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Epson SureColor SC-P600 printerEpson SureColor P600 review

Using the SC-P600 A3+ printer

The Epson P600 is the first appearance of the SureColor brand in higher end A3+ desktop printers. Although very similar in some respects to the R3000, there are a range of differences and improvements reflecting the several years difference between the introduction of these printers.

Keith reviewed the R3000 a few years ago, and has been able to give the new SC-P600 a thorough look over, after being loaned a brand new printer, courtesy of Epson UK.

A lot of paper and ink has gone through this printer - please do make use of the comments feature at the end if what you want to know isn't included in Keith's article.

Epson SC-P600

This review concentrates on using the printer for high quality print output, rather than covering the bundled software in any great depth.

Installation and setup of the SC-P600 is covered in more detail in a separate article. We also have a review of the larger P800 printer

There is a comments/questions section at the end of the review if you want to ask Keith about the printer

Keith has written numerous other printer related articles and reviews. Have a look in the site 'Articles News' section for details.

What do you get with the SC-P600?

The SC-P600 is well packed and comes with an install set of ink carts (in box with roll paper holders). The pile of ink cartridges behind it (in Epson's 'Killer Whale' series) were sent for the review - This review includes some observations on ink usage, worth taking note of, if stocking up on spare inks.

contents of the SC p600 set up kit

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The full technical specs. are listed at the foot of the article

Dimensions of the P600In the box...

Note: USB and Ethernet cables not included

Key Features (info from Epson)

The printer is quite light, compared to some of those of similar size. It's easy to move around, even if you're not particularly strong.

The controls and display are on a pop out panel (mouse over to see).

pop out display and controls panel

The ink carts are positioned to the left of the printer, under the main top cover.

top lid of printer

Initial setup was easy, requiring the installation of the nine ink cartridges. These are starter cartridges that will provide ink to charge the tubes between the cartridges and the moving print heads. This process takes some 10-15 minutes, and is guided from the front display. The ink in the lines and print head never runs dry, so when you put your next cart in, it is what's used first. I don't know how muck ink is used in the setup process, but it does mean that you'll get fewer prints from your initial set of carts.

After the setup, all carts show as full. I've a photo in the conclusions that gives an idea of how many prints I created before the first cart needed replacement (Vivid Light Magenta).

display shows ink levels at the end of setup

Many functions are directly accessible from the front display.

main display of printer

Connectivity

The printer is very easy to connect into a network, with 3 methods of connection.

There are details for setting up wired and wireless printer connections in the accompanying SC-P600 printer setup article.

Wireless LAN

The advantages of the new touch screen display are readily apparent when connecting up anywhere away from directly next to your computer. Such information may not be vital to running your printer, but immediately gives confidence when something goes wrong.

display showing wireless connectivity and signal strength

Both Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print are supported.

The printer was visible to my iPad without any further configuration, and even announced its presence on the network on Karen's Mac in another office, so be prepared for shouts of 'What's this' from other users on your network ;-)

We don't have any Win PCs here to test with, but I believe almost all features of using the printer are similar on other supported platforms.

Using the SC-P600

Software installation for drivers and additional software can be initiated via the install CD. This downloads the latest software, from the net, so is not the disk of driver software you may have used with printers in the past. Note that the CD itself only contains windows software - Mac software needs downloading.

software and driver installer

Since I had it to hand, one of the first prints I made with the printer, was from my iPad.

It's test image (in the sRGB colour space) that I've had for some time and use quite often for quick testing. It was in a Kodak test image kit I reviewed nearly 10 years ago.

I'll start off with a print on plain paper - this goes in the main sheet feed at the rear of the printer.

With larger paper this takes up some space (move your mouse over the image to see), so you won't be able to push the printer flush up against a wall.

loading a shee of paper into the printer

I'm just using A4 size copier paper.

The screen allows me to set paper size and type at the printer. This may seem like extra trouble, but if you're sharing a printer with other people, there is nothing quite so irritating as when someone prints out a word document, after you've loaded several sheets of expensive photo paper.

Even if you're the only user of the printer, it's all too easy to forget exactly what you've set if you load several sheets and the phone rings... (yes, I've done that).

setting paper type and size via the front panel

The iPad finds the printer straight away - I've not configured anything at all on the iPad.

iPad printing

Moments later, the print starts to emerge.

I hadn't selected borderless - this just happened to be the default. If you're going to be printing from such devices, probably best to read a bit more in the on-line manual (clearly written and mostly helpful).

print from iPad on plain paper

Here's the print - PK (photo black) ink on plain paper was never going to be great.

print on plain paper from iPad

A sheet of Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper (PGPP) looks pretty much spot on.

  • The screen only looks a lot more blue, because it's working at a much higher colour temperture for its white point, than the halogen lighting in the room (6500K vs 2950K).

print on Epson glossy paper

Changing the black ink to MK (matte black) allowed me to produce a print on Epson Archival Matte (lwr. left)

  • For long time Epson printer users, yes, I'm afraid you still have to swap black inks ... more in a bit.

selection of prints produced directly from an iPad on the SC-p600

So, using Epson papers and the sRGB colour space I get perfectly acceptable prints straight from an iPad.

There is free print software available from Epson that I installed on my iPad and even my old iPhone 3GS - this lets you set up paper size and type. It works really well, even if I don't much like using either device for any form of photography ;-)

For someone like myself who prints from Photoshop and goes to the trouble to make advanced colour profiles for papers, this bodes well for the printer.

Printing

I'm trying most of my printing via Photoshop (CS6), using custom printer ICC profiles to match the paper.

Epson supply some profiles for their papers, and they are very good - much better than ones you might have got 10 years ago, where there was much more variation in printer performance. This printer will undoubtedly be popular, so expect many paper suppliers to offer profiles, or even profiling services (if you buy their paper).

I've got much 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.

printing with no color adjustment

When printing with an ICC profile, I'll select the profile in the Photoshop print dialogue. This deactivates the colour settings in the driver.

setting correct paper type for printing

I'll not show this in too much detail, since it varies depending on what software, operating system (and version) you are using. The manual has more details.

For black and white printing I'm using the B&W print mode (note how Photoshop is set to 'Printer manages colors' for this).

I'll cover this B&W 'ABW mode' printing in more detail later, since it's a very good way of producing monochrome prints.

setting up printing for monochrome

You need to select your paper type here, and it needs to match the settings you've entered on the printer when loading paper.

selecting paper type for matte paper

You should also note that matte and art papers need MK ink, whilst PK black is for photo type papers (this for colour and B&W printing).

  • Note: On the Mac, I generally save sets of settings as 'presets' for different print setups. I find this reduces the chances of not getting the right settings for a particular print.

The ink type is listed after setting the paper. The printer will swap between the two, but bear in mind that it does use a small amount of ink, so it may be worth batching your print types if like me, you use a variety of papers.

Printer driver setting for ABW mode printing

The B&W mode has a number of settings, but the default Neutral/Darker setting is generally the most linear.

Indeed, if you find that you need to lighten it here, it's a pretty good indicator that you are editing your images to make them too dark. 90% of the time this is because your monitor is too bright.

default B&W print settings for ABW

I'm testing the printer on another floor of my house, so although the exercise is good for me, I'll often check the printer queue information, to check that printing has started, and the printer is on (it defaults to powering down after a few hours, and by default goes into 'sleep' mode after 3 minutes non use).

This is on my OSX 10.9 Mac, but similar options are available on any computer.

printer queue management

Eventually an ink cart runs low, so you will need to change it...

Changing ink on the SC-P600

Here is the printer's display after I'd produced a lot of profiling charts and quite a few initial test prints, with a roughly even mix of colour and B&W prints.

low ink warning on main display

The vivid light magenta hit the buffers first.

It first flagged low, and interrupted printing, offering me the chance to continue.

Unfortunately, I was upstairs and it aborted the print.

This was whilst I was testing with a pack of 5x7 glossy paper, making multiple prints, and it continued printing thereafter, so I got one half print in a pack of otherwise fine prints (you can see them later in the part about borderless printing).

I then decided to do two A3+ prints at 1440 dpi and 5760 dpi, to see if I could see any difference.

printing with low ink warning

70% of the way through the print it stopped - it was serious this time, no carrying on.

printer ink cartridge is empty

I popped in a new cart - if you've got them nearby, this is a minute's work at most.

replacing an empty ink cartridge

The print carried on, but get the light reflecting on it from the right angle and you can see where the printing paused.

mark on print shows pause in printing

So, I'd say that from the first stop for ink change, to the 'absolute must change' stop, you can probably get another 2-3 A3+ prints - maybe...

Like all inkjet printers, the SC-P600 benefits from regular use - leaving any printer several weeks between prints makes it more likely that you will need to run cleaning cycles, especially if you live in a climate with low humidity or at altitude. If you really must leave your printer unused for extended periods of time, then consider sealing it in a big plastic bag, or perhaps get someone to pop in and print off a nozzle check on a sheet of plain paper?

Changing black inks

We're well past having to physically swap ink carts to switch black inks, but the need is still there.

You can initiate the change from the control panel, or through the printer software (it can also be set to automatic, depending on paper type)

changing from one black ink type to a different one

The first swap I made (from PK to MK) took just over 3 minutes, accompanied by lots of whirring noises from inside.

ink swap taking over three minutes

Swapping back only took about a minute and a half.

If you go into the printer's utility and settings menu, there is an option to switch to a 'reduced ink use' black swap mode.

I'm not sure exactly what this does, but most likely doesn't flush out the print head quite so vigorously. Thus your first print at the new setting may be at a reduced quality - whether this is noticeable is not something I've tested.

I note that this option is not settable anywhere in the printers web page or from the normal Epson printer utility (if it is - please let me know, I couldn't find it).

Paper Loading and Media handling

The printer supports a very wide range of pre-defined print sizes, many including borderless printing.

Borderless printing is not something I use a lot, but it's great to see real flexibility in paper size and the handling of print borders.

wide range of default media sizes

The photo below shows a pack of 5x7 sheets of Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper loaded into the sheet feed slot.

loading 5x7 paper into printer

Apart from the ink running low, that I mentioned earlier, it took no effort to run off a whole pack of postcard sized prints.

You will likely lose a bit of print area off the edges, so do experiment with the two different borderless print modes on cheap paper first, particularly if you have text near the edge (once again see the printer manual for more details).

5x7 postcard sized prints

Thicker art papers

Thicker papers (and board) are loaded at the front. Here I've selected a thick art paper type.

selecting a thicker fine art paper

I'm loading it via the front slot - there is loading information available on the display.

display showing media loading options

The rear paper support slot needs to be opened.

There is more information available if you just scroll down the display. Mouse over the image to see.

guide to loading paper on main screen

The front load tray pops out if you press it (note the guide on the screen).

paper support tray for front loading media

Once you've loaded the sheet (printing side upwards), it's drawn into the printer.

loading a sheet of paper at the front

The paper will rise up out of the rear slot, so do make sure there is space, if it's large paper.

You then need to push the loading tray back into the printer, before printing - ideally before you walk back upstairs to print ;-)

Large paper and custom sizes

The printer takes a wide range of custom paper sizes, as you can see from the setting screen below.

setting a custom paper size

There are some limitations on paper types, but the setting above was for some custom greeting card paper I had.

  • You can also see how I forgot what way cards open up, when doing the artwork in Photoshop...

printing onto a custom media size

Of more direct interest to me is the ability to print on large sheets for panoramic images.

I'm using some 900mm paper, but the maximum (Win PC) is over 3 metres (129 inches or nearly 11 feet).

setting a 900mm long custom page size

Here's a 900mm sheet in the normal feed slot.

sheet of long paper loaded into printer

I'm trying a special panoramic paper size here from Paper Spectrum (based near where I live in Leicester in the UK).

Here's a black and white print (using the ABW print mode).

printing on to panoramic paper

The full size print - high resolution panoramic shots deserve to be printed large (my largest is over 14m long)

a black and white print on special wide paper

Here's the print setup for a colour one. This is a paper very like Epson Archival Matte, so I'm using my EAM profile.

wide panoramic colour image

Here's the final print (from a fall trip to Colorado). I'd normally use a lustre or semigloss paper for this image, to really bring out some of the colours.

large colour print on custom paper size

Using Roll paper

The roll paper guides fit at the back of the printer. Note that the manual feed support is also opened, to accept the paper.

roll paper holders

Unfortunately I was out of roll paper this size, so unable to test it. However, I did get to try this with our R3000 review a while ago, which discusses roll paper use with this size of printer in much more detail. Given the similarities between the R3000 and the SC-P600 I suspect differences would be negligible.

The printer can print to 129" (3.27m) in banner mode - enough for most people's panoramic print needs. I note that the maximum print length if you're using a Mac is only 1.3m

CD Printing

One of the software packages for the printer provides a complete design solution for CD Printing. It has hundreds of sample files, pictures and graphics elements to try.

cd printing software

Not all CDs/DVDs take ink the same way, so there are a range of options for setting print density and positioning.

cd printing setup

The disk fits into the plastic tray. Note the rack at the side, which engages with an internal drive cog, to move the tray.

printable CD in support tray

Paper size is set to CD.

The tray is loaded into the lighter grey front loading area.

printer set to CD print mode

Printing just worked, with no misfeeds or problems.

image printed onto CD

Printer testing

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.

black and white printer test imagedatacolor test image for printer profilie evaluation

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.

Various Prints

I normally stick to just a few papers from the printer manufacturer, but this time I've included several other papers, such as a gloss metallic and a Fiber Baryta (IFA69) from Innova and a cotton rag paper that I believe is from Hahnemuhle. It's the paper I looked at recently wrote up a detailed article covering its identification, testing and profiling for colour and black & white.

In the process of writing this review I've made many custom ICC profiles and ones for B&W use. These are listed at the bottom of the page and are available for personal, non commercial use on request.

I also tested three new papers (inc. two 'metallic' types) from Innova which I've included in their own short review (see review for OLM 70, 71 and 72).

The choice of what image works best with what sort of paper is a personal one. If I could come up with some decent guidelines, I'd have written them up a long time ago.

The two examples below are both on the cotton rag paper. The spider and wasp looks good, but the black on this matte paper just doesn't give quite the depth I'd like (for this image), whilst if the church was printed on a glossy paper it might look too dark and harsh - it looks great on the cotton rag paper (printed using ABW and linearisation).

Note that this is a general observation on the suitability of different papers for different types of images.

two test print on a cotton rag based art paper

Here are two more prints, both printed on an unusual metallic gloss paper (note the blueish reflection on the rear sheet in the feed tray). It actually has no optical brighteners in it and shows the smooth ink surface. There is still some gloss differential with the current inks, but no real bronzing on any paper I looked at.

two test prints on a glossy photo paper

Here are two borderless prints on fine art papers, loaded via the front slot.

The A4 one is on Epson VFA and the A3+ print on a textured watercolour type paper.

borderless prints on fine art papers

The display does warn of potentially reduced print quality at leading and trailing edges, but with flat paper, there was no problem at all.

Colour profiles and profiling

I prefer to create my own colour profiles for papers and printers I'm testing, using i1Profiler from X-rite and an i1iSis scanning spectrophotometer.

Note - if you are not that much into colour management, you really might want to skip over this section

To make a profile, I need to set the correct media type.

setting the media type on the printer control panel

This isn't too difficult for Epson papers, such as this EAM paper.

With other papers, look for the suggested settings from the manufacturer or supplier. If that fails, then go for something similar.

creating test prints and profiling targets with a matte paper

I'm printing both colour and B&W test targets for each paper.

This one is Velvet fine art - you won't see much difference in these web images, but the VFA has deeper blacks and richer colours than the EAM above (note too the rear paper support, since the VFA was loaded through the front).

creating test prints and profiling targets with a fine art paper

When using a new printer, check and re-check all your print settings.

The image below is from when I was building my colour ICC profiles in X-Rite's i1Profiler. The red shape gives a feel for the gamut of Epson Cold Pressed Natural paper.

The only problem is that from profiling other papers, I'd expect the shape to be larger...

Well, it so happens that I'd accidentally set the printer driver to sRGB rather than 'No Color Adjustment' when printing the target.

Move your mouse over the image to see the results from when I printed the test target correctly.

You can see how the incorrect 'sRGB' one chops off the full range of colours that could be printed.

printer profile ICC colour gamuts compared

One of the uses of such a graphing tool is to spot obvious errors in your profiling process.

I don't produce profiles commercially, so there just enough time between doing them that I have to be extra careful with the details.

The colour profiles I'm making have nearly 3000 patches on them, compared with the hundreds that most companies offering custom profiles use. If you do make use of any of the ones I've made, please let me know what you think. In particular whether you find using them with Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric rendering intent better (if you use RC, it should be used with BPC on matte papers). The two intents have distinct differences in my normal profiling setup, and work better for different types of image (YMMV).

Black and White

The B&W print mode of the driver gives very good results on many papers, but I know from experience that it often crunches up tones in the deepest shadows. Not much, but enough to show in my prints if I want to be able to show the difference between 100% black and 95% black.

I need to linearise the output. That's what the step wedge pattern on my test image is for.

producing linearisation prints for black and white print adjsutment

I'll measure the 51 step wedge with my i1Pro2 spectrophotometer, although at a push, you could even use a good flatbed scanner, if you're prepared to do a bit more experimentation.

measuring step wedge with an i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer

I'm using the free ColorPort 2 software from X-Rite for the measurements.

It actually offers far more data than I need, but I've included some screen shots to show some more info about papers, since I know that a lot of people like to see it (don't get too hung up on the numbers, is always my advice though ;-)

These are the readings for Epson PGPP paper at 100% black

density measurments from a test sample of glossy paper

By the way, there is far more about the 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, particularly once the SC-P600 becomes more widely available, resulting in many more specialist QTR printing profiles.

I'll also show some spectral data for measurements at 10% black. The first one is Innova's IFA69 Baryta paper - a really nice finish, if you want to match some darkroom papers (I don't remember them, but just really like its finish for B&W)

Note how the spectral response drops off in the violet, but has no obvious bump in the blue. This is typical of white Baryta papers with no significant optical brighteners.

Move your mouse over the image to see the relatively flat curve from Epson's Cold Pressed Natural paper. The gentle upwards slope is typical of a good cotton rag paper with a slightly warmer tone.

Both are really nice papers to use - choice should depend on the image and your personal tastes.

spectral measurement showing response of a baryta style paper and a cotton rag paper

Printing with the correction profiles is simply via the normal ABW printing method.

printing a black and white image from Photoshop

The difference is simply that you apply the correction profile -before- printing.

Put your B&W image into a colour space such as sRGB and then convert to the QTR profile.

converting image to a destination profile

There should be no change to the look of the image. Now Assign the original profile (sRGB in this case) to the image.

Now the image should change. Move your mouse over the image below to see the effect.

The resulting image is lighter, reflecting the fact that the default print setting makes shadows a bit dark. I'm making my image lighter to counteract this. (if this isn't clear, have a look at some of my other B&W printing articles).

assigning profile leads to a corrected image to send to the printer

For Epson VFA paper, here is the measured curve from the test target:

measurement results from a 51 step greyscale target on Epson VFA paper

Here's the correction curve from the created profile. You can see how it curves in the opposite way to the line of 'L's above.

The corrections are relatively minor and the 'a' and 'b' lines fairly smooth, all things that suggest that this is a good printer for B&W. Something borne out in actual prints.

correction curve from a QTR icc correction profile

And now a bonus graph for those who really like looking at the numbers... ;-)

I tried my 'unknown' smooth rag paper using both the 'Normal' and 'Darker' settings - Once again, I'd note that the default setting in the ABW driver is actually 'Darker' - mouse over the image to see the difference.

Just to finish off, here are the two curves from the correction profiles built from the data above.

Move your mouse over the image to see the change.

two b&W correction curves from a QTR profile

I note how both curves show how the ABW mode tends to block up deep shadows, whilst the 'normal' setting seems to apply a general 'brightening' curve to the whole image (needing the big opposite correction in the profile curve)

  • I'm inclined to wonder if Epson knows that an awful lot of people have their monitors set too bright and will find their print too dark, so allow for it in their 'normal' (but non default) setting?

Additional software

Epson Print Layout software is supplied with the printer. It works well and might be worth a look if you're not printing from within Photoshop, Lightroom, or some other application that supports printing.

The Easy Photo Print software is the same as I looked at with the R3000, if you're curious, see the details about Easy Photo Print in that review.

Also available is Epson's Colorbase software for colour calibration (note that this is not a full ICC profiling package).

Conclusions

At first glance the printer looks very much like the Epson R3000 I reviewed a few years ago, and I don't doubt that if I pulled it apart there would be many design similarities.

The new tilt up touch screen is very useful for both setting up and general use when printing.

It reminded me of some of the frustrations I've had in that past with printers that didn't have displays, yet alone ones in colour and touch sensitive. From a usability point of view it's a definite step forward.

If there is a (minor) downside to this new display, it's that it feels a little 'plastic' in its build quality. The shiny top cover at the front looks good, but is a fairly soft plastic, so prone to fine scratches.

The printer is advertised as having a new ink set with deeper blacks:
"Wide colour gamut and Epson’s highest black density (2.84 DMax on PGPP)"

The numbers when profiling do back this up somewhat, but it's not going to be something that leaps out at you when looking at prints. Well, perhaps not unless they've been prepared specially and you're at a trade show ;-)

I did note from profiling, that the new printheads of the SureColor range, and of course the software that drives them, seems to produce much more linear output straight from the start. It's easy to see improvements of gamut when profiling, at the extremes, but real world images tend not to have huge amounts of such intense colours in them. What I noticed in the the SC-P600 output was a smoothness in tone over flat areas, with no obvious banding or awkward transitions. The speed that the vivid light magenta and other light inks were used up suggests that the stronger inks are used less than in some older printers. The 2pl minimum ink drop size will help too.

So, prints that use the PK ink can have a bit darker blacks - are you going to notice? I don't blame Epson for trumpeting this number, but I've long believed that arguments over DMax numbers are best left to some on the forums, whilst others (myself included) go out and take photos.

This brings me back to the 'problem' I find with almost all new kit I'm reviewing these days. The days of massive leaps in performance with almost all new printer (and camera) models are behind us. To say that the SC-P600 is vastly better than the R3000 would imply that there were obvious deficiencies in the R3000, and as I remember it, it was a very nice printer to use.

If you've an older Epson printer from when you needed to swap black cartridges, the jump should be well worthwhile from a print quality point of view, particularly on more modern papers.

Paper handling

During all the time I used the printer I never had a single paper feed issue, and that's with quite a range of papers.

There was no smudging of inks or signs of ink on the back of prints (usually from rollers). I'd suggest though for printers likely to be heavily used, you pay attention to the various cleaning options, especially if using papers that shed fibres.

The range of available paper sizes and availability of borderless printing, along with roll paper and custom paper sizes are very good, with no arbitrary limitations on media type.

Print resolution

The printer offers 1440 and a much higher 5760 dpi resolution.

Looking at prints normally, or even under a moderate magnifying glass really doesn't show much difference to me.

I decided to print two versions of my B&W test print, but reduced in size to take the resolution of the files up to 1200 ppi

resizing test image to test printer resolution

Here's an actual pixel view of the 'N' of the Northlight logo - the shape is barely visible looking at the tiny prints. It's printed using the ABW mode.

manified pixel view of test image

Getting out my USB microscope, here's the view of the (greyscale) image printed at 1440 and 5760 dpi on a glossy paper.

microscopic view of print detail at 1440 and 5760 dpi

Differences are there, but how much difference it will make to your prints, I leave as an exercise for the reader. Those with more spare time might like to resize to multiples of the ppi figures...

Ink costs

It's very difficult to give ink usage figures from the testing I've done.

The pile of prints that (IIRC) precede the first ink change give but an introduction to working this out (remember that some ink is used during setup).

You can add in a small pile (5) of 5x7 colour prints, and maybe subtract 2-3 of the A3+ prints, but it gives a good feel for how much printing I did before the first cart (VLM) ran out (don't forget a few black ink swaps too).

collection of test prints

A full set of carts will set you back about £180

Epson do give figures for the number of 'pages' that you can expect from each cart, but do read the explanation of the methodology behind the figures.

Photo Black UltraChrome HD ink cartridge (T7601) n/a
Matte Black UltraChrome HD ink cartridge (T7608) 1100
Light Black UltraChrome HD ink cartridge (T7607) 10,000
Light Light Black UltraChrome HD ink cartridge (T7609) 12,000
Cyan UltraChrome HD ink cartridge (T7602) 2200
Light Cyan UltraChrome HD ink cartridge (T7605) 2400
Vivid Magenta UltraChrome HD ink cartridge (T7603) 1400
Vivid Light Magenta UltraChrome HD ink cartridge (T7606) 2800
Yellow UltraChrome HD ink cartridge (T7604) 2100

I'd note that if you do much black and white printing then these figures are -considerably- skewed.

When you get the printer, a full set of inks might be worth considering, but at currently over £20 a cartridge, it might be worthwhile noting how quick various inks go down for the mix of printing you do.

Black Ink

Oh, the elephant in the room...

There's still there's that need to swap black inks for paper type. I swap between paper types quite often and it's disappointing to still see this 'feature' in Epson printers. Indeed, a few years ago when I used to have an Epson SP9600 44" printer (with MK ink), I also had a SP7880 with PK loaded, just for work on lustre papers.

It uses a small amount of ink, that at current UK ink prices is going to cost you a few pounds per swap. I'm not sure why this is still needed. It suggests that some core aspects of print head design from the R3000 have not changed that much.

  • Speculation: With 8 inks you need 4 pairs of ink nozzle lines, if the nozzle sets come in pairs, then 9 inks would need 5 pairs, giving 10 'colours' - one left over for another colour (orange? green?) or a gloss coat.
Cleaning, reliability and other bugbears

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With all inkjet printers there is the question of clogging and ink used for cleaning - this is an area of shall we say... heated debate on some forums.

At no time during the month I had the printer did I see any indications of poor print quality. The printer arrived just before Christmas, so was left unused for over a week after setting up.

The printer has inks in carts that don't move with the print head, so there needs to be a pressurisation system to ensure proper ink flow. It seems to work intermittently as needed.

It's this that I suspect has been misinterpreted by some as 'cleaning cycles' during printing.

Printers need regular use - I'm convinced that a not insignificant portion of complaints about inkjet printers are 'user related'. Printers are getting better, and things like the display on the SC-P600 certainly help, but buy a printer like this and only use it every two months, then (IMHO) you are asking for trouble.

The printer didn't leave any marks on smooth paper surfaces that I could see.

I know that some printers show these marks much more readily (the R3000 I looked at had actually been damaged in transit). The SC-P600 has the 'pizza wheel' parts in the print output path, although I note a 'fix' for problems with such marks, that was sent to me concerning the R3000.

One other personal gripe is the occasional 'Windows only' features you see in the manual. The maximum print length on the Mac for example, is only ~1.3 metres (over 3 metres on the PC). Now, I'm sure that some of these limitations are not Epson's doing, so why not say so ;-)

Will getting an SC-P600 massively improve your prints?

Of course not ...The truth (IMHO) is, that many print problems I see are due to 'user fixable' issues.

So, a good colour managed workflow, good monitor calibration/profiling, paper choice and profiling, editing skills, and an appreciation of how best to handle aspects of sharpening. That's before you even approach the content of the photos themselves...

If I had a perfectly good R3000 I'd not rush to update, but if I was perhaps printing from a smaller all-in-one style printer and wanted to really push my print quality, then the SC-P600 is an excellent way to go.

Sure, it's producing slightly deeper blacks than before, but in reality you're probably not going to notice without detailed comparisons.

The performance numbers are improved, but more than often it's going to be the printer that will show the limits in your work, not vice versa.

The printer offers the chance to create stunning exhibition quality prints - if you have the pictures to match.

Overall

An easy to set up and use A3+ printer that produced excellent quality prints for colour and black & white. A wide range of paper size options, including roll paper, lets me simply print anything from small borderless postcards right up to wide panoramic images.

On second thoughts, that sounds almost too simple, but that's what I want to see in a printer.

  • Article history: First published January 2015

Summary

A pigment ink based A3+ printer that produces excellent black & white and colour prints.

Supports a range of media, including thick paper (to 1.3mm), roll paper and printable CDs.

Specifications (from Epson)

Technology
Printing Method Epson Micro Piezo print head
Nozzle Configuration 180 Nozzles Black, 180 Nozzles per Colour
Minimum Droplet Size 2 pl, With Variable-Sized Droplet Technology
Ink Technology UltraChrome HD
Printing Resolution 5,760 x 1,440 DPI
Category Consumer

Print

Printing Speed 44 Seconds per 10 x 15 cm photo (Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper)
6 Pages/min Colour (plain paper 75 g/m2)
6 Pages/min Monochrome (plain paper 75 g/m2)
Colours Vivid Light Magenta, Vivid Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, Cyan, Matte Black, Photo Black, Light Light Black, Light Black

Paper / Media Handling

Number of paper trays 3
Paper Formats A3+, A3, A4, A5, Letter, Letter Legal, Postcard, 9 x 13 cm, 10 x 15 cm, 13 x 18 cm, 13 x 20 cm, 20 x 25 cm, 100 x 148 mm, User defined
Duplex Manual
Print Margin 0 mm top, 0 mm right, 0 mm bottom, 0 mm left (Wherever margin is defined. Otherwise 3mm top, left, right, bottom.)
Automatic Document Feeder Standard (built-in)
Compatible Paper Thickness 0.08 mm - 1.3 mm
Media Handling Auto Sheet Feeder, Borderless print, CD/DVD print, Fine Art Paper Path, Roll Paper, Thick Media Support

General

Energy Use 0.3 Watt (Power off), 1.4 Watt (sleep mode), 20 Watt (printing)
Supply Voltage AC 220 V - 240 V,50 Hz - 60 Hz
Product dimensions 616 x 369 x 228 mm (Width x Depth x Height)
Product weight 15 kg
Noise Level 48.2 B (A) according to ISO 7779 pattern with Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper / Photo RPM mode
Compatible Operating Systems Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Microsoft Windows Vista (32/64 bit), Microsoft Windows XP (Home Edition / Prof / Prof X64 / Vista), Windows 7, Windows 7 x64, Windows 8 (32/64 bit), Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 x64 Edition
Included Software Epson Easy Photo Print, Epson Print CD, EpsonNet Config, EpsonNet Print, EpsonNet setup
Interfaces WiFi, Ethernet, USB
WLAN Security WEP 64 Bit, WEP 128 Bit, WPA PSK (TKIP), WPA PSK (AES)
Mobile and Cloud printing services Epson Connect (iPrint), Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print
What's in the box Driver and utilities (CD), Individual Ink Cartridges, Main unit, Power cable, Quick Setup Guide, Warranty Documents, WiFi/network setup guide

Other Features

LCD screen Type: Colour, Touch-panel, Diagonal: 6.8 cm

Other

Warranty 12 months Carry in

More Info


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