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The Epson 740

Epson has been making printers for a considerable amount of time. As a matter of fact most early printers from other manufacturers emulated many of Epson's printers both in operation and with drivers designed for Epson's own machines. However today the playing field involves many other products that are very competitive and feature aggressive pricing. While Epson does provide more feature laden printers one could consider the Stylus 740 to be their flagship for the home user as it provides the features common to most bubble jet printers with a few more special features thrown in.

The main features of the 740 are:


1. Four color Micro Piezo (small droplet) ink jet technology
2. 1440 x 720 dpi maximum resolution
3. Supports selection of 720 x 720, 360 x 360, and 180 x 180 dpi
4. 6 ppm black text and 5 ppm color. Support for photographic mode with a very slow results.
5. Sound level of 47 dB
6. Drivers for Windows 3.1, Windows 9x, Windows NT 4.0, Mac System 7 and 7. Provisions for Parallel and USB interface (more on that)
8. 17.1" wide x 11.5" deep x 6.6" high. 11.5 lbs.
9. One year limited warranty

Setting Up

Setting up printers is a definite no brainer especially since Epson has chosen to include a USB interface with the Stylus 740. At first this may seem like an unnecessary option but when you consider that leaving your existing printer attached to your parallel interface will give you the option of selecting which printer you'd like to use for text-only operations it suddenly makes sense. Anyone with an existing high quality text printer such as a laser printer (or ribbon gobbler) will appreciate not having to replace the Epson black ink cartridge. While the addition of the USB interface is a welcome addition I have to argue with Epson's rational of not including a USB cable. As a matter of fact they didn't include a parallel cable either. Seems to me that a $200 printer should include a $10 cable whether it be USB or parallel. With a $14 Belkin USB cable in hand I headed for the checkout.

Printers have reached such small dimensions that the box they come in are quite easily handled. Inside I found the printer packaged with foam supports on each side much like a new CD-ROM would be. Then I found the documentation. While Epson was considerate enough to include a good manual, directions for the install and software setup are on another document. I find this an odd way to package this information since it was the last document on the bottom of the regular manual and the other bundled documents. To Epson's credit they did include a small sample of photo papers in sizes 8.5" x 11" (Letter Size) and 4" x 6" (photo size). Also included were sample sheets of photo quality ink jet paper. The printer comes with several small pieces of tape to keep pieces from moving during shipment. Once I removed the tape I set up the printer and plugged it in. Ink cartridges are included separately in the box. When you power up the printer you'll get a blinking indicator light informing you that it needs it's cartridges inserted. Cartridge insertion is a snap however the ensuing ink loading was amazingly loud. Once I assured my neighbors across the street that there were no
jackhammers in my house I continued to connect the printer to my computer. I already had my system running as I intended to test USB detection. USB detection went without a hitch and I loaded the included drivers. Any other software you wish to install must be run from the CD's initial menu as they are not loaded automatically after the driver install.

Bundled Softwares

Polaroid PhotoMAX Pro: an image editing program that features photo retouching, blemish correction, and color modification using 30 special effects. I found it to be very similar to most of the image editing software I've used before. If you have no photo editing software like the software included with most scanners then you'll find this program very useful.

ArcSoft PhotoPrinter 2.0: a photo layout program which allows the manipulation of your photos into creative formats. Multiple images can be combined into one montage with the ability to select frames or borders. Calendar creation software is also included.

ArcSoft PhotoBase 2.0: allows you to create albums of your image, video, and audio files. One notable feature is that allows keyword searching and drag and drop onto other applications. Of special note regarding this program is the ability to e-mail a friend a slide show you create from family pictures.

DogByte Greeting Card Store SE: a program to create special occasion cards and their matching envelopes. I gave this program only a cursory looking over as I don't use this type of software. Of special note to Mac users is that this program is for Windows only.

Printing

Epson creates a shortcut on your desktop that allows you to print a test picture. Having compared the test pictures printed by various printers at the store I was very pleased with the results. At this point it is important to note that setting your printer for photo paper and using normal paper instead will create skin tones that are unusually dark and orange in appearance. Using the correct settings for the paper creates stunning images. There is no noticeable bleeding between colors and the edges of all images are crisp with no artifacts. The drawback to any color inkjet printer is the amount of ink required to print a large picture. Epson included a utility that resides in the taskbar that gives a graphic representation of the amount of ink on hand. This includes both the color and black cartridges. I found that very useful as I burned through several pictures testing the printer.

A warning to anyone planning on buying a bubble jet printer. All manufacturers provide an advertised output rating of their printers based on printed pages per minute. Manufacturers use different test pages to achieve these numbers and one shouldn't use this number as a sole deciding factor between two printers from different manufacturers. These numbers may be useful if deciding between different printers from the same manufacturer. With that said I found the black text speed to be 6 ppm as advertised. Color printing varied between 3 and 4.5 ppm which is just short of the advertised 5 ppm. I printed 1 photographic quality picture which took about 1 3/4 minutes to complete.

Picture quality remained excellent as long as the heads remained cleaned. I did have to clean the heads once after all my printing. Included in the utilities is an automated head cleaning feature. There is a warning that the cleaning procedure should be used sparingly as it wastes a lot of ink. Unfortunately this procedure took 4 tries to completely clean the heads. Once clean I resumed printing both text and color and was satisfied that my results were back to the original quality I saw when I first used this printer.

Epson advertises laser quality text printing. This is accomplished through the use of their Micro Piezo droplet technology. By using many more small dots Epson is able to achieve far crisper text. Edges of text have very little artifact. What Micro Piezo does for text creates very well blended textures and hues in color pictures. The only other manufacturer who approaches this quality is Hewlett Packard with the PhotoRet technology.

Pros:


* 1440 x 720 photorealistic quality
* acceptable print speed
* sample pack of Epson photo papers
* Mac support

Cons:

* No USB cable packaged with printer
* Documentation could be consolidated to make use easier
* Loud start up and initial ink loading

I can highly recommend this printer for the home user who needs laser quality text printing with the ability to print photographic quality pictures. Epson advertises this as a home office solution. I think a home office may want to consider a laser printer for their text work as ink cartridge expense would surely add up over time. This would be a very good unit for someone who must print reports with black text and color pictures.


Victor Oshiro
Victor@targetpc.com
99/10/28
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