Colour inkjets


As a rough rule of thumb, inkjet printers are better suited to printing photographs, where they can offer good image quality, and laser printers are better suited to documents, because they are cheaper to run.

This poses quite a problem for anyone running a home office: you have to print out business letters, invoices and various other documents; but you also want to print photographs of your friends, weddings, holidays and so on. You only want to buy one printer, so which technology do you invest in?

This month we’ve been looking at a range of inkjets that aim to solve this problem. Inkjet technology offers a number of advantages over its laser alternative. Firstly, image quality tends to be much better, as even the cheapest inkjet printers offer higher resolution than a laser printer. Secondly, inkjet inks are better at resisting fading, and they work with a wider range of media, from standard copy paper to high-quality glossy photo paper.

In addition, inkjet printers are relatively cheap to buy, making them both easy to replace and reasonably cost effective for printing small numbers of documents. However, you should note that the hidden cost of the inks required will push up the cost of ownership over time.

For our test we’ve included HP’s D7160, Lexmark’s new Z1420, two of Canon’s Pixma range (the iP2500 and iP5300), and Epson’s Stylus D92 and R360. This market sample offers a mix of value, image quality, and speed.

In order to compare print speeds we printed out a 10 page A4 PDF document made up of text with some headings in colour, using the appropriate normal, standard or document quality settings, depending on what the driver offered, but avoiding the Best and Draft settings. We timed the print speed from the moment we pressed the print button, to the time the last page left the printer. None of the printers came anywhere close to the stated page per minute speeds, though some were considerably faster than others.

We also printed out a standard colour chart and a selection of photographs to check print speed and quality, using the best or photo quality settings, all at A4 size. Most of these printers achieved a similar level of print quality, though some of the drivers offered much better control over the image.

Several of these printers also offered extra features, such as printing direct to CDs, or having built-in card readers, and even the cheapest printers came complete with media and additional software.

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