Epson’s SureColor P700 ($799.99) is a pro-grade inkjet photo printer offered with career photographers and graphic designers in mind. It replaces the P600 we reviewed well over five years ago, and it’s a step down from the Editors’ Choice SureColor P800 tested in October 2016. It’s a direct competitor to Canon’s Pixma Pro-100, which has been around for more than seven years now—a long time for hardware to go without an upgrade. But Epson has made good use of the five-and-a-half years between the P600 and the P700. The new P700 is smaller, and it has been updated to make it easier to use and deliver better print quality. Epson put in a lot of thought and listened intently to its customers before redesigning this one. It’s a major all-around improvement over the P600 in many key areas, well-deserving of our Editors’ Choice nod for 13-inch pro-grade photo printers.
Size Down the Printer, Size Up the Feature Set
Also released this month is the SureColor P900, a 17-inch photo printer that replaces the P800. I’ll review it here as soon as Epson makes it available. The primary difference, apart from a $500 higher price, is that the P900 supports cut sheets up to 17 inches wide by 22 inches long and roll media up to 17 inches wide. It also accepts ink cartridges with twice the capacity of those available for the P700.
The P700 measures 16.5 by 20.8 by 32.1 inches (HWD) with its trays extended for printing, and it weighs 35.3 pounds. It’s less than half that tall and long with its trays closed. That’s a 30 percent smaller footprint than the P600.
Note that the company also offers a less expensive and not-as-robust 13-inch model, the P400, which uses eight ink cartridges compared to the P700’s 10 tanks. Epson’s other three SureColor models—the P800, P900, and P5000—are 17-inch machines.
One of the many upgrades that Epson performed on the P700 is to add an all-new, high-definition 4.3-inch color touch screen. It’s highly detailed and color-calibrated, and it lets you perform functions that on previous models usually required the use of PC software such as Adobe Photoshop or Epson’s own Photo+ and Epson Print Layout apps. This control panel is far superior to what you’ll find on other professional-grade photo printers.
A Recipe for Breathtaking Photos
It’s possible to cite many reasons why the SureColor P700 produces such impressive photos, including an all-new, extremely precise 10-channel MicroPiezo AMC printhead (shown below). Each printhead nozzle can disperse droplets in three different sizes, down to as small as 1.5 picoliters (pl). There are dedicated channels for the photo black and matte black inks (discussed in more detail in a moment), so the printer no longer needs to waste time and ink flushing the nozzles when switching between these two different types of black. And the nozzles themselves have an ink-repelling coating that reduces the chance of clogging.
The P700 and P900 use Epson’s new UltraChrome HD PRO10 ink palette, which consists of the following colors: cyan, light cyan, vivid magenta, vivid light magenta, yellow, gray, light gray, violet, photo black, and matte black. The PRO10 model adds a violet ink to the previous set, expanding the color gamut (range), and Epson has added a new Carbon Black Driver mode designed to increase Dmax, enhancing black density on glossy paper.
Another note on the two black inks: You should use photo black with glossy photo paper and satin/luster photo papers. Matte papers are usually smooth and have a flat nonreflective surface, and on those, matte black inks absorb and look better. The P700 knows when to use which ink, based on the paper type and ICC profile (coming up momentarily).
In any case, the old CMYK gamut is limited in what colors it can generate compared to the number of colors that the human eye can see and that today’s computer monitors can display. Each additional ink color expands the gamut, increasing the printer’s range of possible colors. The addition of violet, for example, increased the color range by 6 percent. That may not sound like much, but remember, we’re talking 10 colors here.
Finally, like most professional photo printers, this one allows you to print labels on pre-surfaced CD-ROMs and DVDs via the included Epson Print+ program, a solution—saving data, including photographs, on optical discs—that has been fading in popularity for some time.
No, Plain Old Copy Paper Won’t Do
Also important to image quality is the paper you print on. Nowadays, you can find hundreds of paper types with highly refined absorption properties, tints, and materials designed to produce or enhance specific hues and other often subtle effects. Glossy paper, for example, allows for little absorption—ink sits primarily on top of the paper instead of soaking in, causing more vibrant and often “wet”-looking colors and richer blacks.
Each premium paper type and its properties—such as whether it has a glossy or matte finish, its absorption rate, drying speed, and other appearance variables—are defined in the paper’s ICC (International Color Consortium) profile.
All digital devices and media that display, reproduce, input, or output color have the ingredients of an ICC profile. The ICC profile acts as a set of properties or characteristics that defines how, in this case, a specific paper type influences how colors appear. High-end printers like the P700 use a paper’s ICC profile to determine how to mix and apply ink.
Great Rolls of Paper! (And Much Better Software)
The P700 can print on cut sheets of paper ranging in size from 4 by 6 inches up to 13 by 19 inches. It also supports up to 13-inch premium paper rolls with a 2-inch core. Epson makes a slew of premium papers in cut sizes and rolls for use with its printers, as do Canon and HP. In addition to premium photo paper in sizes up to 13 by 19 inches and beyond, Epson also offers presentation paper and a museum-quality Pro Imaging style.
At last look, you could find 386 Epson-brand paper products listed at the company’s online store, including several types of paper rolls. Rolls sit in a small tray at the back of the printer. I should also note that the maximum banner or panorama length is 129 inches, or 10 feet and 9 inches.
As for cut sheets, the P700’s main input tray pulls up and out from the rear of the printer and is capable of holding sheets up to supertabloid size. The specs for this tray are 120 sheets of plain paper, 30 sheets of photo paper, or one sheet of “thick fine art media.” There’s also a one-sheet front media path that accepts thicker papers (up to 1.5mm).
The P700 can print borderless photos and documents ranging from 3.5 by 5 up to 13 by 19 inches, with about 10 preset sizes between them. You can define custom sizes as needed from the driver dialog box.
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, though Epson offers what it calls a Professional iPhone/iPad Application that touts PC-level color management and many other finishing features available in the full Windows and macOS versions of Epson Print Layout. Epson says the app comes with complete color management, including automatic selection of color profiles and support for all of Epson’s premium papers.
Like the PC version of Print Layout, the app comes with an advanced black-and-white photo mode preview that allows you to fine-tune monochrome images with finite precision. As for the actual computer version of Print Layout, the P700 ships with the latest version 1.4 of this very useful combination print driver and front-end finishing utility. This version is even more impressive than the last, but I’ve printed my high-end, high-resolution photos from Adobe Photoshop forever, and it always feels awkward to use something else. Many photo pros will likely agree.
Epson Print Layout comes to the rescue in the form of a plug-in that replaces Photoshop’s Print dialog box when the time comes to print your photo or artwork.
The P700 also comes with Epson Photo+, which is a photo-arranging, -editing, and -printing utility similar to the Easy Photo-Print app that comes with some of Epson’s consumer-grade photo printers. It’s no Photoshop, by any means, and it’s underkill for the SureColor line of printers.
What Photo+ does come in handy for, though, is laying out and printing CD-ROM and DVD labels—until, that is, you join the 21st century and start saving your images and artwork to the cloud.
Testing the SureColor P700: The Print Speed’s a Side Issue
Sometimes, these professional-grade machines are referred to as “near-dedicated” photo printers, and I suppose that the reason is that you can print everyday documents—letters, reports, spreadsheets, and so on—on them if you like. You can even use everyday copy paper if you want to, but my opinion is that printing business correspondence on a 10-ink, $800 professional photo and graphic-design device with a 10-channel printhead is, well, just not right. If you need to print the occasional business document, buy a cheap inkjet or laser. By the same token, putting the SureColor P700 through the Word and PowerPoint speed tests we use for other printers and AIOs just doesn’t make sense.
For the record, large-format professional photo printers are rather slow. Epson rates the P700 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 wasn’t able to match those results printing over an Ethernet connection from our standard Intel Core i5 PC running Windows 10 Pro, and borderless prints were slower still—my borderless supertabloid images, for example, averaged about five-and-a-half minutes.
Nearly every mainstream inkjet printer and all-in-one I’ve tested managed at least 3 to 4 pages per minute (ppm) with our graphics- and photo-laden business documents, while the SureColor never came close to 1ppm. Civilian inkjets churn out our 4-by-6-inch test snapshots in around 30 seconds each or less; the same borderless images took about 90 seconds on the P700.
I’ll also have to disappoint you if you’re looking for speed comparisons to the old SureColor P600 and Canon Pro-100, since PCMag used an older testing regimen with different sample images to test those printers all those years ago. The P700 was quicker than the P800 with my 4-by-6-inch snapshots and beat the Canon with larger images. (The Pro-100’s borderless supertabloid performance, for instance, was 9 minutes 26 seconds.)
Impeccable Print topdeblogs.com a Cost
A lot of the time, it’s difficult to discern output-quality differences between most of these professional-grade machines. Canon’s Pro line of photo printers is considered excellent for grayscale output, but tweaks to the SureColor P700 (and presumably the P900), such as the Carbon Black Driver mode and the new 10-channel printhead, have greatly improved black-and-white photo output for the new Epsons.
The P700’s overall output quality is exquisite, but vibrant colors and rich blacks are not all that is important. Colors should be accurate, and since some posters, ads, and other pieces of artwork require text, your photo printer should produce well-shaped and highly legible type, too. Fortunately, I’ve never come across an Epson SureColor or Canon Pro machine that didn’t easily master any font-quality test I threw at it. The bottom line? Not one of the samples I printed was disappointing in any way. And since print quality is the primary reason for plunking down hundreds of dollars for a printer for photos and artwork, that’s how it should be.
Usually, we assess running costs by how much ink each page consumes, and calculate a cost per page based on the price of the ink cartridges and the manufacturer’s page-yield rating. That formula is useless, however, for calculating how much this printer, its siblings, and its competitors cost to operate. Each photo or graphic that you print will use different inks in different quantities at variances that make calculating consumption trends close to impossible.
What you can count on, though, is that using this printer (or one of its stablemates or rivals) is in no way cheap. Epson sells each 25-milliliter (ml) ink cartridge for $37.99, or about $1.52 per milliliter. The SureColor P600, on the other hand, uses 25.9ml tanks that cost a dollar less each, and you only have to buy nine of them instead of 10, making its ink costs about 10 cents less per milliliter. The Canon Pro-100’s 13ml tanks run about $1.31 per milliliter, and the SureColor P400’s ink is about 3 cents per milliliter below that.
If, however, you opt for one of the bigger 17-inch models, your running costs will be significantly less. The P800, for instance, uses 80ml tanks that run about 79 cents per milliliter; its replacement, the P900, uses 50ml cartridges that run about 84 cents per milliliter. The 80ml tanks of Canon’s Pro-100 come out to about 75 cents per milliliter, while Epson’s P5000 is the least expensive to use, at a per-milliliter cost of just 43 cents.
The huge and hefty 11-ink SureColor P5000, by the way, comes in three “editions” (Standard, Commercial, and Deluxe), ranging from about $2,000 to $2,500. Granted, those list prices are much higher than what you’d pay for the P700, but if you print a lot of large photos and artwork, you’ll make up that price difference with what you’ll save on consumables in just a few months.
Of course, ink is not the only consumable that jacks up your running costs. Those premium Epson papers we’ve been talking about ain’t cheap, either. Let’s take something simple and not too exotic, for example, like Epson’s 13-by-19-inch glossy photo paper. If you buy it at the company’s online store, it will cost you about $2.50 per sheet. The Ultra Premium Luster supertabloid sheets cost about $2.68 each, but to get that price, you must buy 50 sheets at $134.
Granted, you can find these papers for less via Amazon and several online office-supply and specialty-paper stores, and you can save even more by going with third-party papers. I found premium glossy supertabloid photo paper, for example, for as low as 55 cents per sheet. Using smaller sizes will cost considerably less, of course, in both paper and ink. If papers come with accurate ICC profiles, you shouldn’t have any problems, though I should add that when I use Epson papers with these SureColor machines, I always get excellent results.
Fantastic Photos, Extravagant Economics
Aside from some possible qualms on our part about how much the SureColor P700 costs to use, this printer is an ace. The new HD color touch screen and updated Epson Print Layout software promote productivity and take some of the guesswork out of producing high-quality prints. Ideally, Epson would give its users more ink choice by offering higher-yield alternatives to the 25ml ink cartridges. But even there, it’s hard to be anything but impressed looking at the P700 versus the older P400. The latter lists for a couple of hundred dollars less, but it uses only eight inks that come in 14ml cartridges. And it has virtually no control panel to speak of, let alone a graphical display.
Even more important, PC Labs’ testing of the P400 found a few minor output flaws, such as backgrounds that looked a little faded, and some mild banding in a couple of drawings. Yes, the P700 costs more and is somewhat more expensive to use, but as noted earlier, this type of printer is all about the print quality. And the new P700’s gorgeous, accurate output elevates it into our top-pick position for 13-inch professional-grade photo printers.