It’s not often that we see a printer go as long as four years without an upgrade, a relaunch, or a name change. It’s a short life, being a printer: Most of today’s mainstream all-in-one (AIO) or single-function models get updated (or discontinued) within a year or two. But some printers, meant for specialized uses or audiences, roll on and on.
Take the topic of this review, Epson’s $799.99-list SureColor P600 Wide Format Inkjet Printer, and the machine it replaces, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000, which we reviewed way back in 2011. These are not mainstream printers. An Editors’ Choice winner back then, the highly versatile R3000 was a wide-format, near-dedicated photo printer. It stuck around on the market almost twice as long as most of its kind, thanks to some excellent execution on Epson’s part. The SureColor P600 won’t be nearly as lonely in its dotage as the R3000 was, though: According to Epson, the SureColor P600 is one of 10 “Sure”-branded professional-grade printers that Epson plans to release by 2016.
Despite the long dry spell between upgrades, the SureColor P600 looks, performs, and prints much like its predecessor did. In other words, the SureColor P600 starts out with an excellent lineage, which includes not only the venerable R3000 but also 2009’s Stylus Pro 3880 (the Stylus Photo R3000’s predecessor), which is still on the market today.
Interestingly, if you look back over the six-year span of these Stylus machines, you’ll see that while they have changed considerably in terms of ease of use and other features, the one constant has been their excellent print quality.
Aimed primarily at semi-professional photographers, fine artists, and hobbyists, the SureColor P600 features both an elaborate, many-hued ink-delivery system and support for an exotic array of paper and card stock large and small. We’ll get into that in more detail in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on. In short, though, the P600 uses nine of Epson’s UltraChrome HD Inks, and it prints on premium paper from 3.5×5-inch snapshot stock to 13×19-inch photo paper, as well as banners and panoramas up to almost 11 feet long.
If this sounds like a lot of printer, make no mistake: It is. If it sounds expensive to use: Yep, it’s that, too. As we’ll also cover in detail later on, to get the best results from the SureColor P600, you’ll have to use good paper, and don’t evendream of opting for generic ink-cartridge refills in this printer. Neither the ink nor the specialty paper (the latter, especially, at its biggest sizes) is cheap.
Know what this printer is not. It’s not a snapshot printer first and foremost (though it can certainly churn out some good ones). And even though it’s perfectly capable of being a document printer, that completely misses the point. Oh, it can print Word docs and Excel spreadsheets (big ones), and the like, but take our word for it, this isn’t the printer for that, except perhaps in a pinch.
Why? A number of reasons, but mostly because printing anything on the P600, especially compared to on an actual document printer, is rather expensive. Trying to estimate just how much each document page would cost over the long haul, if you’re using this printer for a mix of documents and big photo images, probably wouldn’t yield any kind of accurate numbers. That’s because, typically, high-end photo printers like this one are not rated for printing costs in cost per page (CPP), but instead in price per milliliter of ink. (Again, we’ll talk more about the S600’s ink and operational costs later on.) And given how pricey its ink is on a cost-per-milliliter basis even versus other competing photo printers, document printing can’t possibly be cost-effective here.
In any case, whether you are upgrading from an older wide-format photo printer, or you’re making the transition from a consumer-grade photo printer (perhaps Canon’s Pixma MG7520 Photo All-in-One Inkjet Printer or Epson’s own Expression Photo XP-860 Small-in-One Printer, both six-ink all-in-one models), you’ll enjoy this machine if big, bold, accurate image prints are what you are after.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.