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Epson SureColor P800 review
Using the SC-P800 A2 17 inch printer - the replacement for the SP3880
The Epson P800 was announced in April 2015 and brings Epson's new UltraChrome HD ink set to a 17" A2 printer.
The inks are designed to give denser colours and deeper blacks than the UltraChrome Vivid Magenta inks in the SP3880.
Keith has been testing a pre-production P800 on a wide variety of papers, seeing how the printer performs, along with changes/similarities to the very popular SP3880.
Our Epson SC-P800 review
Epson UK contacted me a while ago, after I'd written a lengthy review of the SC-P600 and asked if I'd be prepared to test a new printer, the long awaited replacement for the SP3880, which I'd also reviewed a few years ago (and the SP3800 before that).
This review is a little unusual, since it's using pre-release hardware. The printer reviewed is internally the same as a production model, but the exterior casing is lacking a little refinement in surface finish. Epson UK tell me that there may be minor firmware changes between my initial testing (April 2015) and actual shipping of the SC-P800 in a few months time. The only significant missing aspect of the model tested, was that it didn't have a wireless card. I didn't test it with any Epson bundled software either.
I've pushed the printer as hard as any I've looked at - if you've questions, please feel free to contact me or comment via the Disqus section at the foot of the article.
The SC-P800 comes with 80ml ink carts (9 of them - 64ml 'starter' carts are shipped), substantially larger than the carts in the P600 I reviewed recently. The print head uses a development of the one used in the 3880, with 180 nozzles per ink. The 3.5pl minimum drop size gives a finest resolution of 2880 dpi.
The colour front display is touch activated and of sufficient resolution to show much more information than earlier models.
The printer has an optional roll paper holder that is considerably more solid than the ones on smaller printers. It is not motorised and there is no cutter option. I'll look at this in more detail with some of the panoramic printing I tried.
With nine inks and a similar head design to the 3880, it's no surprise to see that the need to switch black inks between Matte black (MK) and Photo Black (PK) is still with us. The level of annoyance that this will cause depends on how you're going to use the printer, but I'll come back to this in the conclusions.
The printer weighs in at 43 lbs (19.5 kg.) so whilst it's light enough for most desks, take care when lifting out of the packing.
If you add the roll paper unit, it takes up space at the rear.
Key Features (info from Epson)
The full technical specs. are listed at the foot of the article
The printer is very easy to connect into a network, with 3 methods of connection.
Wireless LAN specs
The wireless connectivity allows the printer to be used on its own, such as printing photos at an event. Not the sort of work I do, but with the addition of roll paper, a fairly flexible event setup could be put together.
As well as making setup easier, the new touch screen is very useful if your computer isn't right next to the printer. If something is set wrongly, you get a clear message, rather than a flashing light. During my testing I was trying out a lot of different papers and settings - you will get things wrong, and the info certainly helped find out what I'd got wrong...
Both Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print are supported.
The printer was visible to my iPad without any further configuration. Here it is using Epson's printing App, showing ink levels.
During testing, I installed driver software on both my old MacBook Pro, running OSX 10.6.8 and Mac Pro running OSX 10.9
Note that the printer was a pre-release version. Later info. suggests that 10.6 support was dropped. I note however that Driver (v9.42A_Europe) 06-Jul-2015 downloaded from Epson.co.uk intalls happily on a G5 Mac running 10.6.8
The printer driver functioned perfectly well and just like when I tested the SC-P600, so I'm not expecting any material changes between now and shipping.
We don't have any Windows machines here, but given Epson's usual driver support I'd expect similar functionality. With a pre-release machine I've not covered any aspects relating to software installation or additional software, since this might vary with what finally ships.
The printer has its own web interface, which allows for various setup and maintenance options
It's easy to use and set up many printer functions.
Just one minor thing to watch for. When I installed the driver on my Mac Pro, I obviously didn't read things carefully enough.
It wasn't until I tried to print from Photoshop (CS6) that I noticed that all kinds of driver settings were missing. It seems that there is an alternative 'simplified' printer on my network - 'AirPrint'
Deleting it and adding the correct version restored all the missing driver functionality.
I'm trying most of my printing via Photoshop (CS6), using custom printer ICC profiles to match the paper.
Epson supply profiles for their papers. The ones installed with the driver were fine, but I prefer to make use of custom ones I've built. This also allowed me to try some third party papers and see how well they performed.
This printer will undoubtedly be popular, so expect many paper suppliers to offer profiles, or even profiling services (if you buy their paper).
There is more detail on profiling later, but you first need to print a 'target' with coloured patches, to make your profile for any particular paper.
In this instance I'm telling Photoshop to leave colour management to the printer and selecting 'No Color Adjustment' in the printer driver.
Note the preset 'P800 PLPP NCA' in the driver settings. I always save selections of printer settings during testing, it helps me remember what I've done and ensures consistency if I want to repeat a print.
When printing with an ICC profile, I'll select the profile in the Photoshop print dialogue. This deactivates the colour settings in the driver.
You can fine tune more printer settings if you are using thicker/thinner media
Changing black inks
Since different paper types work best with different types of black ink, there are two black inks available.
If you just print on one general type of paper, such as glossy, or fine art rag (matte) papers then this is fine, but if you need to change paper you may need to change the currently installed black ink.
The printer can do this automatically, but I'd seriously recommend switching off this function. The minor inconvenience of having to manually instigate a swap is nothing compared to having it happen to you, by mistakenly selecting the wrong paper type in your print dialogue.
The swap process can be started from the front panel.
I timed my first PK to MK swap at 2m 12s, and 3m 10s for MK to PK. This isn't far from the figures in the specifications
The printer has three ways of handling sheet media.
The auto sheet feeder works fine for lighter papers, and at A2 size for papers such as Premium Lustre (PLPP).
However, the roller that draws paper into the printer is to the right, and had problems with heavier papers such as the Epson TPP and even heavier Pinnacle Baryta 300. Of course, if I'd read the specification sheets I'd have seen that both were thick enough to count as 'Fine Art Media'. My fault for automatically associating this with thick rag type papers.
Only a few millimetres skew but you don't really want to waste too many sheets of papers like that at A2 size.
In the printer settings you can turn off paper skew checking if desired.
There is a small clip (I didn't notice it at first) on the feed support at the back that if you move forward, will help ensure a clean feed for larger sheets of paper. Move your mouse over the image to see.
Thicker (art) papers
Thicker papers need loading at the front of the printer. There is also a straight through print path if printing on card.
To load papers from the front, you need to extend the light grey load tray.
The paper is gently pushed in until you feel resistance.
The rear feed support needs raising. I noticed that when front loading papers you could see it move ever so slightly when you hit the rear stop (remember though that this is a test sample printer).
If you've roll paper installed, you don't need to remove the holder, to use the rear feed (or the auto sheet feeder), just make sure that it is rolled back on to the roll.
Using Roll paper
The optional roll paper holder is a very solidly built unit.
The black cross-piece is metal and the spindle moves very easily. If you've used roll paper on one of the smaller A3+ printers, then this is in a whole different league.
Two locating pins and screws hold the bottom of the unit in place.
The top of the unit clips into place.
The spindles as shipped take 3" core rolls. You can remove the outer sections of the holders to use 2" cores.
The front panel gives useful tips on setting up roll paper.
How to feed the paper in.
If you are used to large format printers that load and unload paper at a fair speed, then pay attention, since the paper is drawn into the printer very slowly at first.
The unit is not powered, so after cutting or unloading the paper, you also need to manually rewind the roll.
Just in case you forget...
There is no cutter option. You can have a cut line printed if desired.
However you cut the paper, do take care to cut a 90 degrees to the length, since an uneven cut can cause loading problems.
Good quality wallpaper scissors will give a better cut quality than small general purpose scissors.
When loading roll paper, you can set the size and paper type. In this case it's the thick Innova IFA39.
Here's the 17" IFA39 whilst printing a profiling target.
I had a roll of 10" wide paper, so thought it worth a go, even if the printer specifications suggest that it's too narrow.
Why 10" paper?
Well I'm told by Chris at Paper Spectrum (a local supplier in Leicester - Pinnacle Lustre 300 paper on a 10" roll) that it was produced for event use, making it easy to print 8x10 and 10x12 and 10x16 prints (or any other 10" [254mm] size).
I need to create a custom size setting (the huge length number is the default - I didn't enter it)
Here are two A4 profiling targets on the 10" paper.
What about borderless?
After a few experiments, I set a custom paper size (10x8 equiv.)
Here's the result of printing 3 copies of a file sized to 10x8, with borderless printing selected.
There is some 50mm of space at the start of a print, whilst the cut line is after some 15mm of space.
The autoenlargement for borderless does mean that you lose some of the periphery of your image.
Although I don't often print on canvas, I've several small sample rolls from previous testing.
Canvas loads just as well as stiffer paper.
Here's an A3+ profiling target printed on a Matte bright white canvas by Innova (IFA35) - the page size was set to 17"x22"
With any new printer I've a series of known test images that I always start off printing, I know what these images look like on different types of paper and many different printers.
It's a quick way of seeing if the printer is up to more detailed testing, since if it can't manage one of these images, it's not going to suddenly look better with others.
I always suggest using such images when testing new papers, rather than your own favourite photos. If you can print an image you like the quality of, from these, then it makes refining the printing of your own work so much easier.
The images (and many others) are available for free download on this site.
Both images have lots of components to specifically test different aspects of printer performance.
I also use both for testing the performance of printer profiles. If you make use of them, then do be sure to read the explanatory notes that go with them.
Having the printer here coincided with the launch of our new web site with local images of Leicester for stock and print use.
As you might guess I'm not usually in the habit of printing large numbers of A2 prints 'on spec', but Epson did say they wanted me to give the printer a thorough test ;-)
These square images were all printed on A2 size Epson Premium Lustre paper. The rear feed works just fine if you load several sheets of this A2 sized paper (similarly with Epson PGPP).
Here's a borderless A3+ (13"x19") print on Epson Hot Press Bright. Fed in through the front feed slot, it's covered the whole sheet perfectly well.
This first print is of the view from the Grand Mesa in Colorado one spring.
I resized it (down) to print at 360ppi, where it would fit the width of 17" paper and be just over 6 feet long.
A custom paper size of 430mm x 2000mm should suffice.
It's printed using the ABW print mode on Innova IFA39, a good heavy matte paper, which is stiff enough to make the print easier to handle.
If you're going to be printing at this size, give some thought to what you're going to do with the print coming out of the printer. I'm letting it rest on a paper box on a chair.
The printer only has friction rollers to move the paper and no vacuum system or roll drive, so make the print mechanism's job as easy as possible.
Big, but could be bigger...
A couple of years ago I created a panoramic image of the city centre of Leicester and printed it at 47 feet long. The image would come out around 10 feet on the 10 inch roll paper...
The full resolution image could have been downsized to 720ppi, but 360 will do here.
The paper is the 10 inch roll I tested earlier.
Printing took just over 20 minutes - note the box for the print to rest on.
Here's the finished print, with me holding it.
If you're curious about the story behind the making of the full size 14 metre print, I've written a detailed description of just how it was made.
I also have a 16" roll of Epson PGPP - how big could I get away with?
Taking a panoramic image that's almost 150,000 pixels across. I resized it (down) to fit 16" paper
I also decided to send 720ppi data to the printer - this image has a lot of detail.
As you can see, a 3.2 metre custom page size.
After clicking print, not a lot happened for about 5 minutes, the printer then coughed and asked me if I'd finished...
It seems that an 88k pixel image causes problems.
Reducing the image to 360ppi worked, with the printer starting up and taking nearly half an hour to produce an absolutely superb looking print, of an image I've never seen printed before.
I prefer to create my own paper profiles with my X-Rite i1iSis scanning spectrophotometer and i1Profiler profiling software. I have a range of profiling targets, but one of my favourites fits just shy of 3000 patches on a single sheet of A3+ paper.
If you're not that into colour management, you might want to skip this section and jump to the conclusions.
The printer drivers I was using have a relatively limited set of paper media settings and no way of customising them.
It's important to ensure that you are consistent when making profiles, hence my preference for saving clearly named preset collections of settings.
Given that the production version of the printer is not yet available, my profiles are probably of little use (ask me when you get one, if you'd like to experiment with them).
If you have i1Profiler, or would like to 'pull them apart' (they include measurement data) - let me know, they were produced at these settings (for the perceptual RI).
In general I'm inclined to believe that the new dithering patterns of the P800 combined with the new ink set (that increases pigment load in encapsulated ink particles) gives slightly deeper blacks and smoother colour rendition of strong colour gradients.
Since the firmware of the printer may yet change, I'm basing this on this one test printer and also my observations of the SC-P600 a few months ago, which uses the same ink set.
It's worth remembering that if you're profiling media with much optical brightener (OBA) in it, then you may need to take a bit more care in making profiles.
The IFA35 canvas for example, is a 'bright white canvas' that shows a distinct boost in its reflectance spectrum if you measure your profiling target with or without any UV. Since it's a matte finish, you might wish to varnish it, which may well act as a UV filter to some extent.
The graph at the right shows a lightly coloured patch from the target print measured with and without UV filtration.
It's this 'blue boost' [the red line] that can make profiling a bit hit and miss if your print is being viewed anywhere with UV around. It's also indicative that the paper might be more likely to fade/yellow over time.
Given Epson's claims that the new ink set is more fade resistant ('archival'), then you might want to pay a bit more attention to your paper choices?
The ABW B&W print mode works well on every Epson printer I've tested, although I always check how well it is doing with respect to linearity, by making QTR correction profiles for papers I'm looking at (they may not need them).
I'm using the 51 step wedge on my B&W test image to make measurement.
Here are targets printed on Epson Hot Press Bright and Cold Press Natural papers.
During the exposure (~1 second) I've also played my blue laser pointer over the papers. Note how the wavy lines only show up clearly on one of the papers. The laser pointer is the quickest way to see how much optical brightener (OBA) there is in the paper, since it fluoresces (the OBA is taking the very deep blue light of the laser pointer and remitting it in longer wavelengths - more easily recorded by the camera).
Despite some naysayers, a modest amount of OBA in a paper is not the end of the world. OK, not for some markets, but the number of us selling in that market is fairly small.
There is far more about the linearising process I'm using, in some articles specifically devoted to this aspect of profiling.
I'm using the excellent QuadToneRIP package for producing my linearising profiles.
It's actually designed for high quality B&W printing with Epson printers, so will likely be worth looking at for your B&W printing.
Measuring the 51 step ramp on the 300gsm Lustre paper shows the added density from printing (ABW) at 2880. These charts are the output from making a QTR profile.
Having made many such measurements both struck me as very linear.
First at 1440 dpi
Results for 2880 dpi...
Both show the sloping 'b' line typical of a paper with a fair amount of OBA.
This is obvious when looking at the 'purple bump' in the spectral response at 10% black (measured with an i1Pro 2).
Black levels are very good, with a bit of crunching of deepest blacks at only the highest percentages. This was only just visible in the test prints and is at the limit of where I'd actually use the linearising profile when printing.
Secondly, I'll show an example using an OBA free art paper Epson's Cold Press Natural.
Look at the very different spectral curve - quite a warm paper
The linearity at 1440dpi is off by enough in the dark areas, that I'd definitely consider using the correction profile with this paper, although a very modest adjustment curve would likely suffice
Just for completeness, here's the Cold Press Natural paper at 2880 dpi.
With the Cold Press (textured) paper, any benefit of 2880 dpi is nowhere near so clear (we're using a different black ink).
Remember with all the tables of data you see above that the data is not averaged, so don't get taken in by any spurious sense of precision in the density values. The graphs are mainly there to show trends.
The ABW mode also varies the colour of inks that make up 'greys' depending on what paper is selected in the media settings. Take for example a textured watercolour style paper that I tested. I had a few metres of it on a 17" roll, but no actual details about how it had got into my paper collection. I tried the B&W test image using WCR and USFP media settings.
The paper has no OBA in it, so the distinctly different 'a' and 'b' curves are due to the colour mix of inks being used in ABW mode for the two settings. Move your mouse over the image below to see.
A few test prints using the USFP setting needed the QTR correction profile to open out blocked (deep) shadows. I still don't know what the paper was, but I ran off a couple of nice 6 foot long panoramic prints of a nearby wood.
I'm going to assume that there will be no major changes in the printer at this stage in its development, however I must once again point out that it was a pre-release printer that I was testing.
The auto sheet feed worked perfectly well with all papers A3+ and smaller that I tried. With A2, heavy papers tended to skew slightly, when loaded. Once I realised this, I used the front feed for art papers and heavier A2 lustre papers such as the Pinnacle Baryta 300 and Epson's Traditional Photo Paper. The feed mechanism is similar to the 3880, but I saw no wheel marks of any sort - then again I saw no marks when I looked at the 3880.
The front feed needs experience of loading a few sheets at larger sizes to feel confident of the action. It worked fine, but there is always (with any new printer) a need to get the hang of how the paper feels as you feed it in.
Borderless printing worked well, and even with fine art media, there were no annoying margin limitations or page length restrictions.
Roll paper works very well in the P800. Take care that the leading edge is cut square, and that any curl is not too much to hinder loading. The paper is taken up quite slowly at first - something that might catch you out if you are used to large format printers.
If you're going to be using roll paper a lot, invest in some good scissors.
The printer offers 1440 and a higher 2880 dpi resolution. Whilst there were some differences visible at very small scales, I printed several colour images at both resolutions and wrote what they were on the back. Looking the next day without a magnifying glass, I'd not want to claim my ability to tell which was which was a great deal above chance...
Here's a very large stitched image, reduced down to 720ppi and sized to fit an A3+ sheet of Hot Press Bright.
Here's the view from the Space Needle, a stitched image that would normally print at just over 5 feet wide.
So, with art papers, I'm inclined to think that 1440 is just fine - what about gloss/lustre papers.
The two detailed shots below were taken with a pocket USB microscope, so of limited resolution. They do however show the difference between 1440 and 2880 rather more clearly.
The images are from ABW mode prints of my B&W test image (300ppi) on Lustre finish paper at 1140...
... and 2880
The finer detail in the 2880 print is noticeable here. If you add to this, the slightly better density (black) found when profiling the ABW print mode on the lustre paper, then it might benefit some images on some papers to be printed at the slightly slower 2880 setting.
In real world images I really found it difficult to tell them apart without a magnifier. I'm reminded that only other photographers ever look at my very large prints from inches away, and they never buy stuff ;-)
The patterns that ink dots are laid down on the paper with the P800, are said to be finer than the 3880, but given the time that has passed between when I wrote that review and this, I'll have to leave such detailed comparisons until the P800 ships...
The printer is simple to use, and capable of creating truly impressive looking prints. The caveat is that as you print larger sizes, the quality requirements for the images you are printing rises.
If you've only printed at A4 size before, then printing at A2 or long panoramic sizes will need a lot more care in the creation and editing of your images. The results of that effort, can be prints that will stop people in their tracks, while they explore your image.
There is however something that you'll never find in printer marketing materials, that I do see. It's that printers are now very good and that to say that model X is vastly improved on model Y is to imply that the old model Y had some obvious failings, when maybe it didn't.
As someone who is lucky enough to test a lot of printers, I find it increasingly difficult to tell them apart purely on grounds of print quality.
The new ink set of the P800 gives deeper blacks and smoother strong colours, but many people would be hard put to spot this.
These worked well, but I note that they are not installed as individual .icc files on the Mac, but in a package at
It's very difficult to give ink usage figures from the testing I've done. The printer was delivered with fairly full cartridges and I did a lot of printing, including many more black ink swaps than I might normally do.
Given the internal similarities with the 3880, I'd expect ink usage to be broadly similar.
Black Ink swap
The Epson elephant in the room...
The printer still requires black ink to be used up every time you want to switch between paper types. I had thought (hoped) we might see the end of this when the SP3880 was replaced, but no.
The P800 uses a lot of tried and tested SP3880 derived technology inside, which probably explains a lot.
It comes down to cost. At a few pounds per swap, it's a real cost, but even with its irksome ink swap, the SP3880 has been my desktop 17" printer of choice for years - now that choice has moved to the SC-P800.
Cleaning, reliability and other bugbears
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The printer was switched on for most of the time I had it, although it did power itself down overnight.
There were some of the usual Epson cleaning sounds on start-up, and when printing a number of images on roll paper, it did pause once between images to make a few cleaning sounds.
That said, I saw no smudges, ink drops or marks during the time I've been testing it.
Epson TPP is one of the more fragile papers I use, in terms of surface marking, but there were no feed or roller marks visible in any of the prints I made with it.
A minor note, but the tilt screen of the P800 seemed rather more solid than the one on the P600.
Will getting an SC-P800 massively improve your prints?
Well, it depends on what you print with at the moment, and to be honest, how good your images are...
If I had a perfectly good working SP3880 that printed everything I needed, I think the differences you'd notice would hardly justify the expense.
But, if I wanted roll printing, whether for bulk or for panoramic photos, I've now got a real alternative to the expense of going to large format, doubly useful if I'm a bit short on space.
If I was printing on an A3+ (13") printer and perhaps finding the cost of replacing those relatively small ink cartridges a nuisance, the 80ml carts of the P800 could make a real difference. If I was battling with roll paper on a 13" printer (with those horrid 2" cores) the P800 would be quickly placed on my wanted list.
This printer has been long expected, and perhaps some will be disappointed that it doesn't make a stronger break with the past. It's definitely an evolution of the 3880, but I'm inclined to say, a rather good one.
When looking at the SC-P600 earlier this year, and now the P800, I realised that we are at a stage where it's largely going to be your photographic skill and ability to process/edit files that make the big jumps in how good your prints look. The P800 will show up deficiencies in your photography much more readily than your work will show the printer's.
Moving away from print quality, the practicalities of using the P800 seem improved, whether the connectivity or ease of use of the front panel/screen. The roll feed system worked flawlessly and is the first on a 'desktop' printer that I've seen that wouldn't annoy me massively if I had to use it regularly.
The P800 makes the process of making great looking prints a step easier. Epson just produced a excellent excuse to move your printing up a size, without needing another room for the printer to live in.
You can leave comments/questions about this review below
A 17" carriage width desktop printer that replaces the SP3880. Uses UltraChrome HD pigment inks. Supports roll paper printing with optional roll media holder.
Connectivity includes WiFi, USB and Ethernet.
USA SureColor P800 will be available for purchase in June 2015 through authorized resellers; pricing follows:
UK: SC-P800 is available from June 2015 priced at RRP £974.18 inc. VAT (£811.82 without VAT)
Base Printing Technology
Printer Nozzle Configuration
Colour and Monochrome 180 nozzles each ink
2880 x 1440 dpi; 1440 x 720 dpi;
26.93"(W) x 14.80"(D) x 9.85"(H) Printer weight: 43 lbs
Epson UltraChrome HD Ink
The SureColor P800 printer is designed to be used exclusively with genuine Epson inks and cartridges
Epson Intelligent Ink Cartridge(*)
The SureColor P800 printer is designed to be used exclusively with Epson Genuine Epson Ink and cartridges.
(*) Cartridge yields vary considerably based on images printed, print settings, paper type, frequency of use and temperature. For print quality, a variable amount of ink remains in the cartridge after the "replace cartridge" indicator comes on. The printer ships with full cartridges and part of the ink from the first cartridges is used for priming the printer.
Fully Automatic Black Ink Switching (Optional)
(B) Ink used in conversion varies considerably based on temperature and other factors
L* is the Lightness axis of LAB colourspace on scale of 0 to 100. A lower number is darker (better)
Photo data based on Premium Lustre genuine profile
Acoustic Noise Level
Colour Printing; Approximately 50 dB(A) according to ISO 7779
Operating Systems Supported
Windows 8, Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit)
Macintosh X 10.10, 10.9, 10.8, 10.7 (system tested also worked with 10.6.8 - but note that this was with a pre-release printer in Apr 2015 - newer software suggests that 10.6 is not supported)
Printer Interfaces & Language
Print Engine Speeds
Print times are based upon print engine speeds only. Total throughput depends upon front-end driver/RIP, file size, printing resolution, ink coverage, network speed etc. Print speeds are shown in min:sec. All times are in HS = High-Speed Bidirectional Print Mode, with Normal = 1440 x 720 dpi and Max. Quality = 2880 x 1440 dpi Tests conducted by Epson America, Inc. as of April 2015
Sheet Media Handling
Roll Media Handling - Requires Optional Roll Media Adapter
Maximum printable length may be limited by software application, OS, available media and RIP
UL1950, CSA 22.2 950 FDA, EMI: FCC Part 15 subpart B class B, CSA C108.8 class B, AS/NZS 3548 class B
Limited Warranty and Service
Includes one year of limited warranty coverage under the Epson Preferred Protection Plan Toll-free telephone support available Monday through Saturday Whole-unit exchange service
Optional one- or two-year Epson Preferred Plus service plans available
Products and Accessory Part Numbers
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