Epson Stylus Photo R320 - printer - color - ink-jet review: Epson Stylus Photo R320 - printer - color - ink-jet
The 5,760x1,440dpi, six-ink Epson Stylus R320 is a sturdy home photo printer capable of producing high-quality output. Like its predecessor, the Stylus R300, the Stylus R320 comes loaded with direct-printing options: media card slots that accommodate 14 standard media card types, a PictBridge port for printing from compatible cameras, and support for direct-to-CD/DVD printing. Unlike the R300, though, the R320 has a small, built-in color LCD print-preview screen and a monochrome display that lets you perform light edits. This makes computer-free printing somewhat more practical, though we don't understand why Epson didn't go all out with a 2.5-inch color LCD. While the Stylus R320 is obviously targeted at the home photo enthusiast, it handles standard text and business graphic documents with ease, too. It's a good choice for an all-around printer, though, as with most Epson printers we've tested, we wish it were speedier. The 13.2-pound Epson Stylus R320 measures 19.6 inches wide, 10.4 inches deep, and 8.6 inches high. But when you pull out the paper trays for printing, the depth and height increase to 18.7 and 11.4 inches, respectively, so you'll need to budget your work space accordingly. The vertical paper tray in the back of the printer will hold as many as 120 sheets of paper. Navigation of the control panel for computer-free printing from a media card or a camera is relatively straightforward. On the top of the printer, just to the right of the output tray, you'll find a 1.5-inch LCD for previewing your photos. We like the addition, but we wish it were bigger--and more useful. Epson tacked on a monochrome LCD that allows you to adjust sharpness, brightness, contrast, and saturation, as well as to add a black-and-white or sepia filter or to crop your images. And if your camera supports it, you can extract PIM or EXIF tagging information and automatically adjust your images based upon that embedded data in your photo files. Unfortunately, the color LCD doesn't display your adjustments. What a downer.
The front panel's media card panel and USB 2.0 port for connecting a thumb drive or an external CD/RW drive are both easily accessible. You will need to purchase a separate A/B USB cable for connecting the printer to your computer via the USB port.The Epson Stylus R320 easily handles border-free printing at resolutions as high as 5,760x1,440dpi for 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, and full letter-size pages with a slight trim border. If you are sick of labeling your burned CDs or DVDs with a Sharpie, you can create custom software discs, music compilation gifts, or your own break-out album using the Stylus R320's direct-to-CD print option. While printable CD/DVD media generally cost a bit more than nonprintable media, you can find them for the price of nonprintable discs if you shop around. And you will never have to worry about trashing discs by misaligning printable CD labels. The tray even has an attachment for mini CDs. The color preview screen is only large enough for making broad adjustments to your photos before sending them to be printed. Unfortunately, the included software doesn't let you make fine image adjustments. Quality settings are limited to Standard, High, and Higher, so you'll need a more robust program for granular tweaking. The control panel does have a Basic/Advanced/Custom button set for tweaking: choose Basic when you need to quickly print out a 4x6-inch photo on Epson's Premium Gloss Photo paper, Advanced when you need to change quality settings or paper type, and Custom for printing based on parameters you set.
You can transfer your photos from your media card to your external USB archive drive (DVD, CD, or thumb drive) via the Direct Save button on the control panel. You can find a list of supported external USB storage devices on the Epson Web site. (This page refers to the R300; however, they both utilize the same print engine.) The Stylus R320 accepts all but the most obscure media cards there. And if those connectivity options aren't enough, you can even buy a $69 Bluetooth adapter for printing wirelessly from your Bluetooth-enabled phone or camera.
Assuming you take a minute to follow the brief but detailed Start Here quick-installation guide, the printer and driver installation is straightforward. Ink cartridges have a color coding to ensure that you put the cartridges in the correct slot, but it would be nice if they also had the cartridge code number, as newer HP models do. When printing from the computer, the printer management software is also relatively easy to use. We especially like that the Stylus R320 notifies you when a cartridge is reaching low ink levels (there's a warning LED on the printer's front panel). The ink yield of each cartridge is rated at 450 pages at 5 percent coverage per primary--about 18 cents per page--so you won't be rushing out to get a new cartridge every week unless you are running a photo lab from home. Still, the advance warning is nice, especially since you'll have to budget for the $12 cartridges.Clocking 1.9 pages per minute for text, the Epson Stylus R320 is downright sluggish. Photo-print speed wasn't much better, taking as long as 3.7 minutes to print an 8x10 photo in our CNET Labs' tests. By comparison, the Canon Pixma iP4000 took only 1.8 minutes to get the same job done and the Epson Stylus C84 only 2.4 minutes. On the plus side, the printer runs quietly and efficiently.
You have to be patient when printing "best quality" photos with the R320, but the output is quite good when printing on Epson's Premium Glossy paper. However, we saw visible banding--most likely due to a clogged nozzle--on a few images we printed using heavyweight matte paper. The dynamic range of the printer is limited, causing photos to come out a little flat, but overall, the color consistency from screen to printer is very good. It will take a few tries to balance the brightness and contrast settings of your monitor with the output of the printer, especially if you're using an LCD.
The R320 handles multiple copies of photos as well as multiple photo selections easily, so you will be able to print a set of photos without much fuss. The printer ink dries quickly and is resistant to humidity and water spillage, provided you use Epson's Premium paper.
As we mentioned, text and business graphic printing is slow, but it's of good quality. Straight text printing on plain paper is also good, but using the R320 to print out all your documents may not be the best option, given both the cost of ink cartridges and the speed issue.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Photo speed||Text speed|
CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo contributed to this section of the review.The R320 comes with great quick-reference guides and a thicker Printer Basics manual for those who really want to get to know their printer. In the Printer Basics manual, you'll also find numerous Mac and PC troubleshooting tips, a good reference for resolving print-quality issues. If you misplace your reference guides, you can always download a PDF version of the latest manual set from the Epson Web site. There you will also find updated driver and printer management software as well as an interactive troubleshooting guide. For non-Web-based support, you can call the company's automated system 24/7 via a toll-free number. For interaction with a live human, you can use one of several tech-support numbers (which are not toll-free) from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT in the United States or from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT in Canada. The printer comes with Epson's standard, one-year limited warranty, which includes the Epson Exchange Program.