Review and photography by Mark and Leslie Degner
We were recently printing some of our images and I commented to Leslie that there really haven’t been any new, professional quality desktop ink jet printers released over the past while. Well, that situation was quickly remedied when Epson announced their new SureColor P600 late this past January. The Epson SureColor P600 is a “desktop” printer that will handle papers that are up to 13 inches wide, and print on a variety of different “cut-sheet” media from 4×6 to 13×19, as well as 13-inch wide rolls of paper. With the roll papers you can print panoramic over 10 feet long. The P600 has two paper feeders, which allows it to handle a variety of different types and thicknesses of media from plain paper to a variety of thicker, fine art papers and canvas.
Although the Epson SureColor P600 is considered to be a “desktop” printer, it’s definitely larger than the other Epson 13-inch printers that it’s replacing (61.5 cm wide x 36.8 cm deep x 22.9 cm high with the feeder trays closed, and weighs 15 kg). In fact, it’s not much smaller than our 17-inch Epson Stylus Pro 3880 printer (68.6 cm wide x 38.1 cm deep x 25.4 cm high with the feeder trays closed, and weighs 25.4 kg). We had to clear off a big area in the office to have both the P600 and 3880 up and running side by side. SureColor might appear to be a new model name, but actually it has been around for quite a while in Epson’s Professional Imaging line of printers. Based on what we observed with the SureColor P600, it appears to have a higher build quality than previous 13-inch Epson models and is definitely more of a true working printer.
The Epson SureColor P600 uses Epson’s newly formulated UltraChrome HD nine-colour pigment-based ink system. It has three-level black technology that simultaneously uses black, light black and light, light black inks to produce both colour and black and white prints with rich blacks and a stunning tonal range. The P600 has a maximum resolution of 5760 x 1440 dpi and produces variable-sized ink droplets as small as 2.0 picolitres, giving exceptionally high quality prints that capture all the fine detail in your photographs. The SureColor P600 automatically switches between two different black inks, photo black or matte black, which optimizes the dmax or black ink density for the various media being printed on. This auto black ink switching avoids the hassles of manually changing the black inks when you change paper types, but it does use a small amount of ink with each change. Going from photo to matte uses (wastes) one millilitre, and it uses three millilitres when going from matte to photo. However, if you go into the printer’s menu system and select “Save Ink Mode” you can reduce the amount of ink used when going from photo to matte from three millilitres to one millilitre, and it doesn’t appear to have any impact on print quality. Although saving two millilitres with each change may not seem like much, when you consider that each ink cartridge contains 25.9 ml of ink and costs $38, any ink savings can go a long way in allowing you to produce more prints.
The Epson SureColor® P600 is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh operating systems and can connect to your computer by either USB 2.0 or 100Base-T Ethernet. One thing that you need to know is that it doesn’t come with any cables, so you’ll need to purchase the appropriate type depending on which method you choose to use. It can also be connected wirelessly using Wi-Fi (802.11n only), which is the way we set it up and connected it to our computer. We were a little skeptical about how well it would handle large print files, but it worked extremely well and we were really pleased with its performance.
From the very first print that we made from the P600 we found that the results were wonderful; the best we had seen from a 13-inch printer. We did some comparison test prints against our Epson Stylus Pro 3880 printer and the prints from the P600 were noticeably better, especially in the blacks. All of our test prints were on a variety of Epson Signature Worthy photographic and fine art papers in various sizes, including both sheet papers and rolls, and they all produced excellent prints in both colour and black and white. At the time of writing this review the official Lightfastness Ratings (a measure of how long the print will last under proper conditions) were not yet available. However, initial indications are that they’ll be better than previous Epson pigment ink formulations, so prints made with Epson’s new UltraChrome® HD pigment inks, when used on appropriate media, should last a very long time.
So if you’re looking for an outstanding 13-inch desktop printer, look no further than the Epson SureColor P600. It’s simply the best 13-inch printer that we’ve used and it has lots of outstanding features. We’ve only highlighted a few of those features in this review. To find out more about the P600 check out Epson Canada’s website at www.epson.ca. The SureColor P600 produces excellent quality colour and black and white prints on a wide variety of types and sizes of media. It retails for $960.