Archive Reviews

Review: Epson Stylus Photo R1900 Wide Format Printer

Quick Overview

If you are looking to print some of the best pictures out there, the Epson Stylus Photo R1900 is one of the finest machines that has come across my review desk. While it comes in with a very large physical footprint 24.2(w) x 12.5 (d) x 8.5 (h), it more than makes up for it with it's speed and high quality prints from it's pigment based inks. 

The Epson R1900 handles most media with ease, with sizes ranging from 4" x 6" to 13" x 44" if using a roll paper. During my testing I tried 11.7" x 16.5", 8.5" x 11", 5" x 7", regular single sheet paper, and a variety of samples from matte to glossy. It handled all of these, and performed quite well in my tests.

For those printer geeks, Epson says it has a MicroPiezo AMC print head. 180 nozzles x 8 color channels, up to 5760 x 1440 dpi, as small as a 1.5 picoliter ink droplet. That's more info than I needed to know, but for those that love the tech specs, enjoy.

As far as speed,  Epson touts speeds for  5 x 7 in 59 sec, 8 x 10 in 96 sec, and 11 x 14 in 156 sec, all in the 'Best Photo Mode' setting. During my testing, the speeds were on track with what they said, but sometimes slower or faster depending on the size and resolution of the images.

Hardware Install

If you've setup a printer before, this is no different -- it's your typical printer installation. Follow along the quick start guide and remove all of the pieces of tape inside and out of the printer. Power it up, insert the inks, and it will prime all of them for you. Finally, connect the USB cable to the rear of the printer, but not to the computer yet - you want to install the drivers first. This printer comes with two USB 2.0 high speed ports. You can connect one cable to your Desktop and one to your Laptop, which is something I never thought I would use, until I used it. If you only have one machine, you can use the second USB port connect it to your camera and print from your camera if it supports the PictBridge standard. I didn't get to test this, but Epson assures me it works. An SDCard slot is omitted, but since this printer has no display screen, there would be no way to view/navigate the images to print anyway.

Software Install

Insert the DVD and click on the Epson Install icon and it launches a wizard that gives you the options for the R1900 driver, Epson PRINT CD (for printing on CD/DVD media), and the Epson Reference guide. I chose to install all of them, but if you don't think you will be printing CD/DVD media, you can skip that one. Start the installation and Mac OS X will prompt you for your admin password before proceeding. As the installation progresses, pay attention because at some point during the install it will ask you to connect your printer and turn it on.

The installation can take several minutes, and at one point I thought it totally stopped, but eventually it did finish and asked me to print a test page. My initial install went without any problems at all.

One thing to note: I checked Software Update on my Mac, and it did show some new Epson printer drivers for my version of OS X Snow Leopard - 10.6.7. After you install the basic drivers, I suggest you try and run Software Update too.

Printing Tests

Now that everything was setup, I quickly fired up iPhoto and inserted a 4" x 6" blank piece of Epson photo paper into the R1900. I found a nice looking photo with a subject up against a blue sky and figured this would be able to provide me with a nice contrast of skin and sky. The native resolution was 1936 x 2592 JPEG, an image taken outside with my iPhone 4. Normally I wouldn't make my first print with something off of my phone, but since the iPhone 4 has such a magnificent camera when used outdoors, I knew it would be a fine test subject.  Also, in our household, it's usually the only camera we have with us, and 90% of our pictures are taken with our iPhone 4 cameras.  

As it printed, I wondered how this would fare, since typically when I print from iPhoto, the prints always come out a little bit darker than I thought they would. It's probably an issue since my monitor isn't calibrated to match my printer, so it's natural to expect things won't look EXACTLY like they do on screen. Not to digress, but If I really cared about it, I would get the calibration tool. If you are a professional reading this, you probably have already done this, and will get even better results and performance out of the R1900 than I did. 

After printing the 4" x 6" I was very impressed with the quality of the printout. It printed in about 40 seconds, with a few of those seconds afforded to the printer warming up. Not bad at all. The print was just as good, if not better than other printers I have previously tested. However, this printer is physically big, so I wanted to start testing all of the available media types I had on hand.

Next I tried printing that same image on 5" x 7" photo paper. Again, it looked great! This imaged printed in under a minute, and was on track with what Epson told me in their literature (59seconds in Best Photo Mode). Once again, impressive. My next test was an 8.5" x 11" print of the same image I had been using. This one printed, but took about 1min 45 seconds. Again, some of this time was the printer warming up but that still factors into the overall print time. The 8.5" x 11" looked OK, but nothing I would put on display in my living room. With this particular photo, I think I reached it's limit, as it started to look grainy. Passable to the passerby, but not crisp like I expect my 'display' photos to look. This isn't really a limitation of the R1900, but more the resolution and lighting of the image I was using. 

For the larger prints I needed to upgrade the resolution, so I found some photos taken with my Panasonic DMC-ZS3. These were taken with a resolution of 3648 x 2736, much more suitable for 8x10 and larger. I inserted some of the 8.5" x 11" Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster and this time I had superb results. The luster paper gave me a photo that resembled something you would get from Sears or other portrait studio. It wasn't a glossy finish like we typically get with 4" x 6" & 5" x 7", but a beautiful rich looking image with little glare. With the combination of this paper and the R1900's ability, this photo looked exquisite. It was on par with any printers I have tested in the past, and in my opinion it surpassed them.

Still, most printers can print at least an 8" x 10", so now came the real test - BIG PHOTOS. Epson supplied me with some 11" x 16.5" premium photo glossy paper, so that is the largest I could try. Since I didn't want to waste my test ink, I found one of the best pictures in my library I could find - a family picture taken with a Nikon D80 at a resolution of 2592 x 3872 TIFF file. I inserted the paper into the R1900, hit print in iPhoto, selected A3 from the paper type, selected the proper paper, and pressed the print button.  In under three minutes I had an incredible  keepsake that immediately went on the wall in my living room. I was HIGHLY impressed with the quality. Colors were vivid and dynamic, there were no detectible smears or defects in the photo at all. To see something so high quality coming out of  a printer sitting next to me and not at the photolab was fantastic. In fact, I've had prints done at a professional lab before that didn't even come close to this. The downside with printing large images like this though is the ink. Ink quickly gets eaten up, especially if you make a mistake and print the wrong thing (like I did later in testing!). For example, if you try and print a large photo with a large amount of one specific color, that ink color is going to get used up more quickly than if you print pictures with varying colors, and not too much of one particular one. If you do a picture of the sky, expect the colors that make up the sky (e.g. Cyan) to deplete quicker than your red. I didn't try any black and white photos, because my experience with ink jets in the past is the black depletes too quickly. It's a good idea to use the ink monitor tool installed with your printer drivers to keep an eye on your ink levels.

Panoramic Printing

This is where I really wanted to try to test the limits of this printer. So many photo apps make it easy to create panorama pics, it's only natural you would want to print your own panoramic shots. This is where the testing became more difficult. I couldn't find any apps on the Mac to print panoramic pictures. I tried fooling around and adjusting some of the iPhoto settings with no success, and finally gave Apple's high end Aperture a try and was able to get out a small panoramic picture by making some adjustments in the print dialog. Still, this didn't turn out as I had hoped. This printer has so much potential, I hate to be limited by the software. 

Since I didn't have the roll paper, I used the A3 paper, and due to my panoramic image being so wide, it printed out a 16.5" wide postcard size image that had to be cut out. Not exactly what I was looking for, but it's the best I could do during my testing. Perhaps on the PC there are some better solutions, but on the Mac, I was unable to find them. 

Regular A3 on top, and the Panorama on bottom.

INK

Once of the reasons these photos look so great is because of the Epson UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2 pigment ink that has an improved gloss optimizer and new red and orange inks. It can even auto-switch between photo and matte black types regardless of the media inserted, so you will always get the deepest blacks, regardless. Pretty cool. 

While I can't give a definite on how much Ink this R1900 has used during my testing, I can tell you that so far I have printed thirty 4" x 6", ten 5" x 7", eight 11.7" x 16.5" images, as well as five 8.5" x 11.5" photos.  The only time I was prompted to replace the ink was when the 'GLOSS OPTIMIZER' ran out. It wouldn't let me print anything with even one ink low. Since they weren't high capacity ink cartridges I was extremely surprised I was able to print that much out of the stock ink that comes with the unit. 

Refill ink price is about $13 per cartridge - and there are eight of them, so you need to factor that into the cost. Depending on the types of images you  print, you will see that some inks get used more than others. So you may not replace all of the inks at once, but it's probably a good idea to keep spare  around, due to the fact you are unable to print if ANY of them are out. 

Conclusion

Overall, I love this R1900 printer. You can use it for printing photos of all sizes and will end up with fantastic results that look better than most photo labs. The overall footprint of the R1900 is big on your desk, but if you need to print large photos, I think it is well worth making a place for it next to your Mac. I really liked the speed and quality of the printing, and it's construction gives it an overall professional feel to the printer. Make no mistake, it can print on paper, but it has Photo in the name and you don't want to get this for your everyday printer. Get a cheap all-in-one for that, and use this for your high quality photo printing. Easily a 4.75 out of 5. Highly recommended. 

Product

Epson Stylus Photo R1900

Price: $549.99 USD, cheaper on Amazon

Pros

  • Excellent print quality
  • Prints on variety of media sizes and types
  • Speedy and quiet

 

Cons

  • Very large physical footprint
  • Wont print unless all cartridges have ink
  • Pricey

 

Review: Roku Digital Video Player & More - Thinkmac Reviews

Even with audio problems we still manage to talk about the Roku Digital video player and Netflix Streaming via Roku, Wii, Tivo HD, and XBOX 360 (sorry, we are iPad talked out!). We also touch on how to manage your Netflix queue with your iPhone and more. 

Listen to this Episode

This week's Co-Host: @shealadraws  (She's the one that does all of our fancy logos!). 

Running Time: 25:42

Links:

Roku

iPhlix Netflix Queue Manager

Phone Phlix

Instant Queue Add for Netflix (My favorite)

Review: Fujitsu Scansnap S1300 Mobile Scanner - Thinkmac Reviews

Hear all about the Fujitsu Scansnap S1300 on our latest Episode of Thinkmac Reviews. 

Host: Jonathan Cost / Co-host: Tim Verpoorten
Running time: 32:37  Subscribe in iTunes / Listen Here

Going Paperless is all the buzz right now. Fujitsu has a new mobile scanner that might just do the trick. Fujitsu's Scansnap S1300 is a perfect companion to the road warrior or the guy/gal with a small office at home.

Setup

Setup is painless and you can be up and running in under 10 minutes.  You follow the quick start guide and install the software on your Mac or PC. You do this first, and  and once it's done, plug in your scanner, flip the top open and when the solid blue light illuminates it's ready to scan. Insert your document and it launches the scanning tools, the Scansnap Manager.  You have to keep the Scansnap software running, or this won't work and the blue light will flash at you until it is launched. By default, it will make it a login item, so it's always going to be open down in your Dock. 

Hardware Requirements

Fujitsu recommeds at least 1.83 Core duo and USB interface. If you use a slower processor, scanning will slow down. 

Software

You get the Scansnap manager, which is the interface to the scanner. After you scan the document, you choose how you want to manage it with the Scansnap manager. It's there that you choose to launch the appropriate applications to scan in business cards (Card Iris) or scan to MS Word / Excel (ABBYY FineReader in the background for conversion). Other options are to scan it to a folder, email message, or an iPhoto image.

Each of these options makes it very easy to manipulate the scanned document. Some might see using the Scansnap S1300 as a negative, since it doesn't use the standard TWAIN drivers to interface with 3rd party applications. However, I found that once you use the Scansnap to get your document inside of your Mac, then you can usually import your document into whatever tool you wish.

I am only reviewing the Mac portion, but I did try it on the Windows 7 & XP installs I have as well, and the software there was just as good, if not more robust, offering several features that the Mac software doesn't have.   That is what is really nice about this scanner, it's cross platform, and it works for me no matter if I am running my Windows install or OS X Snow Leopard.

Here is a quick overview to each of the Scansnap manager options.

Scan To Folder

Does exactly what you think it does. It saves the file in a pre-determined folder on your computer. You can change the default location in the settings. It can save it as PDF or JPEG, depending on what you have configured it to do. You can save your scan to a local, networked, or MobileMe folder. 

Scan to Email

Scan a document, click the Scan to Email and it will scan it and then prompt you for the Filename and provide you with a preview of the document. Once you are satisfied, click Attach to Email and it opens up Mail.app with a new message and your scan attached. This is great if you really need to get something out quick. 

Print

You can scan a document and then click the print option from the ScanSnap manager and it will bring up your standard print dialog box to print it. 

Card Iris

It allows you to scan in business cards and then convert them into an address database.  It uses OCR and tries to extract relevant data so that you don't have to type it in. It alllows you to directly export the data to VCard, text, html, and other contact management software, such as MS Entourage. It did an ok job of scanning in cards and detecting the relevant fields to enter. I would have to go through and correct some, but that is to be expected. Unfortunately, get ready to go back in time. CardIris software looks old and not up to current Mac interface standards (it requires rosetta to be installed).  

Scan To WORD & Excel

You scan the document, choose Scan to word, and in the background ABBYY FineReader converts the document into text and images and inserts it into a new MS Word document. I found this worked incredibly well and allowed me to make editable documents very quickly.  The best results were with items that were already printed and not hand written. I tried to scan in some hand printed info and it wasn't able to decipher my writing at all. Not one decipherable word. You can setup a plethora of recognizable languages for it to interpret, have it highlight uncertain characters, keep line breaks and a few other things that give you that extra bit control.

From Quick to Advanced

You can go into the more advanced ScanSnap Setup menu and choose not to use the quick menu, but to use some predetermined profile options, where you can get extremely granular with how you like to have your scanning done. I setup one for receipts, and was able to customize the output folder, filename format, precise image quality, single/double sided, and set them to become searchable PDFS.    You can do multiple profiles and I found this worked out very nicely and allowed me to speed up my workflow. It's a very nice feature. 

Target Audience

I think it's aimed at the Small Office Home Office or road warrior on the go. Since it is lightweight (3lbs) and small in size, it makes it quite easy to take a long. You can power it totally by USB, making it the perfect mobile scanner. It's not aimed for the person who  wants to scan in photos. While it can scan a photo, the optical  image resolution of this scanner is 600x600, so it's not going to provide great quality. Additionally, it's an Auto Document Feeder scanner, so it's not a Flatbed style, and that's usually better for photos anyway.

Conclusion

Now is the time to go paperless. This scanner is super fast, does double sided color and black and white documents, optical character recognition and can even make your documents searchable. It's an incredibly smart scanner and the software is some of the easiest I have used. Highly Recommended!

PROS

-Mac or PC

-Very mobile. Small size, weight, and can be powered via AC or USB.

CONS

-Price Upper $200 range

Product: Fujitsu Scansnap S1300
Price: $295 USD

Amazon Price: $264

Review: iFrogz EarPollution CS40 Headphones - Thinkmac Reviews

Thumping bass, unique styling, and cushy earpads make the iFrogz EarPollution CS (comfort series) headphones a good choice for someone looking for a value with on the ear headphones.

Steve Sheridan and I each reviewed a pair of these on this episode of Thinkmac Reviews.  

We talked about the sound, durability, style, and compared them to some of our headphones we have on-hand.

Click to Listen to this episode

Running time: 15:06

My co-host is: Steve Sheridan 

Conclusion

These are surprisingly good sounding headphones for the price. They are a good choice for a younger non-audiophile that wants to get away from earbuds and move to something with a little more comfort and punch. At a price of $40, they are an excellent choice for casual listening or to take along in your backpack. 

Pros

- Punchy Bass

- Comfortable ear padding

- Solid construction with a rugged cord

Cons 

- Highs less than spectacular, and sound muffled. Can be compensated for when you use the treble enhance in your iPod  equalizer

- No padding on the top section that rests on your head

Product: iFrogz EarPollution CS40

Price: $39.99

Review: ZBoost YX510 - Boost iPhone Signal - Thinkmac Reviews

This week we reviewed the ZBoost YX 510 Dual band cell phone booster. This dual band unit will take a cell signal from outside and boost it into something usable inside, especially on problem phones like the iPhone, although it isn't limited to just that. Give the proper outdoor signal, it will boost any cell phone on the 800Mhz & 1900Mhz bands. In the United States, this covers AT&T and Verizon, and most other carriers, with the exception of Nextel.

On this weeks show, my co-host is Katie Floyd from MacPowerUsers podcast. Katie has installed two of the Zboost units and it wasn't all positive for her.  We cover my setup and test of the Zboost, both of her installs, and why one of them didn't work out. We also talk about other options such as the AT&T MicroCell. 

If you have problems with cell phone signal in your home or office, you don't want to miss this episode.

My Co-Host is @KatieFloyd from Mac Power Users

Running time: 33:14    Download Here

For those that can't wait, here is the gist of it. 

Conclusion

This unit worked as advertised.  Anytime you are working with RF, it takes some patience. Trees, Metal, other RF interference, it can all inhibit your signal. That's why when you stand near a window, you can usually get a little better coverage. If your signal is marginal outside, then it's going to be about the same with the Zboost.  You can't amplify what isn't there. In my case, I have 5 bars outside of my house, but inside it drops down to 1 or 2 bars, depending where I am in the house. That makes the Zboost a good case for me.  If you live in an area where you can barely get any coverage, this probably isn't the solution for you.  You can buy some add-on directional antennas that may work though, but most of them will add about $100 to the price. 

Definitely try it in different places. I found that the higher up you place the antenna, the better your results will be. Don't have your heart set on having it setup in your utility closet.

Product: Wi-Ex Zboost YX 510 Dual Band (800Mhz & 1900 Mhz)

Price: $399 (Shop around for this).