Advances in printer technology don't come along very frequently and tend to be less than earth-shattering. Almost three years after Epson introduced the widely popular Stylus Photo R1800, the company has released the Stylus Photo R1900, which brings along with it a new version of the company's pigment-based UltraChrome Hi-Gloss ink set called UltraChrome Hi-Gloss2. The new inks include an orange cartridge, instead of the blue cartridge used with the R1800, which allows for slightly better skin tones.
The R1900 is available for around £375.
The printer's design looks much like the Stylus Pro 3800. Though both use pigment inks, the pricier Pro 3800 uses Epson's K3 inkset and doesn't support roll-feed media. It does have larger ink cartridges than the R1900, which should give you many more prints between cartridges and a slightly better pound-to-ink-millilitre value, but the Pro 3800 doesn't include the new orange ink found in the R1900. Of course, the Pro 3800 is really designed for people who print a whole lot, plus it costs more than twice as much as the R1900.
Setup was fairly simple, though given the printer's size, you'll want to set aside ample desk space. With its trays extended, the printer is 24 by 16 by 31 inches, and Epson suggests that you place it at least 100mm from the wall, since some papers will extend out the back during the printing process. Closed, the printer is almost 13 inches deep, so if you plan to let the front tray extend off the desk, you should plan for about 19 inches of desk depth, just to be safe.
Most of the rest of the R1900's specs are similar to the printer it replaces. It has a maximum print resolution of 5,760x1,440 dpi, a minimum ink droplet size of 1.5 picolitres, and can print on CDs or DVDs. Of course, you need to use special discs with a white coating on top if you want to do that.
More important than the disc printing is that the printer holds both Photo Black and Matte Black cartridges and switches between them automatically based on the paper you choose in the driver. Some printers, including Epson's own R2400, make you switch them manually, which gets old really fast.
The company has also revamped the way it translates colours from the images shot by your digital camera into those that the printer can reproduce. Epson is calling this new system Radiance Technology, but while Epson also claims some grain reduction and smoother colour transitions with the system, at its heart it's mostly a new set of look-up tables that the company says can better maximise the number of colours available with this printer.
Epson updated the MicroPiezo AMC print head in this new model with a coating that repels ink and is intended to better maintain dot placement accuracy over the life of the printer. It has also added a mist collection system that absorbs the overspray of ink when printing borderless. Over long periods of time, that mist can collect on the bottom tray and other points inside the printer and can cause errant marks on the tops and bottoms of prints.
Though there is no built-in Ethernet connection, Epson includes two Hi-Speed USB 2.0 jacks on the back of the printer, so you can connect more than one computer, and using special software you can network the printer through a computer. If you like to print via PictBridge, there is a separate USB jack on the front of the printer for that purpose.
The printer driver included with the R1900 is essentially the same as the one they use for all their Stylus Photo printers. It is easy to navigate, with four tabs at the top to move between different types of adjustments, and an otherwise intuitive layout with all the different options exactly where you'd expect them to be. There are even explanations of the various features that pop up when you mouse over them, and as a nod toward advanced photographers, you can set the Advanced tab (where you set colour management options) as the default.