Epson Stylus Photo 950
Review Date: 23rd October 2003
Ease of Use
Installing the Epson Stylus Photo 950 is incredibly easy and after just 5 minutes I was ready to print out my first image. You just need to remove all of the tape that protects various parts of the printer during storage/delivery, connect the power cable, connect the USB cable, install the Epson software, then turn the printer on and print a nozzle check pattern.
A further 7 minutes and 40 seconds later, I was holding my first A4 print in my hands. Unfortunately for the Epson Stylus Photo 950, it took longer to print out an A4 photo at the highest resolution of 2880dpi than it did to install the printer! Better news was the fact that the first print on my favourite paper, Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl, was excellent using the standard printer drivers. More on image quality later.
As with my older Stylus Photo 890 and the Epson printer range in general, the more up-to-date Epson Stylus Photo 950 is very slow in use. Here's a table showing some timings for some different print sizes and resolution settings. The same source file was used for each print - a 4.8Mb JPEG of a performer at the London Pride Parade:
|Print Size / Resolution||Overall Time Taken|
|6 x 4 inch / 720 dpi||1 minute 13 seconds|
|6 x 4 inch / 1440 dpi||2 minutes 23 seconds|
|6 x 4 inch / 2880 dpi||3 minute 58 seconds|
|A4 / 720 dpi||2 minutes 36 seconds|
|A4 / 1440 dpi||4 minutes 13 seconds|
|A4 / 2880 dpi||9 minutes 26 seconds|
|Epson Stylus Photo 890 (comparison test)|
|A4 / 2880 dpi||26 minutes 7 seconds|
So if you require a speedier printer then you should take a look at Canon's Bubblejet range - Canon printers are generally accepted to be the quickest available at the current time.
The Epson Stylus Photo 950 has quite a noisy and lengthy start-up process. It takes about 20-25 seconds from turning the printer on to being ready to print, and there's a lot of whirring and general mechanical noise as the printer warms up. When it's ready to print the large yellow Power button lights up. If you quickly turn the printer on and off, the long start-up time is avoided; it only occurs when you haven't used the printer for a while.
I had no problems with my PC recognising the Epson Stylus Photo 950, using the Windows ME operating system. Throughout this review the Epson Stylus Photo 950 and Stylus Photo 890 happily co-existed, and I could choose to print to either device without any conflicts. Both were connected via the USB interface.
Epson supply a variety of software that is automatically installed as part of the setup process. Epson PhotoQuicker 3.1 is quite an advanced program that makes printing multiple photos onto different paper sizes quite easy. It is quite slow, however, when used with large file sizes. Epson Print CD is a very rudimentary application that allows you to design CD face layouts; I took an instant dislike to its cluttered interface.
The main software is the printer driver software, and rather annoyingly this is exactly the same as the software for the much older Stylus Photo 890. There are a couple more media types available, including CD-R, and 7 ink cartridges are shown rather than 2, but otherwise all the options are identical. I found the printer software straightforward to use, but then I have been using it for the past 2 years!
The roll paper holder is at first very fiddly and difficult to install, until you manage to do it successfully and then realise how straight-forward it actually is! Similarly loading the roll paper itself takes a few attempts to get right. The automatic paper cutter, however, was very easy to install and performed very well throughout the review. It cut the roll paper at the right point very cleanly and is a much better way of trimming your prints than using a scalpel or guillotine. Finding the right combination of printer settings to produce borderless 6x4 inch prints proved to be quite a time-consuming process, as I struggled to create a print that contained all of the original image. Prints with a 3mm border were much easier to do.
Overall the Epson Stylus Photo 950 was extremely easy to use and didn't suffer from any problems throughout the 3 week duration of this review. The paper cutter is quite fiddly to install, and the roll paper is very difficult to make flat once you've printed out your photos on it, but otherwise the printer is very well built and all of the features work well. Note I wasn't able to test changing ink cartridges or the CD-R printing feature, as Epson didn't supply me with any spare cartridges or suitable CDs.