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Small office / Home office
Epson's newest printer is its best so far
Knight Ridder Newspapers
It was only a year ago that I wrote about Epson's newest printing marvel, the R320. It featured many new and innovative abilities such as being able to print directly onto printable CDs and DVDs, thus bypassing the need for labels. And now its successor is here in the Epson R340 (www.epson.com, $179.99) and it has it all, well at least for this year.
The R340 really isn't a quantum leap over its predecessor in that it still has the same 5760x1440 resolution and uses the same six-color photo ink cartridge system. Along with printing speeds, those are usually the two main areas one checks out before considering a newer model.
Looking at printing samples from each printer of the same image, I really couldn't tell you which came from which.
Evidently Epson felt the model line needed some fine-tuning and that's exactly what the R340 provides. Epson took a really wonderful printer and made it just a little bit better.
While the R340 has all of the abilities of the R320, it adds some newer features that I particularly like, starting with its color screen.
The older model actually had two screens. The smallest one was a color screen that you could tilt to display the photographic image and a medium-sized monotone display that showed the menu commands and modes settings.
The R340 combines everything on a single, larger 2.4-inch photo viewer. The screen has also been repositioned onto the front center of the printer, which in my opinion puts it in a better position and viewing angle.
The printer itself is a bit more squat and somewhat more angular in its styling. Since my printing cabinet holds the printer around eye level, it was hard to see what was on the screens on the former model.
With the R340, I can easily see the menu prompts and the color image about to be printed.
The front panel control buttons are more logically positioned on the R340 but access to the variety of memory card slots as well as the ink cartridges remains mostly unchanged.
So while the printing speed specifications really don't reflect much of a speed increase, you really do get a feeling that everything is happening much more quickly.
I guess it's just a quality thing. I've seen the same thing with cars. Sometimes it's just that the newer models only look and feel better but the specifications are actually the same.
Don't get me wrong. The R340 us a definite improvement over the R320. All I'm saying is that if I owned an R320, I might not want to rush out and get the R340 as the differences between them are almost on an aesthetic level.
However, if you don't have an R320 and are looking to buy a top-of-the-line consumer-level color inkjet printer, the Epson Stylus Photo R340 has your name all over it.
Works on both Windows and Macintosh.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company