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Canon S330

Inkjet Printer: End of the Year Roundup
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There is no way to tell an S330 print from an S520 or S750 one. The fact that it has fewer nozzles only makes a difference in its speed, which is definitely lower. Apart from that, the amount of ink consumed is the same, the results are identical and, like the other two, it can do border-free printing.

Text is well defined and of very satisfactory quality for this price level. The blocks of color are adequately even for it to be used for business purposes, even though there are some imperfections in text on a colored background when seen close up.

In high resolution, photos print out a bit too bright, but the ink drops are barely visible. Here again they are the same as the S520 and S750, and their quality is comparable to that of the HP Deskjet PhotoRet III printers.

Epson Stylus 830

As usual with a Stylus Photo, the quality of text printing is acceptable but not quite up to an Epson Desktop printer (C60, C70, C80) or the rest of the competition. The characters lack sharpness and run a bit, especially on a colored background. This can be improved by increasing the resolution, but it slows down the output, which is not very fast to begin with.

In high definition, the printer offers a choice of Photo or Best Photo mode. The first is faster, but the result lacks contrast and definition. Best Photo is better: the dots are invisible and the raster is not particularly noticeable.

If you go into the advanced menu in the driver, you find another mode, RPM , which is the 5760x720-dpi print mode. Actually, the printer will not necessarily dispense twice the number of droplets. Epson, like Canon and HP, refers to addressable spaces. The printer doubles the number of free spaces on the sheet. Each square inch of paper is considered as a matrix of 5760x720 squares where the printer may or may not lay a droplet. Then an algorithm works out on which of the squares the droplets will actually be laid. So ink consumption is not necessarily greater, but the droplets are laid with greater precision.

In practice, printing in RPM is definitely better than in Best Photo . The result is better-looking and better contrasted, and this time the raster has completely disappeared. Under the magnifying glass, you can see that this is due to the finer quality of the shading, especially the lighter ones, which are much truer. Note though that the RPM mode is incompatible with border-free printing. For full-page printing you must make do with Best Photo , though the quality is still good.

In photo mode, the Stylus Photo 830 comes out very well compared to its main rivals. True, its prints in RPM mode are not as bright as those of the Canon S800 and S900 series or the new i850, but under the magnifying glass you can still see the dots on the Canons whereas they are much less conspicuous on the Epson. Viewed at a normal distance, the difference comes down to a matter of taste and paper. It's hard to say which is best. That said, our little panel unanimously agreed that Canon makes up for its slightly cruder quality with colors that are more pleasing to the eye. But you can improve the colors on the Stylus Photo 830 with a bit of touching up, though this requires some skill and hard work.

On the new HP Deskjets and PhotoSmarts with photo cartridges, the contrasts are more marked and better-looking, but there are flaws in the shading, especially in blue. On the other hand, the detail is better with a Canon or an Epson. What's more, remember RPM prints on the SP 830 take six and eight times longer than on the S900 and i850 respectively, so that means it is really only suitable for occasional use.

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