Last October when Epson announced the all-new Stylus® Pro 4900, Epson printing enthusiasts rejoiced for a much anticipated update to the 4880 had finally arrived. In fact, the excitement was so great that it’s actually taken me this long to finally get one as nobody seemed to have them in stock until now.
This sleek machine features Epson’s best inks (the UltraChrome HDR Ink set) and print head (the MicroPiezo TFP) that combine with its AccuPhoto™ HDR advanced screening technology to create the best tonal range and smoothest transitions my eyes have seen on a print. This is a special printer, no doubt.
Now I’ve been very pleased with my Epson Stylus® Pro 3880 printer, but this printer uses a superior ink set and print head that results in prints with more vivid color and smoother tonal range than I’ve saw on the 3880. When I print two prints using the same file and everything is the same except for the paper profile and of course the printer, the 4900 images are always easy to spot – even from a distance – they are the ones with more visual pop.
Large Ink Cartridges are Easily Loaded in the Left and Right Bays
Image Courtesy of Epson America, Inc
I’ve only had my 4900 for about two weeks, so I haven’t put it through the exhaustive testing my other printers have gone through yet. However, my printing work flow and test images are all refined to get to put a printer to the ultimate test and so far this printer is passing with flying colors. Features that I’ve loved so far are:
- Design – This is a sexy printer that is very well engineered for easy access to the Ink Cartridges, and features a cool window that allows you see your image being printed without having to expose the print job to dust. It also features a nice color control panel and more useful external buttons for features like switching black inks.
- Roll Paper Support – While this isn’t new for this series, it’s new for me as my 3880 didn’t have this. I’ve become spoiled with using rolls on my other large format printer so I am jazzed to have support for rolls on an Epson printer. Unfortunately at this time I don’t actually own any rolls so I haven’t been able to test this feature yet, but I will in the future.
- Large Capacity 200ml Ink Cartridges – While they might cost a bit more to replace than the 3880 cartridges, there’s always cost savings in larger ink cartridges so I’m happy to see such large ones on the 4900. Unfortunately the printer only comes with starter 80ml cartridges, but that’s what I’m used to on the 3880. Given the fact that it took me 6 months of frequent printing before I even emptied the first cartridge on the 3880, I think I’ll be in good shape with in on this printer for quite a while.
- Large Capacity Paper Tray – You can hold up to 250 sheets of plain paper or up to 100 sheets of photo paper in the bottom tray which makes this printer ideal for shared workgroup environments. It also allows you to sit on your ass more while your paper is ready to go and not exposed to dust as it would if you just left it in the manual feeder.
- Quiet and Solid – If you’ve seen the bigger 7900 and 9900 printers you know that they are built like a tank, but when you watch them print you are shocked to see how quiet they are and how they just don’t move or shake when printing. Well the 4900 has them same attributes which make it a useable printer in a crowded work environment.
- More Media Types and Paper Profiles Built-In – The 4900 comes with an improved printer driver that now features more media types and more built-in paper profiles for some of Epson’s best Signature Worthy papers.
All these features would be meaningless if you couldn’t get good prints, and I’m here to tell you that I’ve yet to be disappointed with any print that has rolled out of this printer – it’s that good!
Things I Wish Were Better
This is a great printer, but I was still disappointed with a few things.
The first, and foremost is that it still has to switch between photo and matte black ink – rather than having both available with dedicated lines for all print jobs like my Canon iPF6300 does. The process is automated and can be done with a click of a button, but for an all new design I was really hoping this time and ink wasting shortcoming would have vanished.
This printer features nozzle verification and cleaning as well as automatic print head alignment, which is great. However, the downside to this feature is that when you fire up the printer to print after it’s been idle for a day you have to wait several minutes before it finishes this process. This pretty much rules out this printer being used as a replacement to a workgroup printer if speed is important.
I was also very disappointed that I still can’t print on plain paper using the active black cartridge. Instead, only Matte Black is allowed so if I want to just do a simple print to plain paper while photo black is loaded, it has to switch ink tanks – grr!!!! While this may not be unique to this printer, I was really hoping this issue could somehow be resolved and it hasn’t.
Some of the Epson consumer printers come with wireless network access, so I was hoping that feature would trickle up to the pro printers. Unfortunately that isn’t the case so you’ll still need a network cable.
Another important issue is size, and again it’s not really unique to this printer as the 4880 was large too. However, at 115 lbs and 34” wide by 30” deep means that this big boy is going to need a lot of space. What is really surprising is that the 4900 has a 26 pound increase over its 4880 predecessor (some of which is larger ink cartridges and an improved print head). Generally things get smaller and lighter as time goes on, but not in this case.
Last, but not least, one of my most important features is to be able to get electronic print logs for data analysis, but I can’t do that with the 4900. It seams that feature was dropped from the Printer Watcher where you can do it on the 3880. Now I not only long for Canon’s Accounting Manager on Epson printers, I also long for any print job electronic data as well (logs are always available for printing via the control panel).
Image Courtesy of Epson America, Inc
With excellent build quality, phenomenal print quality and a reasonable price for a product this well made (especially when you consider camera and lens prices these days), you’d be hard pressed to find a better value. I definitely recommend print enthusiasts with the budget to upgrade to give this printer a strong look, and for those looking to step up – your search is over.
I’m still doing research for a larger review, but I wanted to address those in the market for a new printer now. I am fairly comfortable with my printing workflow and I know how to both get a great print using built-in Epson profiles as well as creating my own. Based on all that I learned during my printing series as well as my first impressions using the 4900 I can easily say – I highly recommend the Epson Stylus® Pro 4900 printer.
3880 users - if you have the space and you are looking to upgrade to a professional printer that can do rolls – this is a fantastic choice.
4880 users – I can honestly say that you’ll be very pleased with the improved results you’ll get out of the 4900. In short, if you' can afford it – get it!
7900 & 9900 users will enjoy the ability to get the same great prints on a smaller form factor. This is still a printer that you could potentially keep at arms reach (if your workspace allows it), so high volume printers will no doubt appreciate this top not print quality in such a small size (relative to the big large format printers).
To read my full 4900 review click here.
To get more information, about this printer as well as other printing topics consider the following:
- Epson’s ProImaging Web Site
- Choosing the Right Epson Printer – this is my article to help those wondering where to begin.
- Printing Series – All things printing
- Stylus® Pro 4900 – Announcement and Press release with lots of good info.
I’ve noticed that both Adorama and B&H both offer the Designer Edition which includes a RIP for the same price as the regular edition (thanks to a rebate). You can use this to get around some of the supply problems by just getting the Designer Edition for the same price.
Seattle area shoppers should also consider JVH Tech for all of their printing needs and tell them that I sent you!
Epson has provided me with this 4900 as well as the 3880 and various papers featured in my printing series. JVH helped me out once again by getting my printer from my driveway to my office – despite the fact that I didn’t buy the printer from them.
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