Product Reviews

Product Reviews

In Brief

Outstanding high-resolution inkjet printer is an excellent choice for all your printing needs. Text is crisp and photos are beautiful. Separate ink tanks for each of the printer’s four colors eliminate waste. But check with your banker, these cartridges are not cheap.


Printer: Standard model, currently $129 (was $179); Ethernet network-ready model, $329; Wireless network model (802.11b), $449

Ink cartridges: Black, $29.70; Magenta, yellow, cyan, $11.99 each; Color multi-pack, $32.36

Epson America
Long Beach, Calif.


The dozen or so companies that made inkjet printers five years ago has been whittled down to a few. Epson, of course, is one of the biggest. Check out Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, and NEC.

Four or Six Colors?

Standard inkjets, like the Stylus C80, mix four colors of ink (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black), just like the commercial presses that print your copy of Time or Newsweek. It’s great for text and photos. But every printer maker also has printers that use six ink colors (they add light magenta and light cyan). They’re supposed to do an even better job with your photos, but many people can’t tell the difference. There’s one huge difference, though: you’ll be shelling out big cash to keep yourself stocked with those six-color ink cartridges.

More Printers

Turn to Reference Guide for reviews of the top printers. We’ll look at laser, inkjet, big ones, small ones, and more.

Lexmark C510 color laser

HP Color LaserJet 3700

HP portable Deskjet 450

Lexmark PrinTrio combo printer/scanner/copier

Lexmark E320 mono laser

Dymo LabelWriter 330 Turbo label printer

Brother QL-500 label printer





Epson Stylus C80 Color Inkjet Printer


By Joel Shore

Ok, so this is one of Epson’s weirder looking printers. I kept opening the top, expecting to see some freshly steamed hot dogs and buns inside.

The Stylus C80 is a great choice for a home office or for the kids. Not does it produce crisp results, it can actually save money.

Epson was smart enough to use a separate ink cartridge for each ink color. So when little Patrick keeps printing his drawings, complete with acres of blue sky, you’ll replace only the blue cartridge. That’s a major plus.

(Like commercial printing presses, most inkjet printers combine four colors—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—to get the full rainbow of printed colors. And most inkjets use a single cartridge to hold the cyan, magenta, and yellow inks. When any one color ran out, you had to replace the whole cartridge.)


An inkjet printer is not so much a printer as it is an ink vending machine


Another great feature is the printer’s resolution. Resolution is the number of ink dots per linear inch that any printer is capable of laying down. More dots means a better image with greater crispness and detail.

The Stylus C80 prints at a terrific high resolution of 2,880 x 720 dots per inch (dpi). Do the math: that’s 2,073,600 dots per square inch! Of course, the more dots per inch, the better the image. That means a 4" x 6" photo (24 square inches) lays down a whopping 49,766,400 dots! That’s a lot of processing.

We like lots of dots. But on the downside, more dots can slow down a printer. Fortunately, we didn’t have that problem with the Stylus C80. The printer is rated to crank out about 20 pages of black-only text per minute. And that full-color 4" x 6" digital photograph, with its nearly 50 million individual dots, should print in about 22 seconds. Not bad for $129.

I’d print at 2,880 x 720 only for final output. For drafts, or just to get an idea of how a page will look, you can print at much lower resolutions. It’s not only a lot faster, but you’ll save a whole lot of valuable ink.

Documents that I printed from Word and Excel looked just fine, with nice, crisp text. Then I printed a couple of 3-megapixel digital photos onto Epson’s 4" x 6" glossy photo paper. The results were excellent. If I were serious about printing lots of photos, I might spend a bit more money and opt for one of Epson’s photo printers. They use six ink colors instead of four. But no matter; for most home office and student users, this printer is a good match.

Ink Vending Machine. Like any inkjet printer, it’s not really the printer that you pay for in the long run, it’s the ink refills you keep buying year after year (well, month after month, actually). Think of it like this: The product you are buying is not so much a printer as it is an ink vending machine. And stay away from those silly ink-injection replacement kits. They’re not only messy, their dye-based inks are all wrong for this printer, which uses pigment-based inks. Pigment-based inks are less susceptible to the damaging effects of light and humidity. Photos should last a very long time.

You can pay a lot more—and a lot less—for an inkjet printer, but you’ll find that the Stylus C80 is an excellent choice and an outstanding value. I just might use mine to print a photo of that hot dog I kept looking for!<

Yeas & Nays


4Individually replaceable ink tanks for each color

4USB and parallel ports

42880 x 720 resolution

4Uses water-resistant pigment-based inks


4Paper feeding is noisy

4Odd styling

Did You Know?

Do you have a Seiko wristwatch? It uses the same technology as Epson’s printers. Huh?

Here’s the story: Seiko Epson (the Japanese parent company) knew that when an electric current is applied to a quartz crystal, it vibrates. This piezo-electric phenomenon was harnessed and became the basis of the quartz-crystal technology that makes all modern wristwatches keep such accurate time. Epson inkjet printers use the same piezoelectric technology to control the printheads that apply microscopic droplets of ink to paper.

Printing Tip

To test the printer, we made business cards using Microsoft Publisher. When we printed the gray Reference Guide logo using a setting of 50% gray, it looked good, but we knew we could do better.

Instead of printing with only black ink (which makes gray by leaving white space between individual black dots), we did what the pros do: mixed all four ink colors.

The old setting used the RGB color model. We had Red, Green, and Blue each set to 147 (half the maximum value of 255). RGB is intended fox mixing light, like on your monitor, but it’s all wrong for mixing pigments, like ink. For printing, the CMYK color model is best.

First, we changed the color model to CMYK. Then we set Cyan to 23, Magenta to 18, Yellow to 18, and blacK to 23 (the four inks in your inkjet and any commercial printing press). The result was still a medium grey, but a grey that was solid, with no white showing through, even under magnification. It looked awesome. Try it for yourself!


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