Epson Stylus Pro 3880 full review

Most A2+ printers are enormous things you need plenty of office space for, but the Epson Stylus Photo 3880 is exception that proves the rule. Designed to sit on your desk (although it’ll have to be a pretty big desk), it’s more like a regular inkjet on steroids. Something that makes it useful for all kinds of users – from design studios to pro photographer and even keen amateur snappers who love to show off their prints.

As you’d expect it comes with both a USB 2.0 port and an Ethernet port so you can share it with other users across a home or office network and it can helpfully accommodate all kinds of print sizes and paper types from 4”x6” photo paper, fine art paper and even 1.5mm board right up to A2+ size (17”x22”).

All the paper you want to use is fed into the paper at the back with three possible paper paths: an automatic sheet feeder for plain and photo paper, a single sheet feeder behind that for fine art papers, etc and a third flat paper feed at the front for thick card and board. The Stylus Pro 3880 doesn’t give you the option to use roll paper, although the printer does have a maximum paper length of 37.4”, which should be enough for most purposes.

Inside, the Stylus Pro 3880 uses nine large 80ml tanks using UltraChrome K3 inks with Vivid Magenta. These are pigment-based with a wide colour gamut and should last for up to 200 years when displayed indoors under glass. Mono prints are similarly rated. The ink tanks comprise cyan, vivid magenta, yellow, light cyan, vivid light magenta, light black, light light black, photo black and matte black. Each tanks costs around £48.28 (inc. VAT) to buy direct from Epson so feeding the printer isn’t cheap. You’ll also need to buy an additional maintenance cartridge – which is used to store excess ink used during print head alignment and cleaning – for an additional £17.88. You’ll be able to print 225 A2 prints at 1440x720 dpi per ink cartridge set, giving you a cost per print of £1.93.

Epson Stylus Pro 3880

The Epson Stylus Pro 3880’s top control panel gives you easy access to printer settings and lets you carry out essential maintenance tasks without having to use your Mac.

One thing we really like about the Stylus Pro 3880 is because it houses both its matte black and photo black tanks internally, you won’t need to do any messy ink tank swaps to switch from one kind of printing to another. Instead, that all happens automatically inside the printer, although you will notice a short pause while the printer swaps from one cartridge to another.

Getting the printer up and running is a breeze. The supplied software is easy to install and comes with a wide range of ICC profiles for use with Photoshop, etc. Epson could really do with updating its installer – you have to install Rosetta to get it to work with Snow Leopard.

The Stylus Pro 3880 does includes a top-mounted mono LCD with basic menu controls so you don’t have to use your Mac to carry out maintenance or adjust the printer settings – something that’s especially handy if you plan to use the printer on a network. You’ll also be pleased to hear that the Stylus Pro 3880 is remarkably quiet – you could happily have one on your desk and still get on with your work, something that can’t be said for a lot of printers of this type.

As for the prints themselves? They’re nothing short of remarkable. Our test images were wonderfully detailed with strong, vibrant colours and free of any colour banding and very little bleeding. The printer was able to maintain detail even in shadowy areas, while skin tones look natural and are beautifully rendered.

We didn’t notice any significant difference between the printed output using different printer settings – such as Super Fine or Super Photo (which increases the print resolution to 2880 x 1400 pixels). However the results aren’t quick. Printing out an A3 test page using the quickest setting averaged four minutes and 20 seconds; and more than double that in Super Fine mode and over 14 minutes using Super Photo. All of these times are pretty respectable – and is the price you pay for getting prints that are as good looking as these.

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