I'm not sure building the spectro into the printer is a big technology leap. I've always wondered why you can't buy the printer without the built in solution, since most production labs and high end printers have much more advanced solutions anyway and will never use it. I suspect the built in spectro's most important function is characterizing paper, and in fact is so important they printer has to have it built in.
Profiles furnished by most major paper makers for the 7880 are as good and sometimes even better than profiles the z3100 can make for itself. If you are buying a 7880, it is doubtful you even need to bother making any profiles, unless you want to play with some odd papers. Obviously the 79/9900 printer profiles may not be as readily available for non Epson papers at first, but I would much rather buy a stand alone solution than to pay for the profiling hardware every time I bought a printer.
After monitoring this forum for the past couple of years, at times it appeared to be z3100 troubleshooting forum, makes me wonder about reliability. Sure many probably have had no problems, but there sure have been a lot of threads about problems with the z3100.
I have not owned or used the 7880. I have owned and used a smaller Epson; the Epson 4000; and the HP Z3100.
I agree with Wayne about HP reliability. Just look at the first two or three pages of the forum right now -- at this snapshot in time. Wayne is correct -- this forum does appear to be troubleshooting forum for the Z series. That is a key reason that I said in the thread on the 7900 that I am considering that printer rather than the Z3200. I own a Z3100, and can testify to the problems.
I am close to agreeing with Wayne about profiles from major paper makers, but only because I want to sell my Z3100 and move back to Epson.
But I'm only close to agreeing, and not there quite there yet. Very experienced users, such as Onsight, in the other thread, report that the profiles from the paper makers are inadequate. So I'm not sure about that. But if it was true -- that I could rely on the paper makers -- I would be less concerned about the on-board spectro.
I do think the spectro in the Z3100 is a wonderful feature though, as I have explained in the thread on the 7900 vs the Z3200. It is very regrettable that Epson didn't include software to drive their own spectro for profiling. If they had I'd buy the 7900 with spectro in a nanosecond, and pay the extra $800, to return to Epson.
So for me, the other unresolved question is GD comparing HP and GE with Epson without GE. I have not personally seen the comparisons. See the other thread. ***
Christopher has used both printers, maybe he can comment?
What does the 7880 sell for? By all accounts the 7900 is a huge leap forward, so why not wait for that?
*** P.S. I think I am using the correct term -- GD, rather than bronzing, based on reading the definitions of those terms on other internet sites But I wonder? What I am describing is the effect of black or gray -- gray is a real problem with the Z series -- printed against white or a lighter color. It is just that -- very different at an angle, and jumps out and shines at you. Obvious with Luster, but really evident on Semi-Gloss, HP Satin, or Epson Semi-Matte Photo papers. The GE eliminates it on the whole.