Buyer's Guide 2008: Photo Printers

Inks, Inks And More Inks

There are two basic types of inkjet inks: dye-based and pigment. While printer manufacturers continue to bridge the gap between the two in terms of vibrancy, longevity and paper compatibility, dye-based inks still have an edge over pigment inks in color gamut, while prints produced with pigment inks have the potential to last longer. Given the proper storage conditions and the right ink/paper combination, however, both dye-based and pigment prints can easily last for several decades or more.

The only photo printers that don’t have multiple individual ink cartridges are dedicated photo printers. Some use a single color ink cartridge, while others employ the dye-sublimation process, which uses heat to transfer color from a film-like tape to paper. Otherwise, desktop printers use multiple individual ink cartridges with a minimum of four inks (CMYK-cyan, magenta, yellow and black) for dye-based printers. Others use several additional inks, including light (or photo) magenta and light (or photo) cyan; red and green cartridges are sometimes included for extra vibrant prints. If you’re interested in black-and-white prints, models with multiple black and gray inks deliver the best monochrome output.

From Digital File To Print

There are any number of ways to get your digital image files out to the printer. You can hook the printer up to a computer via USB or FireWire cables or you can plug your PictBridge-enabled camera into the printer’s PictBridge port.

Some printers, both compact and desktop models, are equipped with media card slots and ports for USB flash drives so you don’t have to plug the printer into anything but an AC outlet. Even then, some dedicated photo printers come with rechargeable battery packs so you can take them with you to events.

While a limited number of photo printers offer a WiFi wireless connection, others can accommodate an optional Bluetooth adapter or use infrared. These are helpful options if you want to reduce wires or share a printer with multiple computers. If you have a home network, you also may want to check out a printer that has a built-in Ethernet port.

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