Epson Stylus Pro 3880 Review

November 6, 2009 | Jon Canfield | Printer Reviews |

When printing in black and white, almost all inkjet printers use a mix of the color inks to create better toning and smoother gradations than you'd be able to get with using just two or three shades of black or gray inks. This can often lead to unwanted colorcasts – most often a magenta or green cast – in your monochrome prints. The ABW mode in the Epson driver minimizes the amount of color inks used to virtually eliminate this colorcast. It also gives you control over the density of the of the tone, and the ability to add color toning, such as sepia or platinum tones to your output.

Unlike the other printers in the x880 line, the 3880 has all nine inks onboard. When switching between matte black and photo black, you don't need to remove a cartridge as you do with the other printers. The 3880 still needs to do an ink swap, but the waste and time is minimal. The printer driver is smart enough to protect you from using the wrong blacks by accident – if you have Photo Black active, all the fine art papers that should use Matte Black are disabled. Switching blacks is done from the menu system on the printer and takes about 3 minutes to complete. Going from matte to photo black uses about 4.6ml of ink, while 1.6ml are used when switching from photo to matte. Both are significant improvements over Epson's other 17" printer, the 4880.

One of the advantages to using pigment inks is the wide range of media that you can print on. Essentially, if it will feed through the printer, you can probably use it. The 3880 has three feed paths for different thicknesses of paper. The normal tray can hold multiple sheets of photo or regular paper. The rear feed is for single sheets only and is used for papers like the heavy fine art papers. The third path is a straight feed for stiff media up to 1.5mm thick, great if you want to print on card stock or matte board. When using this feed path, be sure to leave sufficient space behind the printer for the media to feed correctly.

So, is the upgrade all Epson claims? As shown in the close-ups of the dithering pattern earlier, the AccuPhoto HD2 certainly improves the look of the prints, but this isn't something that most people will notice right away – especially if you don't have the prints side by side. But, the color gamut of the 3880 compared to the 3800 obviously larger, particularly in the deep blues and purples. In the chart shown in Figure 10, the outside line is from the 3880 while the inner line is the 3800. Both color spaces use the respective Epson profile for Premium Luster paper.

Epson Stylus Pro 3880
Figure 9


The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 is a solid upgrade to the very popular 3800, bringing this printer up to the same standard inks used in all the other Epson's like the 4880, 7880, and 9880 models. While it might seem surprising that Epson would bring out another printer in the UltraChrome K3 inks rather than the newest UltraChrome HDR inks used in the 7900 and 9900, my understanding is that the print head technology used in those printers is too cost prohibitive to bring down to this level.

If you already have a 3800, it's more difficult to justify upgrading to the 3880 for the incremental improvements. But, if you've been considering a larger printer, the 3880 should be at the very top of your list. The combination of size and cost is impossible to beat. If you need to print panoramas, or something longer than 22", the 3880 isn't the right choice, but for everyone else, this is a fantastic option.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 5

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