New Gear: Epson Stylus Photo R1800 Printer

Well, it’s a holiday weekend, so I had to go buy something big. (That’s been the things that always seems to happen with Beck and me on these long weekends!)

Best Buy had a 12% off coupon, and I’ve been itching for a printer. I really wanted an HP B9180, but those crazy things just don’t seem to be getting released — folks have been waiting since February. The itch finally got too bad, so with the encouragement of the coupon, I walked out of the local Best Buy with the R1800.

This is a pretty legendary printer, allegedly with stunning color, decent black and white, and plenty of capabilities to handle my on-demand printing.

So far, let’s say my jury is still out.

I unboxed the beast — it is large — and noticed that the print cartridges were already installed, and most of the shipping tape had been removed from the cover panels. This wasn’t a good sign. The box had “Inspected by Best Buy” tape on the seals, so I assume that they must’ve opened it up to play, or this unit had been in someone else’s house and was returned.

The physical set up was easy, but getting the first plain paper print out of the thing was challenging. It seemed to want only roll paper, and I was having none of that. I finally figured out how to make that problem go away, and was able to print some fast draft plain paper prints. Easy.

I pulled up an image of Fergie — loads of minute detail in her fur, and plenty of gradual color changes. I figured this would be a good image to work with. I opened it in Photoshop, resized it, sharpened it with Nik using the Epson settings, and began to print.

Banding. I had banding. Ugh. There was an especially bad band in the last quarter-inch of print area. This was not good.

I took the same image — no changes — and ran it through my HP 8450, and it printed like a champ. Beautiful print.

Since I didn’t know how long the print cartridges had sat quietly hardening in the box, I ran through a nozzle cleaning exercise, and printed again.

Again I had banding, although not as bad.

Next was a print head alignment. For this next test print, I noticed a setting for “Best Photo” rather than “Photo” in the print driver. I set that, and between those two changes, my printing was better.

But, there was still banding, especially noticeable in the green grass around Fergie. And, there was still a color shift band in the last quarter inch of print. Urgh.

I bought a set of new ink cartridges with the printer — about $115 — and I’m inclined to install them and see if the banding disappears. If the printheads are replaced along with the cartridges, then that might work. However, before popping the cork on eight pricey cartridges, I’ve got a little more research to do. Perhaps there’s some quick fix out there.

I ain’t holding my breath. 🙁