Epson Stylus Photo 785EPX

Epson has put everything that today's digi-photographer needs to acquire and print pictures into one, reasonably priced inkjet printer. The Stylus Photo 785EPX has the latest 2880dpi print engine, uses Epson's fast drying 6-color photo inks, can print borderless prints in all standard photographic sizes, includes a PCMCIA slot that allows you to print without a computer or when connected to a computer it functions as an automatic download device and it interfaces via a high-speed USB port. And when you're not printing photo-quality pictures it serves as a regular color printer on plain paper with the capability of producing laser-sharp black text. So for about $249 (or less) you have a printer that can do it all.

My current printer is the Stylus Photo 1270 and I've had nothing but Epson photo printers for the last four years. I'm not saying that the Canon and HP photo printers aren't worthy competitors, they are. I'm just personally satisfied with the Epson printers and have always thought that they were just a bit (OK, a lot) ahead of the "other guys" when it came to overall print quality. Epson printers have permanent print heads which are a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand they are inherently better than inexpensive thermal heads that are part of the ink cartridge that you throw away when they run out of ink. On the other hand they are prone to clogging if not used frequently but this has never been a problem for me as I use my Epson photo printer as my "do it all" printer so it gets a daily workout. This is the main reason for the pump-up cycle that all Epson printers go through when first turned on. This makes sure that there is ink in the feed lines and that the print nozzles are clear.

The output from the Photo 785EPX is nothing short of stunning, it easily passes for real wet-processed photographs when you use glossy photo paper. I have always liked borderless prints and on the 1270 my options were to use the special Epson photo paper with the tear-off tabs or else get out my trusty roto-trimmer. With the 785EPX all I needed to do was load it up with 4x6" paper and select the "no margins" options and print away. You can also use the roll paper holder and the 4" wide roll paper to produce 4x6" glossy prints or panoramic prints up to 44" long.

As I pointed out on page one of this review, the borderless (no margin or full bleed) option effectively doubles the time it takes to print so if you're in a rush to crank out a bunch of prints it isn't exactly the most optimal way to print. Most of us usually have plenty of time so I don't see this as a major drawback, in fact I see the borderless option as one of the more compelling reasons to buy this printer.

Epson is pushing the 2880dpi output resolution as the big selling point of all of its new 2001 photo printers. If you already have an Epson 870, 875DCS or 1270 printer should you run out and buy one of the new ones with the 2880dpi output?  In a word - NO, don't bother. Frankly I have been more impressed with photos printed at 1440dpi on Premium Glossy Photo Paper or Kodak's new Utlima Glossy and Satin paper. The 2880dpi prints take twice as long to print, use twice as much ink and when examined at hand's length I think the 1440dpi prints have better shadow detail.

If you're shopping for your first photo printer then by all means jump on the Stylus Photo 785EPX, 890 or 1280 printers -- they're all winners and which one you get depends on your needs. And don't forget that these printers don't just do photos -- they're perfect for text and mixed text and graphics too.   I don't own a second printer, my Epson Photo does it all, and does it all in style !