Epson Stylus Photo R340 review
As the bigger brother of the R240, the Stylus Photo R340 adds a few extra features in order to justify its extra price. One of the most obvious differences is a larger 2.4in TFT screen on the front. This makes it far easier to see details in photos than on the R240’s 1.5in display.
Front-panel controls are also stepped up: direction arrows make it easy to navigate through menus. Menus are more comprehensive too, allowing you not only to print borderless photos from a memory card, but also to check ink levels and perform maintenance tasks. It’s a shame there’s no job progress shown, but that’s only really noticeable when printing long documents.
More options include fine-tuning the print alignment when using the photo sticker sheet or CD/DVD function. The latter lets you print directly onto compatible discs instead of printing a sticky label. You slide discs in from the front (using the included tray) after pulling down the guide tray on the printer itself.
The memory card readers are hidden behind a door on the right-hand side and include support for all the popular formats. Below them is the almost obligatory PictBridge port.
Another significant difference between the R240 and R340 is the addition of two extra ink tanks to the latter: light cyan and light magenta. As each tank costs just under £10 rather than the R240’s £5.50 tanks, it costs a lot more to replace the set, although you can buy all six together in a value pack for £36.27, saving you £21.68 and making the running costs much more reasonable.
While the Pixma iP5200R and Photosmart 8250 offer CD/DVD printing and a TFT/memory card combination respectively, only the R340 has both. However, the Epson loses ground when it comes to print speed.
Our ten-page text test took four minutes, 40 seconds to print – the Canon was over twice as fast, and the HP faster still. In draft mode, the R340 sped up from 2.1ppm to 9.5ppm, which is respectable but still behind its rivals. Printing a borderless 6 x 4in photo using the bundled PhotoQuicker software took one minute, 44 seconds, while the Canon produced similar quality in 36 seconds.
If you look at the R340’s prints alone, you’d find nothing significantly wrong with them. However, put the photomontage against HP’s and the Epson’s colours look a little muted. The 8250’s photos are also sharper than the R340’s, which have a soft quality to them. No grain or banding is visible from normal distances, though. Mono photos and mono images on coated paper had a slight green cast, which was consistent with the R240. If you plan to print lots of mono photos, the R340 isn’t the best choice.
Ultimately, the R240’s bigger brother isn’t a significantly better printer. It still suffers from a fade resistance of 23 years, slow speeds and doesn’t particularly excel where quality is concerned. The low running costs are a big attraction, although we’d still prefer to spend our money on the HP 8250. It can’t print onto CDs, but the superior quality and speed, plus the second paper tray make it the better printer overall.
All four Epson printers have permanent print heads, leading us to suspect that we were going see very low efficiency percentages and high costs per page. But while this is true of the R800 and R1800, the mid-range R340 still has a reasonable cost per 6 x 4in print of 40p.
The R340’s six ink tanks are reasonably pricey on their own at just under £10 each. But, as with the R240, the cost per page comes down radically when you consider Epson’s fantastic value pack. Value is the optimum word here – should you buy all of the ink cartridges individually, you’ll be looking at a total bill of £57.95. Buy the value pack and you’ll be saving nearly £22, as well as dramatically reducing costs per page. The pack doesn’t include any photo paper, but at just 10p per 6 x 4in sheet, it’s still a good deal compared to other manufacturers. Our only gripe is the cost of A4 paper, which, at almost 50p per sheet, puts the price of A4 prints above other printers.