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Stylus Photo 900 falls just shy of being an awesome printer

Epson's Stylus Photo line of printers has kept ahead of the competition for the most part. And the Epson Stylus Photo 900 ($200) is on the edge of awesome. A solid mid-range photo printer, it uses six colors to create beautifully rendered images with tiny 4-picoliter ink droplets.

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But the 900's best trick is not its photo printing, which is detailed and color accurate. It's printing on printable CDs and DVDs, which have surfaces that will accept ink from an inkjet printer (don't try to print on regular CD surfaces).

Getting cool, colorful printing on your CDs requires a minor adjustment or two to the printer. You'll have raise of the printhead with a lever and place the CD in a tray that must be aligned. This is relatively easy and quick to do - although it may not work for serious production efforts.

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The 900 pulls off some of the better tricks of the best inkjets available these days. For example, it will do border-free printing for 4-by-6-inch to 8-by-10-inch prints. And a roll paper holder is included that allows continuous 4x6-inch and panoramic-shot printing.

So why is it only on the edge of awesome? Well, there are other printers out there - such as the Canon Color Bubble Jet i950 Photo Printer, which delivers slightly better photo prints for $50 more. That's because the i950 uses tinier ink droplets to create photographs for stellar pictures. The 900 is in the same general area, but the i950's 2 picoliter droplets beat its output.

Also, I'm not enamored of the five-ink color cartridge (the printer also uses a single black ink cartridge) that comes with this printer. If you run out of one ink, you'll have to get another cartridge - unlike some other printers that have individual cartridges for each color.

Information: 800-463-7766 or www.epson.com.


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