Epson’s Stylus Pro 3880; The New 17” K3 Printer Page 2

The new screening technology, dubbed AccuPhoto HD2, lives up to its promise. The results from the 3880 are among the best I’ve seen, surpassed only by Epson’s 7900 and 9900 large format printers. Comparing skin tones on a portrait, the dithering pattern is extremely smooth in appearance. Printing the same images on a 3800, 3880, Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II, and HP Designjet Z3200, all printers did a good job, but the 3880 is the clear winner with better details and more accurate color balance (#6, #7, #8, #9, and #10).

I used this print to check out both color accuracy and dithering patterns. The 3880 produced some of the best skin tones I’ve seen in an inkjet printer.





I’ve always been a fan of Epson’s Advanced Black-and-White Photo mode output (#11). The driver gives you the ability to customize the output while generating a neutral print that minimizes the amount of color inks used during printing. The 3880 carries this forward with excellent results and virtually no color shift, or metamerism, when viewing under different light sources.

The Advanced Black-and-White Photo mode of the driver gives you excellent control over toning and density of your monochrome prints. Prints done in this mode have virtually no metamerism.

I do wish Epson would update the driver to allow you to view a preview of your own images in the Advanced Black-and-White Photo dialog rather than a static image—it would make selecting tonal adjustments easier.

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 by using just two or three shades of black or gray inks. This can often lead to unwanted color casts—most often a magenta or green cast—in your monochrome prints. The Advanced Black-and-White Photo mode in the Epson driver minimizes the amount of color inks used to virtually eliminate this color cast. It also gives you control over the density of the tone, and the ability to add color toning, such as sepia or platinum tones, to your output. In short, Epson gives you more control over the black-and-white output of any printer available—to get more than this you’d need to invest in a RIP such as ImagePrint or ColorBurst.

Looking at the color gamut of the 3880 with Epson Premium Luster paper, it’s easy to see that the new printer offers a wider range of color possibilities, especially in the deeper blues and magentas than was previously possible.

Matte Or Photo Black?
Unlike the other printers in the x880 line, the 3880 has all nine inks on-board. 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.

Media Options
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. To test this path, I printed a sheet of coated aluminum from Booksmart Fine Art Metal ( The straight path is through a different slot and you will need to make sure that you have sufficient space behind the printer as the media is pulled in and through to the starting point.

So, how much improvement is there in the output over the previous model? 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—if you don’t have the prints side by side, you might not see a difference at all. But, looking at the color gamut of the 3880 compared to the 3800, it’s easy to see how much larger the color space is, particularly in the deep blues and magentas. In the chart shown in #12, the outside line is from the 3880 while the inner line is from the 3800. Both color spaces use the respective Epson profile for Premium Luster paper.

The Stylus Pro 3880 is a logical progression for Epson and brings their popular desktop 17” printer up to the current ink set used in all the other x880 printers. 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. Given that Epson still sells the x880 printers as well as the x900, this makes sense.

If you already have a 3800, you’ll see improvements, to be sure. Enough to justify upgrading to the 3880? Probably not. 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. The only reason I’d consider the Epson 4880 or Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5100 over the 3880 is if I needed roll feed, or had an extremely high print rate that would make the larger ink cartridges in those printers worthwhile. At $1295, the Stylus Pro 3880 is an amazing value. When you consider the inks supplied would cost nearly $600, the printer cost is not much more than the 13” R2880.

For more information, contact Epson America, Inc. at: