Epson claims that you can change between matte and photo black inks at any time, making the Stylus Pro 4800 effectively a nine-colour printer. Although you can change ink like this, it’s not without penalty. You have to release the cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges and put ‘black conversion cartridges’ in their place for the system to drain down ink already in the pipework. It then has to recharge four colours from scratch, before it can continue to print. You can’t recycle the ink drained out each time, so there’s considerable wastage.
The Stylus Pro 4800 comes into its own when printing larger pages. At A4, it’s not quick. It took just under five minutes to print five pages of text and 1:12 to print a single, mixed page of text and colour graphics. We only really printed these for direct comparison with the small machines we’ve reviewed. When we printed a full A3 page, a print of an oil painting, it took the printer 4:24 and up at A3+, allowing for a full bleed, still only took 4:40. Both of these are good times.
Print quality on plain or photo paper, is very good. Black is dense and full, with the two supporting ‘light black’ inks, or as we techies call them, ‘greys’, providing smooth gradations of tone.
When printing large format pages, costing on the basis of 20 per cent of an A4 page isn’t appropriate. We don’t think Epson’s basis for costing a photo print, 40 per cent of a page, is that realistic either. If you’re going to spend this kind of money on a printer, you’re going to be covering most of each page you print with ink – 80 per cent would be a more realistic average.
However, the figures Epson provide give a cost of just under £3.50 for an ISO 400 standard, A3+ print. With a fair mark-up, you should still be able to come in at under £10 for this type of print.
Possibly a little pricey, when compared with similar HP DesignJets, The Stylus Pro 4800 does produce very high quality, eight-colour prints, in both colour and monochrome, with its three ‘black’ inks. Running costs are fair for a commercial device, so overall, the Stylus Pro 4800 should certainly be on your short list.