Plenty of good ink-jet printers are available, but if you want toget one for less than $200, you often have to sacrifice printing speed, ink capacity, or even print quality. But Epson is shaking things up with its Stylus C80; this new ink-jet printer’s impressive list of features and its outstanding performance and print quality make it an unbelievable buy at $179 (or $149, with a mail-in rebate good until March 31, 2002).
The Stylus C80 is markedly different from any other consumer printer Epson has produced. Under the hood is a new, faster print engine that the company claims is capable of printing as many as 20 black-and-white pages per minute and 10 color pages per minute. Unlike most other Epson Stylus printers, which use one tricolor (cyan, magenta, and yellow) cartridge and one black-ink cartridge, the C80 has a separate high-capacity cartridge for each of the four inks.
As is the case with most Epson printers, the C80’s print quality is top-notch. With a maximum resolution of 2,880 by 720 dpi, it can print very sharp and brilliantly colored photographs on Epson’s matte and semigloss papers. Photographic prints on glossy paper will generally look dull, however, which is a limitation of pigment inks, not the printer. A dedicated, six-color, dye-based photo printer will give you better detail and a wider tonal range when printing photographs — especially on glossy paper — but it can’t matchthe all-around quality the C80 can give you. This is partly due to the C80’s excellent performance on plain paper. In the past, Hewlett-Packard’s ink-jet printers have generally done a much better job of printing text on plain paper than any of Epson’s ink-jets. The C80 is the first Epson printer we’ve seen that prints crisp, clear text on plain paper — even on inexpensive, 20-pound copier paper — at the printer’s lowest resolution (360 dpi). And although we can’t confirm Epson’s claims of 70-year print longevity, we can attest to the waterproof nature of the C80 inks.
Few printers can hit their rated print speeds when performing real-world tasks, and the C80 is no exception. But anyone who’s struggled with the slower print speeds of other low-cost ink-jets will appreciate the quick throughput of the C80, which is significantly faster than comparably priced ink-jet printers we’ve tested (see ”
Macworld’s Ultimate Buyer’s Guide: Printers,” August 2001).
The C80’s ink cartridge proved to have a long life too. We printed more than 700 pages of assorted text and graphics documents before we ran out of black ink, and the cyan, magenta, and yellow ink cartridges were still more than 10 percent full.
Because everyone has different printing needs, your ink mileage will vary, but no matter what you print, you will find the C80’s individual ink tanks to be a vast improvement over low-capacity tricolor cartridges. (The cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges are reasonably priced at $12 each, while the higher-capacity black cartridge costs $33.)
A Mac OS X driver is available–for OS X 10.1 and later–as a download from Epson’s Web site. The only problem we had was an occasional printing glitch in OS X, where a document would not print on the first try because of an error. (Epson is working on the issue.)
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The Stylus C80 is the most exciting printer we’ve seen in a long time: it’s an excellent general-purpose ink-jet that’s equally suited to printing spreadsheets, long documents, newsletters, and photographs. What makes the Stylus C80 so notable, however, is that Epson has wrapped great performance, print quality, and print longevity in such a low-priced package.