Epson Stylus Photo R360
Well, for a six-cartridge, dye-ink, borderless-A4 home printer, the Epson Stylus Photo R360 outputs excellent images. It uses Epson’s new Claira ink technology, which is claimed to improve black density (weak blacks can be a problem with non-pigment, single-black-cartridge printers), provide fade-resistant tones superior to those of photo-lab prints, be water-resistant on approved stock and deliver prints that, stored appropriately, will not fade for 200 years. We didn’t have the time to investigate this last claim, but the images we rendered on Epson Ultra Glossy are sharp, rich and supremely shiny. The ink takes very well to Epson paper, as you’d expect, and to our eyes, the output looks every bit as good as wet-process prints.
The R360 sits towards the top of the price range for home-orientated photo printers so, having established that it prints well, what else do you get? Not a USB cable, apparently. Epson seems so chuffed with the R360’s standalone image-management and manipulation features, including SD, xD, CF and MS card slots, a 3.5in colour LCD and on-board cropping, enhancement and red-eye-removal functions, that a USB cable appears to have been considered superfluous. The idea is that you plug your camera or memory card straight in via PictBridge or the card slot, preview and select shots via the display, then print them directly. Without Mac connectivity, you’ll be missing out on the bundled software, which includes Easy Photo Print, a quick means of optimising images for print, Image Framer Tool for applying borders, plus various printer and image-management utilities.
Setting up the printer to operate with, or independently of, the Mac is very easy. The six independent ink cartridges, featuring the usual CMYK plus light magenta and light cyan, initialise within seconds and their ink status is conveniently shown on the LCD – no poking around in obscure printer-maintenance dialogs required. Of course, ink and paper consumables are going to cost over the long term, but with each £6.99 cartridge being separate, you can replace those that are looking run down individually, rather than being forced to shell out for a multi-well cartridge.
Output quality, ease of use, smart ink management and the facility to print on suitable CDs/DVDs all add up to justify the R360’s cost price. Even if you never use the printer’s stand-alone functions, its card slots double as a handy multi-format card reader. As mentioned at the outset, however, what really matters is output quality and in this respect, and at the price, the printer cannot be faulted.