tech support is available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT, though it's a toll call. If you'd rather not pay toll, you can e-mail your question to Epson's tech support; they promise to respond via e-mail within one business day. The company's Web site offers downloadable drivers and manuals as well as FAQs.