Epson’s Stylus Color 980 is a big, no-nonsense inkjet printer, capable of printing pages up to oversize A4 in a conventional way, from a paper tray angled at the back of the machine to a telescopic receive tray, which folds down and pulls out from the front. Controls on the printer include buttons for power, paper feed and head cleaning, while at the back there are interfaces for parallel and USB cables – the choice of connection is yours.
Ink is carried in two separate cartridges, one black and the other tri-colour, which clip into the carrier on the head. The printer can print at up to 2,880dpi on photo prints, and uses a 3 pico-litre (i.e. very small) drop to produce such fine resolution. Epson’s piezo-electric print head lasts the lifetime of the machine, so you only need to buy ink. Even so, the way the cartridges are priced, consumable costs are very similar to those of other leading brands. Ink levels are monitored in real time and shown in the main window of the software driver.
That driver controls all aspects of the printer’s function, including adding watermarks and imposing two or four pages on a single sheet of paper. This is particularly useful when printing out long manuals from downloaded PDF files, for example. The software also has support for double-sided printing, although that’s entirely manual – there’s no duplexer.
If your double-sided prints will contain graphics, it’s best to use heavyweight paper, or you may see some ink bleed through. The Stylus Color 980 can take sheets of plain paper up to 90gsm, which is actually rather light, though it also handles photo paper at 190gsm.
If you’re printing straight text on the Stylus Color 980, you can make use of the High Speed mode, which prints bi-directionally. This greatly increases print speed, but you do see some banding if there are areas of solid colour in the printout. Normal print mode does a good job on text, graphics and low-resolution photos, and the High Quality mode produces superb photo-quality images.
Incidentally, Epson made a lot of noise about its new ink formulation, which was guaranteed not to fade for 10 years. It turned out this was only true if you put the prints behind glass, though, so don’t expect your documents to last forever.
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