DATELINE: January 1999 Issue
New Ink-Jet is Not all BusinessBy Gil Loyola
Epson’s new four-color ink-jet printer, the Stylus Color 740, may be its most versatile. Aimed at the small-office/home-office market, the Stylus Color 740 offers impressive photo-realistic output, making it a great low-cost alternative to color-laser and dye-sublimation printers. But this printer is not all business: its ease of use, reasonable price, and USB interface make it an ideal choice for iMac users. It also features a serial interface for use with other Macs.
Not New, but Improved
Like the popular Stylus Color 600 and 800 ink-jet printers, the Stylus Color 740 uses Epson’s proprietary Micro Piezo printing technology. Unlike ink-jets that use thermal-printing technology, Epson’s ink-jets use electrical impulses rather than heat to force ink through print nozzles onto a page. This process minimizes splatter, thus creating cleaner, more consistent dots. With the Stylus Color 740, Epson has modified the Micro Piezo print head to produce smaller and variable-sized dots, resulting in better photo quality and finer detail.
Documents printed with the Stylus Color 740’s default settings showed good color reproduction except for minor oversaturation. This was evident in our Adobe Photoshop prints, where we noticed some loss of shadow detail. However, when we experimented with the software settings and printed on high-quality photo paper, photographic images were truly exceptional, with realistic flesh tones and smooth color transitions. The printer also did a good job when printing text on high-grade glossy paper, but type was a bit fuzzy on plain paper.
QuarkXPress and Adobe Illustrator documents printed from the Stylus Color 740 and its six-color counterpart, the Stylus Photo 700 (see "
Print Out," Macworld, October 1998), looked almost identical. While the 700 edged out the 740 in color accuracy, the 740 excelled in sharpness and detail rendering.
In the Driver’s Seat
Epson’s software driver for the Stylus Color 740 offers three color-management options: ColorSync, PhotoEnhance3 (recommended for digital camera prints), and user-defined custom settings. These options are more than adequate for imaging novices. However, professionals may be disappointed with the lack of a PostScript option.
During testing, we found that using Epson’s standard ColorSync profile yielded the best results. The driver interface is easily navigable and lends itself to experimentation, so creating the best possible print is not difficult. Also included is a user-friendly maintenance and diagnostic wizard that makes cleaning and adjusting the 740’s print heads a cinch.
Speed and Cost
Though ink-jet printers have improved in speed, they still don’t compare to color lasers (about four to six pages per minute), and the Stylus Color 740 is no exception. At the highest resolution of 1,440 dpi, Photoshop prints averaged nearly 10 minutes per page, and our QuarkXPress document averaged 7.5 minutes per page. Printing a full-page Word 98 document averaged almost 7 minutes.
For everyday use, the Stylus Color 740’s faster 720-dpi setting may be more than adequate, but if you need your documents to look their best, be prepared to wait for them.
The 740 uses two ink cartridges, one black and one color (cyan, magenta, and yellow). Inks are formulated for quick-drying and smudge-free prints. Cartridges cost $29.95 each and will give you about 300 prints, unless you plan to print lots of high-resolution documents, which use more ink.
For the highest-quality prints, it’s a good idea to invest in Epson’s ink-jet paper, which ranges from 14 cents per page for thin coated paper to $2.13 per page for glossy photo stock.
Making the Connection
Setting up the 740 is simple: just pop in two ink cartridges, connect the printer to your serial or USB port, and install the drivers. No networking options are available, but you can connect up to three computers-a Mac, an iMac, and a PC-simultaneously to the 740’s serial, USB, and parallel ports, respectively. The driver handles just one print job at a time, but it’s still a neat feature.
The Stylus Color 740’s built-in USB port is a first for ink-jets. This is a great option for iMac users, since compatible printers are scarce, and most that do support USB use a somewhat costly parallel-to-USB adapter cable.
Although some iMac users experienced compatibility problems with early versions of USB drivers from Epson and Apple, the 740 worked trouble-free during our testing, with no crashes in the applications we used. It’s a good idea to download and install the latest USB drivers for the Stylus Color 740 and iMac from Epson’s and Apple’s respective Web sites.
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