As usual with the Stylus Photo line, the inks load from the top. In this case, that means six ink cartridges: cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light cyan, and light magenta. Like most home printers, paper loads from the top of the back and emerges, after printing, onto the tray that extends from the front of the unit. The input tray can hold as many as 120 sheets of plain paper or up to 20 sheets of Epson photo paper, depending on paper size and type. Epson says the printer can accept media up to 0.11mm thick in sizes ranging from 4x6 to 13x44 inches. There's no roll feed option though, so you'll have to find fulfillment with cut-sheet media.
The driver is the same one Epson includes on its other Stylus Photo printers, though it doesn't include the fancy black-and-white driver that comes with the R2400. Our only beef with the driver is that it's slightly counterintuitive to disable the printer's color management, which should be done if you want to let Photoshop, or another color-managed program, handle color conversion. First you have to proceed past the default view to the advanced view, then you have to click the ICM radio button before you even see the option of turning the printer's color management off. To its credit, the printer generally does a nice job of color conversion, but if you plan on using third-party paper with custom ICC profiles, the process isn't as easy as it could be. At least Epson makes it easy to set the advanced view as your own default if you prefer. Up from its predecessor's print resolution of 5,760x720dpi, the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 offers 5,760x1,440dpi, with a minimum ink droplet size of 1.5 picoliters. As usual, Epson offers a wide array of photo papers for use with the 1400, and even has some strange options, such as its Iron-on Cool Peel Transfer paper and Photo Quality Self Adhesive Sheets.
One thing that hasn't changed is the expense incorporated with buying ink. Each of the six ink cartridges will set you back about $20. Since Epson doesn't list the volume of ink on the cartridges, or anywhere in the product literature, it's hard to generate a price per milliliter comparison with other printers. However, cartridges for the R2400, which uses Epson's fancier UltraChromeK3 ink set, cost about $5 less than those for the 1400, and the R2400 is considered somewhat costly to operate as it is. So, expect to lay out some cash if you print a lot. Of course, if you were looking for cheap prints, you'd just order your 4x6s from some online processor anyway.
Some Apple users may be disappointed to see that the 1400 doesn't include a FireWire connection. Of course, since it includes a high-speed USB 2.0 jack, there should be no real loss of speed as long as you have a compatible port on your computer. We were impressed with the prints we got from the Epson Stylus Photo 1400. Colors were generally accurate, and the printer did a fine job of preserving detail in both very bright and very dark areas of our images. Of course, the brightness of the whites and the depth of black will vary based on the paper you choose.
Epson seems to be paying quite a bit of attention lately to how it lays its ink down on paper. We recently saw evidence of this in the super smooth prints we got from the Stylus Pro 3800. The Stylus Photo 1400 can't quite keep up with its cousin, but it did yield impressively smooth transitions through all but the most difficult color transitions offered up by the out-of-focus areas of some of our test photos. Also, since these Claria inks don't offer the same level of metameric regularity as Epson's UltraChromeK3 inks, we weren't surprised to see a mild amount of color shift when viewing the photos under different light sources. However, the shifts were very minor, and if you plan to display your images in a space that's illuminated by a single light source, this shouldn't pose a problem.
Our biggest issue with the Stylus Photo 1400 its its black-and-white performance. Since it doesn't include the light-black and light-light-black cartridges that the R2400 and some other Epson printers do, the 1400 creates some shades of grey by creating composites of the five other colors. As a result, it can be difficult to achieve a true neutral black-and-white print. We typically saw a slight cyan cast when we printed black-and-white images we knew were neutral to begin with.
Since it's not meant to be an office printer, it should come as no surprise that it doesn't hold a candle to the print speeds you'd get from a laser printer and can't match the crispness of fonts that you'd get from such a document printer. In its photo-printing speed, it ranks squarely average. We were able to print a bordered 8x10 inch photo on letter-size (8.5x11) paper in about 1 minute, 55 seconds. As we've come to expect, Epson's service and support is top-notch. The Stylus Photo 1400 comes with the usual one-year warranty, and Epson supplies online access to drivers, FAQs, and documentation, as well as an interactive troubleshooter. The driver's help system is as useful as most help menus, meaning not very. But, the HTML manual does a great job of stepping you through anything you might want to do with the printer. Epson also offers telephone support through a toll-free number Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. through 6 p.m. PT.