Ease of Use
As mentioned previously, the R3000 is quite easy to setup over your existing Wi-Fi network. Just plug in the power cord, select your Wi-Fi network using the wireless setup menu on the printer, enter your password and the printer is ready to go. Then all you have to do is install the Epson software drivers either from the included CD or via a download from the Epson website.
You can control just about all of the R3000’s settings either by using the “Devices and Printers” menu in the Windows Control Panel or simply select “Print” in Photoshop and navigate the printer settings from there.
The only minor headache we encountered when using the R3000 came when printing to specialty papers such as the Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper which has to be fed into the printer using the front-loading single-sheet tray. Each time that we needed to load a new sheet in the front we had to navigate the menu on the printer’s LCD screen itself. A more elegant (and quicker) solution might have been for a pop-up window to automatically show up when you select the option to print an image on specialty paper then you can just click a mouse button on your PC to start the process of loading an individual sheet.
Print Speed and Quality Tests
A three-level black ink technology simultaneously uses Black, Light Black and Light Light Black ink for richer blacks and better tonal range between blacks and grays. The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 automatically switches between two different Black ink modes ? Photo Black or Matte Black ? optimizing black ink density on all traditional and archival photographic media including matte, photo, fine art paper and matte or glossy canvas.
On that note, The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 is the first 13-inch printer with what Epson calls “Advanced Media Handling.” This feature combines three paths to provide a wider range of media support ever for a photo printer. The new front media path is front-in, front-out and enables consistent, reliable feeding of fine art papers, canvas, thick media, CD/DVDs and Epson professional quality photographic papers. Additionally, the roll paper capability enables you to produce panoramas up to 44 inches long. More importantly, this new Advanced Media Handling technology prevents paper scuffing and virtually eliminates misfeeds due to paper skew. We attempted to slightly misfeed several sheets of Epson Ultra Premium photo paper in the R3000 by inserting the paper at a slight angle, but the R3000 aligned each sheet and produced prints that were perfectly positioned on the paper.
In terms of print speed, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 is not only one of the faster wide-format printers we’ve tested, it’s one of the quietest. Epson officially says the R3000 can print a 13 x 19-inch image in as little as 2 minutes and 30 seconds on glossy photo paper. Our typical print times were closer to 4 or 5 minutes depending on the image being printed.
However, the bigger surprise was just how quiet this printer is while it’s running. Every wide-format printer we’ve reviewed is loud enough to hear it printing when you’re standing outside the room where the printer is located – not so with the R3000. There were several times when we thought the printer had stopped working or jammed because we couldn’t hear it in the next room only to discover the R3000 was working just fine when we walked up to the printer.
Of course, at the end of the day the most important performance benchmark for a photo printer is the quality of the photos. What did we think of the print quality from the R3000? In short: the R3000 produces lab-quality prints with exceptional skin tones (a validation of Epson’s Vivid Magenta ink technology) and rich, deep blacks. However, some shadow details – such as the darker parts of a brunette’s hair – simply appear as black “blotches” in the finished prints rather than maintaining subtle variations in the dark areas of the hair. Preserving these shadow details is something that the Canon PIXMA Pro-1 handles better … although we’d say the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 does a better job with skin tones.
Ink Control Tests
Epson made a move in the right direction by making the R3000’s ink cartridges bigger than the ink cartridges from previous generation printers (25.9 ml capacity per cartridge versus 18.2 ml). While these larger cartridges are a welcome change, the simple fact remains that wide-format printers consume massive amounts of ink; a necessary evil when producing 13 x 19-inch prints at the highest print quality setting.
What this means in “real world” use is that we were able to print two color 13 x 19-inch prints on Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper, two 13 x 19-inch monochrome prints and five 13 x 19-inch color prints on Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster before the Epson software alerted us to a low ink cartridge. In other words, you’re basically limited to about a dozen borderless 13 x 19-inch prints at maximum print quality before you need to replace one or more ink cartridges.
This illustrates the biggest problem with wide-format printers … standard ink cartridges (even high-capacity ones) aren’t ideal for producing massive prints. There are continuous ink flow systems available from third-party manufacturers, but it would be nice if Epson finally admits ink cartridges aren’t the best solution for big printers and starts offering an Epson-branded continuous ink system using Epson-approved inks.