The replacement for the Editors’ Choice-winning SureColor P800 we reviewed here back in October 2016, the SureColor P900 17-Inch Photo Printer ($1,195) continues Epson’s tradition of impeccable pro-grade wide-format photograph and graphics art printers. A step up from the 13-inch SureColor P700 (another favorite), the P900 churns out exceptional images and artwork up to 17 by 22 inches, as well as breathtaking banners up to 17 inches wide by 129 inches (10 feet, 9 inches) long. Like the P800 before it, the P900 is superb, with terrific output, highly productive software, and competitively low (for this genre) running costs. During our tests, the P900 efficiently handled everything thrown at it, producing impressive oversize photos, artwork, and banners. It effortlessly takes the P800’s place as our Editors’ Choice for professional-grade photography and graphic art inkjet printers.
Smaller Footprint, Bigger Impact
Epson says that the P900 is 30 percent leaner than its predecessor, and indeed, when folded up and out of service, the P900 is notably smaller than the P800. Set up with trays extended and ready to print, the P900 measures 20.5 by 24.2 by 35.6 inches (HWD) and weighs a stout 35.3 pounds. That’s 14 pounds lighter than the P800, but you should still make a careful decision about where to put it, because you won’t want to move it.
The 13-inch P700 comes with a roll adapter built in, whereas this larger model requires you to purchase the adapter (outlined in red below) separately for about $250. The single paper tray holds 120 sheets.
The ability to print banners and panoramas up to 10 feet 9 inches long on roll media is a significant difference between Epson’s pro-grade photo printers (aka near-dedicated photo printers) and competing Canon models, such as the 17-inch imagePrograf PRO-1000, which was our Editors’ Choice back in 2016. In addition, the new Epson model is much smaller and lighter, even with the roll adapter factored in.
The biggest 17-incher of them all is yet another PCMag favorite, Epson’s humongous 114-pound SureColor P5000. It comes in three different high-end configurations: the Commercial Edition ($1,995) for commercial and flexographic (packaging and labeling) proofing applications; the Designer Edition ($2,495), which includes advanced raster image processing (RIP) and color-matching software; and the Standard Edition ($1,995) for printing photos and artwork.
The P900 comes with an all-new, highly detailed, and color-calibrated high-definition 4.3-inch color touch screen. Unlike the control panels on previous models, this one lets you configure print jobs and the printer itself in ways that previously required the use of separate software, such as Epson’s Photo+ and Epson Print Layout apps or Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. This control panel is far superior to what you’d find on most other professional-grade photo printers.
How the P900 Works Its Magic
The anatomy of the P900—the technology that lets it print such exquisite images and artwork—is much like that of the P700. You can find a description of how the 10-channel MicroPiexo AMC printhead, the UltraChrome HD PRO10 ink palette, and the new Carbon Black Driver mode work together in the P700 review.
A significant difference between this and the P700 model is that the latter supports printing labels on pre-surfaced CD-ROMs and DVDs, whereas the P900 does not.
To get the highest-quality prints from this or any other near-dedicated photo printer, you’ll need high-end printing media. The P900 can print on 17-by-22-inch cut sheets and larger 2- and 3-inch core 17-inch-wide paper rolls. Aside from this ability to print on wider stock and the additional expense that entails, everything pertaining to using premium paper on the P700 is the same on the P900. Paper costs and handling are also covered in the P700 review.
The printer’s interfaces are USB 3.0, 100BaseT Ethernet, 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, AirPrint, and Google Cloud Print. There is no SD card or USB thumb drive support.
In addition to apps for Windows and macOS, Epson has an iOS app that can do professional-level color management, including automatic selection of color profiles, monochrome fine-tuning mode, and support for all of Epson’s premium papers. If you prefer to print directly from Photoshop, there’s an Epson Print Layout plug-in that replaces Photoshop’s Print dialog box. Our review of the P700 has details of all these connectivity options, including screenshots.
The Trade-Off for Quality Is Speed
Though the P900 certainly can print ordinary documents onto ordinary copy paper, that’s like using your Maserati to drive to the grocery store. If you need to print the occasional personal or business document, you’re best off purchasing an inexpensive secondary printer.
Our usual printer speed tests involve printing an array of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Attempting this on a 10-ink, $1,200 professional photo and graphic-design machine with a 10-channel printhead is pointless. You’re not looking to this printer to churn out hundreds of pages of business reports. Its single purpose is producing large, gorgeous works of art, which it does fairly ponderously.
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Epson rates the P900 at 1 minute and 29 seconds for one letter-size (8.5-by-11-inch) print and 2 minutes and 23 seconds for a supertabloid (13-by-19-inch) image. I could find no ratings for 17-by-22-inch pages, but the tests I ran showed them taking about 25% longer than supertabloid prints. And that’s fine. You probably won’t mind waiting five minutes for a print that could hang on your wall for years.
Output Worth Waiting—and Paying—For
If you’ve never seen the output from one of these pro-grade photo printers, you may not believe how breathtaking it can be. It’s hard to get to a showroom in these pandemic days, so you’ll likely have to buy a printer sight unseen. But if you use quality files and good paper, and make sure to set up the printer with the paper’s ICC (International Color Consortium) profile, you’ll be wowed from the very first print.
The SureColor P900 produces brilliant colors and deep blacks with its 10 premium high-definition inks. It also accurately reproduces colors and creates properly shaped and well-spaced text. And for a printer of its class, the P900 has surprisingly low running costs. That’s not to say this is an inexpensive printer—you’ll pay for quality, though not to an unreasonable degree. But the ink cost per milliliter (CPM) is more than acceptable, leaving you a little room in your budget for purchasing the high-end photo paper that will really make the P900’s output shine.
With these near-dedicated photo printers, each photo or graphic will consume as many as 10 different inks in unpredictable quantities at variances that make calculating per-page consumption close to impossible. Therefore, instead of attempting to calculate cost per page, we use cost per milliliter of ink. Epson sells each 50ml ink cartridge for $41.99, or about 83 cents per milliliter. The SureColor P700 uses 25ml tanks that cost $4 less each, but the CPM is $1.52. The Canon PRO-1000’s 80ml tanks run about 75 cents per milliliter.
In general, the more you pay up front for a bigger machine, the lower your CPM will be, so the 11-ink SureColor P5000’s ink is about 43 cents per milliliter, or nearly half (or less) than its competitors. If you plan to use the printer commercially, that’s certainly something to consider.
As mentioned, cutting corners with a $20 ream of copy paper will simply waste your time and the P900’s ink. Epson’s selection of premium photo and art paper is extensive and expensive. Even so, a 25-sheet box of Epson’s supertabloid Platine Paper will run you about $129, or just over $5 per sheet, and a pack of 25 17-by-22-inch sheets costs around $189, or $7.56 per sheet. If you pony up for the roll holder, a 16.5-inch by 100-foot roll of Premium Glossy Photo Paper sells on Epson’s site for $99, which sounds like a bargain per square inch—but the per-page price of a premium paper roll depends on what size you print and how much unused paper you trim away.
If you shop around, you will find Epson’s papers for less on Amazon and several online office-supply and specialty-paper stores. Third-party media from companies like Hammermill and Monadnock can also save you money. I found 17-by-22-inch Ultra Pro Luster photo paper at Red River Paper, for example, for as low as $2.40 per sheet. Typically, these papers come with accurate ICC profiles; you shouldn’t have any problems. But using Epson papers with these SureColor machines is the safest choice.
Professional Photo Printer Technology at Its Best
Without question, the SureColor P900 is an impressive, cutting-edge pro-grade photograph and graphic arts printer that should create impeccable prints for years when used properly and fed quality data files and premium media. Yes, its purchase price, media options, and ink cost render it a significant investment. But if top-quality photo and artwork reproductions are what you’re after, and you’re not doing high-volume commercial printing, you really can’t do much better than this.
Compared with Canon’s nearly five-year-old PRO-1000 and the four-year-old SureColor P5000, the P900 is clearly superior, with better black and grayscale output and a much more modern touch control panel. Epson’s highly impressive SureColor P900 is a knockout 17-inch pro-grade printer for photos and graphic art, and it easily earns our Editors’ Choice award.