A4 photo printers group test

Introduction

From family photos to office documents and everything in between, these days printers need to be as versatile as your Mac and the applications you run on it.

It’s no wonder then that printer makers have responded to these demands by offering a range of products to suit your needs – from straightforward document printers that can add a dash of colour, to specialised photo printers aimed at digital camera enthusiasts. Then there are the all-in-ones – printers that combine printing, copying and scanning in a single unit.

All-in-one printers are fascinating, because not only are they the fastest-growing sector of an almost saturated market, but also because they’re highly practical and offer great value. All-in-ones are ideal for busy-but-small home offices where having separate devices to carry out each option isn’t practical. They’re also great value for families – offering all the functions you need, from helping your kids with their school projects to producing high-quality prints.

The printers in our line-up are as diverse as the demands you make upon them. We have three specialised photo printers – the Canon Pixma iP3600 (£70), the Canon Pixma iP4600 (£99) and the HP Photosmart D5460 (£97); one office printer – the HP Deskjet 6940 (£80), which also does A4 photo prints; and two all-in-ones – the Brother DCP-585CW (£127.22) and the Epson Stylus SX400 (£117.43, although it’s available for around £87 online).

As you’d expect, all the printers in this test come with colour cartridges. Some use individual ink tanks for mono black prints, plus photo black, cyan, magenta and yellow; others have a separate mono black cartridge and a combination colour cartridge. Both have their benefits and drawbacks in terms of ink replacement costs, so we’ll be looking at page yields, plus the cost of photo paper. Value for money in the long-term is an important consideration for anyone buying a new printer. This information is in the table at the end.

We’ll also be assessing each printer for its build quality, features and ease of use, plus, of course, print quality. For the latter we’ve put each printer through a series of timed tests using a range of files from mono Word documents to high-quality photo prints using Adobe Photoshop.

Our winner will be the printer we judge to offer the best combination of all the above. So, without further ado, let battle commence.

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