Comparing the Epson Stylus Pro 4900 and 4880

This article will compare the Epson Stylus Pro 4900, announced in the Fall of 2010, and its predecessor, the Stylus Pro 4880. While the two printers share many of the same features and are capable of printing on media up to 17″ in width, some significant changes were made when the Stylus Pro 4900 was introduced that should benefit many users. Among these changes are the print head, ink set and the speed at which prints can be produced.

Print Heads, Ink, and Auto-Switching Black Ink

The Epson 4900 has a single ten-channel piezo print head that allows auto-sharing of the black ink channel. The Epson 4880 had a single 8-channel piezo print head that forced users to have either a Photo Black or a Matte Black ink installed. To change black inks, one would have to drain the black ink line, using more than $30 of ink to make that change. While the 4900 does have both the Matte Black and Photo Black inks installed, users lose no more than $2.00 in ink during the automatic switch.

The ink used in the Stylus Pro 4900 is the UltraChrome HDR Ink Set. This set includes the same eight colors included in the 4880 ink set, but also adds an orange and green ink, in addition to having both the matte black and photo black ink on board. The total number of inks loaded in this printer is 11, with 10 being used at any one time. The overall result is an expanded color gamut over the 4880.

The other difference is the capacity of the ink cartridges. Cartrdiges for the Stylus PRo 4900 are offered in one size – 200 ml. The inks for the 4880 are offered in two sizes 110 ml and 220 ml.

Media

The Epson 4900 and 4880 can print to the same types of media. Photo paper, fine art paper, canvas and specialty media can be used. Both printers are capable of printing on media that is up to 17″ in width. Borderless printing is supported by both printers for the most common roll widths – 8″, 10″, 16″ and 17″ among others.

Speed

The speed at which the Epson Stylus Pro 4900 can print is also a significant improvement over the 4880. The 4900 can produce an 8 x 10 in normal mode (SuperFine – 1440 dpi HS) in about one minute and 30 seconds. A 16 x 20 can be produced in a little more than four minutes. In the same print mode, the 4880 produces an 8 x 10 in two minutes and a 16 x 20 in a little more than six minutes. Based on this, the Stylus Pro 4900 can print at speeds at least 25% faster than the 4880.

Conclusions

The Epson Stylus Pro 4900 is a welcome upgrade over the 4880. With a wider color gamut, ability to auto-switch black inks and improved print speeds, the Stylus Pro 4900 will meet the needs of the professional photographer and fine art printer that is seeking to produce high quality prints that are up to 17″ in width.