by Mike McNamee Published 01/02/2010
"Following the launch of the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 in September this year, Epson's share of the A2+ market grew by almost 3% in Q3 to 93%..."
Epson recently up-rated their 3800 to the 3880 by the incorporation of the UltraChrome Vivid Magenta ink set, to bring it in line with their 4880 and 7880 stablemates. The changes though are more than a badge change and new ink. The driver engine that controls droplet placement has been upgraded to the new AccuPhoto HD2 with claims of increased smoothness and improved metamerism. We can confirm that the engine does not work in the same way; we sent a print through using a 3800 profile and got a quite different print (it was much lighter).
Of all the printers that have passed through our hands and remained for any length of time, the 3800 has been a favourite by a mile. For many photographers, both enthusiast and professional, it is the perfect size. It can make up to A2 prints which fits the standard competition size of 20x16 inches (more recently 50x40 cm) but can also deal with postcards, greetings cards and 1.5mm board. The ability to easily switch between matt ink and photo ink is a huge and continuing bonus.
The cartridge size of 80ml also marks the 3800 and 3880 out from the crowd. For a marginal investment you move from the 13ml cartridges of the A3 printers to one that lasts for a long time in normal use. Our own 3800 has carts installed from as far back as May 2008 and four of those remaining are 2008 vintage (we always date them!). For the record the 2008 carts are Mk, M, LC and Y). This despite the fact that the old warhorse is used on almost every paper test that we carry out. In some ways the ink usage is an illusion; the same density on a print usually means an identical volume of ink has been used. Our machine has now made 1,760 prints and has used 1,056ml of ink in total (it tells you in the menu!). This is equivalent to 0.6ml per print or about 38p per print at today's prices. Most of our prints are A3. This then is the background against which we tested the 3880.
For this review, we initially worked on a project with Permajet who have been profiling the 3880 for their entire range and they asked us to audit their output for colour precision (this represents more than 30 papers). Following that we have obtained a test 3880 ourselves to carry out further work
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