Which is the best photo printer for you? It always pays to look good on paper but, when it comes to choosing a printer, it also pays to choose wisely.
Some models are aimed at hard-nosed business printing, based on a four-ink system for generating polished documents, spreadsheets and the like, quite often with fax facilities on the side, or at least on top, as part of the current vogue for the best all-in-one printers that feature a built-in scanner.
Others in our best photo printer roundup are more arty, with six inks under the bonnet to extend the colour space for photo printing, but these often lack a pigment-based black ink, so mono text output can look a little greyish and feint.
Then there are those that follow Canon's lead, initiated a few years ago, and serve up five inks which include both pigment-based and dye-based black inks, geared towards a perfect compromise between document and photo output. Whichever suits your needs most ideally, here are some of the best inkjet printers on the market - all in price order.
1. Lexmark Interpret S405 - £67
Amazingly inexpensive for an all-in-one business inkjet printer, the Interpret S405 builds on Lexmark's new Vizix four-ink print system with individually replaceable cartridges, and adds a colour scanner and fax machine, complete with 35-sheet ADF (Auto Document Feeder) to make light of photocopying and faxing multi-page documents. Better still, it includes a full range of USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity and the only thing that's really lacking is a colour LCD screen for previewing photos. Even so, it's the best multifunction printer if you're on a really tight budget.
2. Canon PIXMA iP4850 - £73
This is the brand new update to the Canon PIXMA iP4700, which in our view was the best inkjet printer on the market if you didn't want an all-in-one model with a built-in scanner. Identical in size and weight to the iP4700, the iP4850 still gives you auto-duplex, dual paper input trays and immaculate document and photo quality output from Canon's five-ink ChromaLife100+ system. The main differences are revised ink cartridges that have slightly higher capacities, and a new Full HD Movie Print feature which is compatible with Canon cameras.
3. Canon PIXMA MG5150 - £77
Occupying the middle ground in Canon's new 'MG' series of all-in-one printers, there's lots to like here, including dual input trays and a wide range of standalone printing functions, including the ability to enhance photos from memory cards or print PDF documents direct from a USB flash drive. It has the same range of inks as the new iP4850 and MG6150 but it's rather slower than both of these models and, unlike the latter, there's no Wi-Fi connectivity. Even so, it's still one of the best printers available at the price.
4. Epson Stylus Photo P50 - £78
As a bare-bones model without any all-in-one aspirations, the P50 is nevertheless one of the best photo printers on the market for digital camera enthusiasts on a tight budget. Based on Epson's latest Claria dye-based inks, it adds light cyan and light magenta to the standard CMYK range, to give an enhanced six-ink colour space for highly accurate colour rendition, along with excellent vibrancy and contrast. As with all Epson inkjet printers, the ink cartridges are individually replaceable to drive down running costs.
5. Epson Stylus Office BX305FW - £79
Complete with standalone photocopying and fax facilities fed by a 30sheet ADF (Auto Document Feeder), the main claim to fame of this business-oriented four-ink multifunction printer is that it runs on Epson's resin-based DURABrite inks, the bonus being that prints are highly smudge-resistant even before they hit the output tray. Wi-Fi connectivity is another plus point at the price, although there's no auto-duplex facility nor any card reader slots or a USB socket for printing direct from memory cards or a USB flash drive.
6. HP Photosmart Premium C309G - £80
Taking a leaf out of Canon's book, the HP Premium features a five-ink system that combines dye-based and pigment-based black inks for convincing document and photo output alike, although photo prints are a little lacking in vibrancy compared with equivalent Canon printers. The HP is well connected too, with USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi, and its multifunction facilities are simple to use thanks to a novel 8.9cm touchscreen that works a treat. The only really noticeable omissions are that there's no CompactFlash card reader slot and you can't print direct onto CDs or DVDs.
7. Lexmark Interact S605 - £100
This feature-packed four-ink multifunction printer was one of the first Lexmark models to boast individually replaceable ink cartridges. Further attractions include fast print speeds, Wi-Fi connectivity and auto-duplex for double-sided printing. The S605 also features a class-leading 10.9cm colour touchscreen to make the most of direct printing facilities, which include a wide range of downloadable mini-apps. Photo quality is pretty good for a four-ink printer and rather better than with Lexmark's previous six-ink printers, although the single input tray means repeated swapping between plain and photo paper.
8. HP Photosmart Plus eAll-in-One - £103
Typical of HP's recent shift from tri-colour cartridges, this new four-ink printer has individually replaceable ink cartridges, along with the same 8.9cm touchscreen and Wi-Fi connectivity featured on the Photosmart Premium. It also adds HP's new ePrint system, which is great for remote printing via the internet, enabling you to send emails direct to the printer itself, with Word files, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, photos and other attachments, which it'll print out automatically. Unlike the Photosmart Premium, there's no auto-duplex facility but there's a great range of downloadable printing apps.
9. Canon PIXMA MG6150 - £145
Following in the much vaunted footsteps of the PIXMA MP640, this new version of Canon's premium Wi-Fi multifunction printer has a similarly impressive turn of speed and offers all of the same up-market features, like auto-duplex, direct printing onto CDs or DVDs and dual input trays, while also adding Canon's new HD Movie Print facility. The most notable addition, as also featured on the older MP990 printer, is that Canon's usual range of five ink cartridges is supplemented by an extra grey ink cartridge, for refined black & white photo printing.
10. Epson Stylus Photo PX720WD - £149
Almost identical to the Wi-Fi-enabled, six-ink multifunction Epson PX710W photo printer that we reviewed a while ago, this revamped model is physically slightly deeper and boasts a few upgrades, most notably auto-duplex printing that was entirely lacking on the original model. The PX720WD also adds refined control in direct printing functions, via its new Smart-Navigation Touch-Panel. Mono text is reasonably crisp for a printer with a completely dye-based ink range and photo print speeds and quality are identical to the PX710WD.
Liked this? Then check out Best printer 2011: 15 top inkjet and laser printers
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