It's a jungle out there and buying a decent printer can give you a tough time. Being the nice people we are, we decided to get a printer from four of the most popular manufacturers and pit them against each other. Let battle commence.
| Canon Pixma iP1800 Specification|
- Up to 4800 x 1200 color dpi.
- Easy-PhotoPrint software makes it simple to enhance and print digital photos through your computer.
- Windows & Mac compatible.
- USB interface
|Epson Stylus Photo R360 Specification |
- Print lab quality borderless photos up to A4.
- Print photos without a pc.
- Six individual ink cartridges for premium quality.
- CDR/DVD printing functionality.
|Hewlett Packard Photosmart D7360 Specification|
- Innovative touch screen with 8.6 cm image display for easy editing and printing without a PC.
- Incredibly fast printing with six individual HP Vivera Ink cartridges.
- Print lab-quality, long-lasting photos and laser-quality text document
|Lexmark Z1420 Specification |
- Built-in 802.11g wireless technology.
- Print fast! Up to 24 ppm black and 18 ppm colour.
- Create brilliant photos with optional 6-color printing.
- Professional quality text and graphics with up to 4800 dpi
The Epson Stylus Photo R360 takes six ink tanks as does the Hewlett Packard Photosmart D7360, the Lexmark Z1420 takes 4 colours with the option of adding two more colours for photo printing, whilst the Canon Pixma iP1800 only takes two which is a little primitive by today's standards, but they all have pros and cons. When one colour runs out in a multiple ink tank, the whole cartridge has to be replaced, with individual tanks, just that cartridge can be replaced, but the tanks are usually either the same price or only slightly lower in price than the multi tanks, so whilst only replacing one tank at a time, this can happen up to 6 times with these printers meaning more outlay. The printers are all very easy to install and the R360 even brings up small windows giving information on what the printer can do. Amusingly, it is laid out as though they are trying to sell you the features when you have already bought it. The Lexmark gives the option of it being your first time installing and has a step by step diagram guide illustrating what to do which is a nice touch.
The Stylus Photo R360 and Photosmart D7360 have more controls available on the printer than the Pixma iP1800 and Z1420. Canon and Lexmark obviously went for simplicity and allowing all adjustments to be made on the computer, whereas the Epson and Hewlett Packard have a stand alone functionality with a monitor allowing an SD or CF card to be input directly in and printed off and the Hewlett Packard has a multiple card reader built-in and a touch-screen monitor. It is also a front loader which means a smaller footprint. The Lexmark does allow stand-alone printing but is actually wireless printing through Wi-fi and still is controlled by the computer. There is also a function for manipulation like red eye removal and photo enhance on the Epson and the Hewlett Packard which is missing on the Canon and Lexmark.
The Canon weighs in at 3.3Kg and is like lifting a feather which is great, but does that mean that the build quality is compromised? Well, the printer does feel quite fragile as though holding it tightly would crush it. The Epson is a heavier unit and at 6.5Kg is nearly double the Canon and feels a lot stronger and more solid. The Lexmark is a helium based 2.61Kg and, like the Canon, feels plasticky and the Hewlett Packard is a staggering 8Kg although doesn't feel as solid as the Epson.
The prints on the Pixma iP1800 will last 100 years, the Stylus Photo R360 gives 200 year lightfastness, the Z1420 will give 65 years lightfastness as long as the colour cartridge and photo cartridge are used in conjunction with Lexmark premium photo paper whilst the Photosmart D7360 has a fade resist capability of up to 73 years.
The Stylus Photo R360 colour image printed up in 5min 45sec. Compared to the Pixma iP1800's time of 5min 20sec whilst the Photosmart D7360 gave a time of 5min 15sec once I had got it printing. I loaded the printer with paper and got a message saying the tray was empty. I reloaded and got the same message, switched off, reloaded and repeated another three or four times before I started to pull the trays apart in frustration and found the 6x4 tray hidden under the collection tray which needed to be pulled out as the printer defaults to this tray. Troubleshooting gave no indication of this and the instructions were not clear either. The Z1420 managed a print in 5min 35sec. None of the times are anything to worry about unless your available time is constricted down to the second in which case, you should be leaning towards the Canon or Hewlett Packard.
Colours are more saturated and sharp with the Epson and Lexmark especially the primaries whilst the Canon gives a more paler result with the tones looking like a mist is over them but it was the HP that gave the most accurate reproduction of colours. The print using the Image colour management system gave bolder colours on the Canon and the Epson was pretty much the same, at first I thought the Hewlett Packard had trouble with the ICM setting, but the pictures continuously came out faded and lower quality than the original regardless of the setting including saturated setting and the Lexmark didn't offer ICM. The Greyscale images gave a blacker looking black on the Epson by giving off a darker black than the border of the colour chart. White was better on the Canon and overall tone of greys was better with the Hewlett Packard, but at the same time, it was less punchy with the contrast and the Lexmark looked like an old photograph and was covered in noise despite the other printers not showing this.
Canon pixma iP1800 result.
Epson stylus photo R360 result.
Hewlett Packard photosmart D7360 result.
Lexmark Z1420 result.
The Epson is priced at £90 and ink tanks fare reasonably at £6.99 each, the Hewlett Packard costs £139 and the tanks are also £6.99 each with the exception of the Black which is £10.99 for some reason. The Canon is priced at £35 and ink tanks are priced at £19.99 each, but bear in mind their are only two. The Lexmark costs around £55 and the inks are £13.24 for the black and £14.57 for the colour, so if all had to be replaced at the same time, the Canon would be the best value with the Lexmark snapping at it's heels.
All printers have their own benefits like the Canon Pixma iP1800 being the lightest and smallest, the Hewlett Packard Photosmart D7360 being the most versatile with touch screen monitor and multiple card reader, the Lexmark Z1420 has the WiFi capability for true wireless printing and the Epson Stylus Photo R360 has the best colours on paper. The Epson is proclaimed the winner edging slightly ahead of the Hewlett Packard as it has more consistently higher results. The only thing that let it down was the speed, being the slowest of the collective, but this was only by a matter of seconds as all printers gave good results.
Whilst the Epson's prints were sharp and colourful, it wasn't a close match to how the actual image was as it had been saturated to a high degree. The Hewlett Packard brought out the print most closely matched in colour and tone. The Lexmark gave the most consistent results overall, but unfortunately was beaten to the finish line on each test and the Hewlett Packard could have runaway with the trophy but the problems I had printing let it down.
The Canon Pixma iP1800 costs around £35 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here .
The Epson Stylus Photo R360 costs around £90 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.
The Hewlett Packard Photosmart D7360 costs around £139 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.
The Lexmark Z1420 costs around £55 and is available from Lexmark UK.