- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

If you have room for only one printer on your desk, you might want to consider the Epson Stylus C80, a new inkjet printer in stores now for $179, as the one to have. In testing, it's proven a fast, sharp and colorful printer, particularly when printing photographs on photolike paper.
With rounded corners and topped by a smoky plastic lid, the printer is compact enough for many desks, is easy to operate, and, as mentioned, offers some stunning output. Paper feeding is from the rear of the unit, and papers can be switched easily. Text printing is in the range of good to very good, and all printing is quick and relatively quiet. I believe I could speak on the phone while printing with this unit and not suffer too greatly, a far cry from earlier inkjets (and, earlier still, dot matrix printers that didn't cry, but shrieked).
My best results in printing text came when I used the highest quality (and slowest speed) setting on the printer, which is selected from an on-screen "preferences" menu invoked before printing begins. (In Microsoft Word, for example, this means selecting "print" from the file menu and then "preferences," as opposed to merely hitting the on-screen print button; all this sounds more complicated than it is.) But going through the steps produced text that was, indeed, razor sharp, and the kind you'd want to see on a resume or business letter. What this does to the ink supply is hard to say, although I imagine there's a "hit" from printing text at the highest resolution.
The good news with the Epson Stylus C80, however, is that the ink tanks are of a good size and are separate. If you run out of this or that color, replace the cartridge. Color ink cartridges cost $12 each, while the black ink cartridge, which is twice the size of the color ones, is $36. The Epson people say the black ink cartridge should yield about 1,240 pages, roughly three times the 420-page output of a color cartridge.
All this sounds a bit confusing, and it can be. But the bottom line seems to be that the Stylus C80 offers a good printing value for money, although some effort is required to learn the various ins and outs of the printer, in addition to some fine-tuning of the printer driver, to produce the results you want.
Setting up the printer, and its basic operation, is a piece of cake, however. The printer features both parallel and Universal Serial Bus (USB) connections, making it suitable for use with a PC or a Macintosh. Under Microsoft Windows XP, I didn't have to install any software the printer driver was apparently included and the device was ready to use just by plugging in the cable.
As mentioned, the paper path is straight from the rear to the front, and the output tray extends to hold pages up to 81/2 by 11 inches with ease. I never experienced a paper jam with the printer.
While text printing has its vagaries, the Stylus C80 excels when it comes to printing photographs, particularly on the semiglossy photo paper Epson makes and sells for the unit. Using some letter-sized sheets supplied by the firm, I printed out several photos, some from the Internet, some from digital cameras I've used and one from a friend in New Mexico whose latest "toy" is a 5-megapixel digital camera.
My friend's photo came out brilliantly, with a color fidelity that a film lab would envy. A photo I'd taken of our two cats, curled up together on a chair, drew oohs and ahhs from my wife's co-workers when she took it to the office. A couple of high-resolution shots downloaded from the Web also made for nice printouts.
Some other files, however, because of lower resolutions, were a bit blotchy in some spots, while razor sharp in others. The moral is to be certain of the resolution of the photo you're printing before you hit the print button. As with the old computing phrase of "garbage in, garbage out," so it is with printing digital photos: send the printer a bad image, and you'll get a bad print.
For those in business even a small or home-based business an optimal solution might be to have two printers at the ready. A low-cost laser printer one of which almost always sits on my desk is an indispensable item, particularly when the sharpest text or monochrome print quality is required; say with forms or other documents. But lasers (at least the ones I can afford) are monochrome marvels, with color an unattainable dream due to price and other considerations. For those needs, an inkjet printer is a great solution, and the Stylus C80 is an excellent value in that area. More information can be found online at www.epson.com.

Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; sende-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back live to Mr. Kellner on www.adrenalineradio.com every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. EST.


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