Each photo book company put on test produced the goods to a good standard, but it's when examining the finer details that the differences can be seen.
At the lower end of the results some companies put too many restrictions on uploading sizes, and the web-only production process of others doesn't offer as much versatility as the rest of the competition.
Those companies with rigid drag-and-drop designs (Apple, Photobox, Snapfish, and Lulu) may be great for novice users looking for simplicity, but their services may not be appropriate for more demanding users looking for a truly personal product. However, Lulu does offer great value for money, and Apple's product is well-finished.
For the top-tier productions, however, it was a tough call separating the services.
Bonusprint and Albelli (fundamentally the same company with different branding) produced great products, and Blurb proved to have the best design software of them all. Blurb offers a truly professional system that's very stable, easy to use and it offers bags of control too. The final book wasn't our absolute favourite (though really not that far behind), but this has to be the professional's choice. Its biggest downside, however, is a fairly lengthy production and shipping process.
In second place is Yophoto, a UK-based company that produced a top-quality book in a short space of time. The company's software is easy to use and the final product's threaded binding is unlike any other finish on offer from this group.
But the companies that came out on top did so not for their design software – which proved a little unstable and lacking by comparison to others – but for their top print and binding quality. Separating Bob Books and Jessops is nigh on impossible, as the two books are identical, with the exception of the different company logos on the back of each book. For the casual user who'll only order the occasional book and doesn't have loads (if any) photo-editing software available on their machine, the downloadable service from both of these companies produces a final product that looks fantastic.
The flat binding means double pages don't lose any of the images in the gutter, and the fantastic paper and print quality just shines. Users with a higher design standard may choose Blurb for its PDF To Book and Adobe plugin features, while those looking for a more traditional, handmade feel will like Yophoto's product. But from a more casual user's point of view, both Bob Books and Jessops impress.
Quoted prices are reflective of the order placed with each individual company. Not all books are the same size, or have the same paper finish or pagination. Delivery times are not guaranteed – the times we've reported are based on this reviewer's order experience.