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Epson Stylus Photo R380 review: Epson Stylus Photo R380

Design
The Epson Stylus Photo R380 printer is about the size of an inkjet all-in-one device--rather bulky for a single-task machine. The silver and dark gray body won't win any design awards, but it doesn't offend. With both paper trays folded out, it measures 17.7 inches wide, 21 inches deep, and 11.1 inches tall and weighs a smidge less than 16 pounds. A lid resembling a scanner lid opens to reveal the printhead and ink-tank compartment.

7.3

Epson Stylus Photo R380

The Good

Tons of features, including CD/DVD printing and the ability to print stills from digital video; great print quality; fast 4x6 photo prints; includes PictBridge port and memory card slots; individual ink tanks.

The Bad

Limited paper-handling options; phone support is not toll-free and support hours are limited; text printing could be improved.

The Bottom Line

The Epson Stylus Photo R380 offers a wealth of fun features and great print quality, making it a smart choice for amateur photo hobbyists.
The Epson Stylus Photo R380 offers a wide range of project and feature options for the amateur photo enthusiast. At $200, it's more expensive than most standard snapshot printers, but the added money gets you an inkjet printer that prints still images and still captures from video, while also printing on compatible CDs/DVDs. And it does this all with great image quality. Dare we say it? Using this printer was fun, not something we often use to describe a printer. The similarly priced Canon iP6700D provides comparable image quality but fewer features overall.

Paper-handling options are limited: a single paper support folds in the rear for input, and a foldout tray in the front has extension panels for output. The input tray can hold up to 120 sheets of plain paper or 20 sheets of photo paper, so if you have a big print job, you'll find yourself standing by to refill the tray. Next to the output tray is a lever that adjusts the tray's position: up for normal output and down for CD/DVD printing. Conversely, the Canon Pixma iP6700D provides two input sources (cassette and tray), which is a convenient setup if you often switch between paper types or regularly print very long documents.

Above the output tray, you'll find a USB port for connecting PictBridge-enabled cameras or USB storage devices, as well as two media card slots that accept most common types of memory cards. (The memory card slots are hidden behind a black, translucent plastic door.) The control panel resides above these inputs. Two mode buttons let you switch between CD/DVD print mode and memory card mode. The setup button takes you to a menu where you can adjust the settings or perform maintenance on the printer. When viewing photos on a memory card, the display/crop buttons switches between allowing you to crop a single photo and zooming out to view 16 images at once--handy if you have a lot of photos on a card. The print settings button brings up a menu that lets you make adjustments to image quality, paper type and size, and layout. You can increase and decrease the number of prints you want on the fly with the plus and minus buttons. Rounding out the control panel is an attractive 3.5-inch color LCD.

The R380 is easy to install and comes equipped with only a USB port for connectivity. It uses a six-ink system with individual tanks, which is great for saving money and reducing waste. The ink-tank compartment is labeled so that you know where each tank lives. All the tanks are available in both regular and high-capacity versions--the regular black costs slightly more than $16 to replace, while the regular color tanks cost about $14.25. Each of the high-capacity tanks costs $20.

Features
The feature set of the Epson Stylus Photo R380 will keep photo hobbyists happy for quite a while. When printing from a memory card, you can click through each picture individually, selecting the number of copies you want, and making adjustments along the way. Specifically, you can crop a photo; choose the type and size of paper; change the output quality; alter the layout (border, borderless, 1-up, 2-up, 20-up, and so on); apply a sepia or black-and-white filter; make adjustments to settings such as brightness, contrast, sharpness, and saturation; and add a date to the print.

If you have a large number of photos on a card, scrolling through them one by one could get tedious, so the R380 offers a zoomed-out view, which shows 20 thumbnails at once on the LCD. Using the thumbnail view, you can quickly set the number of prints you want for each picture and make the above-mentioned adjustments to your chosen pictures. Another alternative is to print an index sheet of all the photos on the card. Because the printer lacks a scanner, the index serves only as a reference. The thumbnails are helpfully labeled with the image number, however, which allows you to quickly scroll through the images on the LCD to the correct one. Alternatively, you can choose to print all the photos on your card or just the ones shot on a particular date. The process for printing photos from a USB drive is the same as we've just described.

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.

Performance
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.

CNET Labs photo inkjet printer performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Photo speed  
Text speed  
Canon Pixma iP6700D
1.35 
2.86 
HP Photosmart 8250*
1.12 
5.34 
Note: * The HP's photo speed is for printing an 8x10 photo; the Canon and Epson's speeds are for a 4x6 photo.

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.

7.3

Epson Stylus Photo R380

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 7Support 6