Epson Stylus Photo 1500W £349.99
25th Jun 2012 | 11:00
Wireless A3+ printer that's great for glossy photos
Although superficially the all-black A3+ Epson Stylus Photo 1500W (Artisan 1430 in the US) printer looks suitably different to the two-tone Epson Stylus Photo 1400, under the hood it's a different matter.
One of our chief gripes with the Epson 1400 was that it used the Owl Ink cartridges - well the Epson 1500W features the same six-colour dye-based ink system, with individual cartridge bays for magenta, cyan, yellow, light magenta, light cyan and black.
Not that there's fundamentally a problem with the Epson fade-resistant Claria ink - the colours are lively on glossy paper and prints are said to last up to 98 years under glass and over 200 years in a photo album. No, it's more to do with the size of the cartridges.
The Owl Ink cartridges are also used in some of Epson's A4 photo printers, where their 11.1ml ink capacity makes more sense. Doubling the print size to A3+ naturally means that ink supplies will run down faster and the cartridges are going to need replacing more frequently.
It's like putting the fuel tank from a Mini Cooper inside a BMW 5 Series; you're not going to get too far if you push it hard.
With a street price of around £240 (around $300 in the US), the Epson Stylus Photo 1500W appears good value - the extra 'premium' over the cost of the Epson 1400 gets you Wi-Fi printing functionality.
Both models share the same Micro Piezo TFP print head, with 90 nozzles per colour capable of 1.5pl ink droplets, and a maximum resolution of 5760 x 1440 dpi.
Neither is a particularly cheap printer to run. The 11.1ml coloured ink cartridges cost £14.21 ($21.99), putting the price per mililitre of ink at £1.28 ($1.98).
In terms of paper handling, the Epson 1500W/Artisan 1430 has a capacity of 100 sheets of plain A4 or 30 sheets of Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper.
On-body controls are limited, but ample printer management is offered by the familiar Epson interface when the driver is installed on a computer.
Connectivity comes in three forms: USB 2.0 (for which you'll need to buy a cable separately), a front-panel PictBridge port for printing directly from a compatible camera, and Wi-Fi for printing wirelessly from a laptop or desktop computer.
Being Wi-Fi compatible means that by installing the Epson iPrint app, images can also be printed from an iPhone, iPad or Android device.
Build, handling and print times
Build quality is typically good. The Epson Stylus Photo 1500W isn't going to win any style awards - the design eases towards functional and industrial rather than elegant. But, at 616mm x 322mm x 215mm with the sheet feeder and output trays closed, at least its footprint is relatively compact.
That's not to say it's small - this is an A3+ printer after all. Since it offers wireless printing, at least you don't have to have it in the same room. It took us a few attempts to get the printer recognised on our network, although there's a decent, if slightly daunting, online help resource should you come unstuck.
The Epson 1500W is quiet when it is running, though, and print speeds aren't disastrous. Epson rates the Stylus Photo 1500W's print speed at 3 minutes 18 seconds for an A3+ print at default photo quality.
This is accurate: in our tests, we clocked a standard quality A3+ print at 3 mins 24 secs from the point at which the rollers engaged the paper to the time the picture was ejected.
Selecting the highest quality Photo Resolution Performance Management (RPM) setting, we saw the A3+ printing time increasing to 7 mins 55 secs, with an A4 print at the same Photo RPM setting taking 3 mins 41 secs.
Getting excellent prints with the Epson Stylus Photo 1500W/Artisan 1430 is a fairly stress-free process. Glossy media is a particular strength, with images produced on Epson Premium Glossy paper appearing bright and vivid throughout our test when the printer was handling the colour management.
The colour palette runs towards the warm side, which is noticeable in the greyscale wedge on our printer test chart. There is, at least, some separation between the dark tones.
Solid blocks of colour are rendered well. Particular highlights are the bold black, vibrant red and creamy, rich yellow. Magenta and cyan proved a little airy, but blue and green were fairly clean.
Some banding was noticeable in the rainbow strips. The Epson 1500W doesn't have red and green ink cartridges, which means the colour gamut lacks a little in scale as a result.
The Epson Stylus Photo 1500W isn't quite as forgiving with mismatched profiles and media types as a printer like the Canon Pixma Pro-1, but then, it costs around half as much.
This is particularly evident when making black and white prints. Because the Epson Stylus Photo 1500W doesn't feature dedicated monochrome inks, it has to blend its colour inks to great shades of grey. In our experience, glossy media exhibited a green or cyan cast when outputting mono images. Our tests with matte paper faired much better.
Levels of detail are strong, even with the printer set to standard 'Photo' output. Some stepping is discernible in the concentric rings, but you do have to go hunting for it with a loupe.
We're not convinced that the additional drain on ink reserves and extended time that the high-quality Photo RPM setting brings are worth it though - standard setting delivers results that have equally as much bite.
Slotting into the Epson photo printer lineup between the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 (which we expect to be phased out soon) and Epson Stylus Photo R200, the Epson Stylus Photo 1500W hits the sweet spot of convenience, quality and functionality when it comes to wide-format A3+ printing.
It's easy to use, with W-Fi printing giving it additional versatility. The printer driver offers a good level of control, and glossy prints are excellent.
Getting the best, neutral black and white prints on glossy paper is a challenge, and ultimately if you intend on printing lots of monochrome images you need to consider looking elsewhere.
The Epson Stylus Photo 1500W comes with a decent range of colour profiles, and is capable of good results straight out of the box. It doesn't do anything to dent Epson's reputation for producing printers that excel with glossy media, and it's a sold all-rounder, capable of producing high-quality pictures for the price. Running costs can be on the high side, though.