Since I had the 3800 here for testing when my Z3100 arrived, I could not resist doing a comparison between the two, though they are very different printers.
This is not an even comparison, as the Epson 3800 and the HP Z3100 are very different printers. But I could not resist it, stupid me. I’ll leave out the obvious differences in size and paper handling, etc and concentrate on the print quality. My real interest was in comparing the ink sets, color, BW handling, etc. And yes, this will be much better done later with a 7800 or 9800 as a much more sensible comparison, but it is what I had here at the time. Now of course there is really no comparison between the two: the paper handling options, width, ink capacity and likely longevity and ease of service make a Z3100 far superior. So please take this for what it is, a bit of fun.
For text and black line printing, there is really no difference. Both have slight roughness very close but both produce great looking print and fine diagonal lines at normal viewing distances for an A4 or Letter sheet of paper.
For color photographic images, both produce saturated, great color and appear to have very similar color gamuts. The built-in color profiling on the Z3100 is an advantage in getter the color spot on.
For black and white prints, both do a stunning job. Graduations are smooth and lovely. Detail is crisp. On the papers I was using the Epson appears to get a slightly deeper black on some images whilst the HP was doing better blacks on others, but I am going to do some more testing of this.
Where the HP has it all over the Epson is in swapping between matt and gloss papers, where the Epson spends a lot of time (and possibly ink, and thus money) purging.
So what conclusion comes out of this? Well the key thing is that both printers are stunningly good. I would think that almost everyone would be happy with the print quality coming from either of these printers, especially given that neither printer has yet been really settled in properly. What is obvious is that the days of photographers automatically choosing Epson printers are over. And that is good for everyone except Epson, who now have serious competition. Ultimately I think it is good for Epson too, as competition really is good for everyone. It gives users choice and it pushes the companies to do better.
Here the 3800 print is on the left, the Z3100 on the right. Both prints are on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag.
Here we have the Z3100 on the left, printed on HP Instant Dry Glossy Photo Paper. On the right is the 3800 print on Epson Premium Gloss Photo paper. Neither print quite matches the screen image in all respects, which is to be expected given that I am still settling in the HP and the Epson is only using supplied profiles and this is an early print.
Here the Epson 3800 print is above and the HP Z3100 print below. The 3800 print is on Velvet Fine Art paper, the Z3100 print is on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag.