Advances in printer technology don't come along very frequently and tend to be less than earth-shattering. Almost three years after Epson introduced the widely popular Stylus Photo R1800, the company has released the Stylus Photo R1900, which brings along with it a new version of the company's pigment-based UltraChrome Hi-Gloss ink set called UltraChrome Hi-Gloss2. The new inks include an orange cartridge, instead of the blue cartridge used with the R1800, which allows for slightly better skin tones.
The company has also revamped the way it translates colors from the images shot by your digital camera into those that the printer can reproduce. Epson is calling this new system Radiance Technology, but while Epson also claims some grain reduction and smoother color transitions with the system, at its heart it's mostly a new set of look-up tables that the company says can better maximize the number of colors available with this printer. Since we're dealing with a new ink set, it's hard to compare the difference that Radiance Technology makes, but I can say that the Stylus Photo R1900 has a very wide color gamut and did a great job of printing colors that can often give inkjets trouble, such as deep purples and some shades of blue. Plus, as you might expect, the orange ink can help with oranges and some darker shades of yellow.
I did notice that transitions from one color to the next were very smooth for an inkjet printer. This is especially noteworthy in out-of-focus areas, which can often result in stair-step bands rather than smooth transitions. However, I saw the same thing in the Pro 3800, which didn't include Radiance Technology, so it seems like Epson is lumping a number of different things under the same moniker. When they introduced the Pro3800, they said that its smoother transitions were the result of better screening algorithms. Either way, the prints are quite nice.
The printer's design looks a lot like the Stylus Pro 3800. Though both use pigment inks, the pricier 3800 uses Epson's K3 inkset and doesn't support roll-feed media. It does have larger ink cartridges than the R1900, which should give you many more prints between cartridges and a slightly better dollar-to-ink-milliliter value, but the Pro 3800 doesn't include the new orange ink found in the R1900. Of course, the Pro 3800 is really designed for people who print a whole lot, plus it costs more than twice as much as the R1900.
Most of the rest of the R1900's specs are similar to the printer it replaces. It has a maximum print resolution of 5,760x1,440 dpi, a minimum ink droplet size of 1.5 picoliters, and can print on CDs or DVDs. Of course, you need to use special discs with a white coating on top if you want to do that. More important than the disc printing is that the printer holds both Photo Black and Matte Black cartridges and switches between them automatically based on the paper you choose in the driver. Some printers, including Epson's own R2400, make you switch them manually, which gets old really fast.
Epson updated the MicroPiezo AMC print head in this new model with a coating that repels ink and is intended to better maintain dot placement accuracy over the life of the printer. It has also added a mist collection system that absorbs the overspray of ink when printing borderless. Over long periods of time, that mist can collect on the bottom tray and other points inside the printer and can cause errant marks on the tops and bottoms of prints. Though there is no built-in Ethernet connection, Epson includes two Hi-Speed USB 2.0 jacks on the back of the printer, so you can connect more than one computer, and using special software you can network the printer through a computer. If you like to print via PictBridge, there is a separate USB jack on the front of the printer for that purpose.