by Mike McNamee Published
Just as we went to press last issue we had the opportunity to test the Epson 4800 and 9800 Stylus Pro printers. Our initial look left us very impressed to the extent that contributor, Paul Gallagher went out and bought the 7800, enabling us to look at all three machines in some detail. Here is what we have found after a month's non-stop testing, yards of paper, pints of ink and gallons of midnight oil!
The Concept The printers, all launched simultaneously, are the 4800, the 7800 and 9800, giving maximum media widths of 17" (A2+), 24" (A1+) and 44" (BO1+). All share the UltraChrome K3 ink set comprising Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Light Black, Light Light Black plus either a Photo Black (Pk) or a Matte Black (Mk). There are eight slots for cartridges which means that, unlike the Epson 4000, you have to choose your black cartridge or stand the estimated £45 cost of swapping the inks over. The Matte Black ink is optimised for the matte and art papers, the Photo Black is essential for the gloss and lustre finishes but may be used on matte papers with a slight loss in maximum black density and some loss of advanced monochrome functions.
In addition to the "800" series there are three other printers, aimed at high-output applications and named 4400, 7400 and 9400. They use only four UltraChrome colour cartridges, doubled up, into the eight slots, to produce a 50% increase in productivity. We did not test any of them for this review.
All the machines take roll media and board up to 1.5mm thick. The 4800 has a sheet feed tray, capable of holding 250 sheets of plain paper. The print head is equipped with180 nozzles, delivering 3.5 pico litres droplets, employing Epson Ultra Microdot™ and Variable Sized Droplet technology.
Sadly the cartridges are not cross-compatible between the 4800 and the 7800/9800. Those of the larger two machines are pressurised, the 4800 is not. Why sadly? - well we have often driven across town to borrow a mate's cartridges just to finish one rush print, the incompatibility reduces the options! ("Carry spares!" we hear you cry). The 4800 will print down to 8" minimum width rolls, the 7800 and 9800 down to 10". All three will take a minimum A4/Letter size as a sheet feed. Full edgeto- edge bleed is available only on roll media, and may be cut to any length. Available media widths are listed opposite.
Driver Software The units are connected via USB 2.0 or Firewire IEEE 1394; Mac OS 9/10, Windows 98/2000/XP. (No inter-connection cables are supplied so get organised at ordering time!). There are a number of pieces of software that should be installed. These are the actual printer driver, Epson Status Monitor 3 and the Epson LFP Remote panel. The last one is new, a modification of the former software and allows the user to adjust things like the platen gap, feed rates and head alignments. Be prepared for a long haul if you venture into fine tweaking your printer settings, wimps should go for the auto setting! Installation was straightforward, pick an English version of the three driver CDs, install that, then follow it up by installing the LFP Remote Panel from the fourth CD.
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