Tom's Hardware Benchmarks Inkjet Printer Paper!

Ink, Color Gamut, And Test Method

Inks

Despite what third-party ink suppliers tell you, there are differences in ink quality. At the same time, the differences are not as large as printer manufacturers would have you believe, especially when you're comparing high-quality inks. We spent a lot of time testing paper and talking with X-Rite, Chromix, HP, and various professional photographers. To some degree, there is some truth in printer marketing. Epson does optimize its paper to work with its printers and its ink, for example. Often you find that Epson Photo Printer Paper tends to work better with a wide-format Epson printer, and Canon Photo Printer Paper works better with a high-quality Canon printer.

However, when it comes to consumer-oriented printers and standard inkjet paper, the differences are negligible. The performance of the ink’s dispersal agent, pigment size, and printer head portal tend to cluster within a very tight range.

Color Gamut

Color behaves differently on a piece of paper than it does on a screen. Computer monitors emit color as RGB (red, green, and blue) light, whereas printed paper absorbs and reflects different light wavelengths. That is why printer inks yield a different color gamut than what you get on a monitor.

Photographers solve this problem by profiling their printer so that their monitor matches the color gamut of the final print. You can’t calibrate a printer, but you can calibrate a monitor. We used this process to evaluate paper.

Spectracal was kind enough to supply us with a NIST-certified X-Rite i1Pro. We used this in combination with X-Rite’s i1Match software to profile each type of paper. However, in order to capture real-world performance, we didn't disable each printer’s native color management.

We tested paper with the Epson Artisan 710, Canon Pixma MG5220, and HP Photosmart Plus Special Edition. While different printers yield slightly different results, our conclusions remain the same consistently. So, in order to keep things simple, we’re only going to present the results from our Canon Pixma MG5220 testing.

Test Hardware
Processor
Intel Core i5-2500K (Sandy Bridge), Quad-Core, 3.3 GHz
Memory
Kingston Hyper-X 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1600
Motherboard
Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Graphics
Intel HD Graphics 3000
Hard Drive
Samsung 470 Series 256 GB (MZ5PA256HMDR): SATA 3Gb/s
Power Supply
Seasonic 760 W, 80 PLUS Gold
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit
Graphics Driver8.15.10.2342
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36 comments
    Your comment
  • hmp_goose
    I'd been taught you feed an Epson Epson paper …
    -1
  • iam2thecrowe
    I was kind of in disbelief when I read this article. Its a good try....but far from what is seen in the real world. Speaking from a printer tech's point of view, I can tell you that using the wrong kind of paper in certain printers can give disasterous results. The ink can sit on top, smudge, bleed etc. The manufacturer designs consumer printers with presets for different paper types. The specific printer may put more or less ink, raise or lower the carriage depending on paper thickness, not to mention every manufacturer uses a different type of ink and will react differently with different paper. This article is leading people in the wrong direction. You will only get reliable results from your inkjet printer using the manufacturers correct spec paper and ink and correct settings in your printer driver. If you happen to find one that works well for you that is not stated in the manufacturers spec, then good for you, but don't complain if your prints come out like crap using the wrong paper.
    -1
  • acku
    Anonymous said:
    I was kind of in disbelief when I read this article. Its a good try....but far from what is seen in the real world. Speaking from a printer tech's point of view, I can tell you that using the wrong kind of paper in certain printers can give disasterous results. The ink can sit on top, smudge, bleed etc. The manufacturer designs consumer printers with presets for different paper types. The specific printer may put more or less ink, raise or lower the carriage depending on paper thickness, not to mention every manufacturer uses a different type of ink and will react differently with different paper. This article is leading people in the wrong direction. You will only get reliable results from your inkjet printer using the manufacturers correct spec paper and ink and correct settings in your printer driver. If you happen to find one that works well for you that is not stated in the manufacturers spec, then good for you, but don't complain if your prints come out like crap using the wrong paper.


    That's very true when it comes to Photo Paper, but there are hundreds of attributes that matter. However, it is possible for brand B photo paper to be have more color gamut on brand A printer than brand A photo paper, if they're optimizing for color fastestness or water proofing.

    This was a look at everyday paper where differences are negligible on between multiple brands. We got the same results on Epson, HP, Brother, and Kodak printers. We know there are and we have seen different results with Photo Paper. Such as Canon Photo Paper behaving differently on a Canon printer, Epson printer etc....

    I have benchmarks from about 10 more printers of varying brands that line up with the results from the MG5220. For the sake of simplicity, we only presented one.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    3
  • Anonymous
    The prices of the HP Bright White and Multipurpose are switched between the first and last pages of this article. At first I thought that the Bright White was both the best of the bunch and one of the cheapest, which left me wondering if the ink fumes had made the reviewer a little woozy when I saw that the multipurpose got the recommendation.
    2
  • acku
    Quote:
    The prices of the HP Bright White and Multipurpose are switched between the first and last pages of this article. At first I thought that the Bright White was both the best of the bunch and one of the cheapest, which left me wondering if the ink fumes had made the reviewer a little woozy when I saw that the multipurpose got the recommendation.


    I think magic markers smell better. :kaola: Fixed!
    1
  • Dan_H
    Seriously? You are benchmarking PAPER? Does the word "obsessive" mean anything to you?
    -12
  • acku
    Anonymous said:
    Seriously? You are benchmarking PAPER? Does the word "obsessive" mean anything to you?


    Maybe more neurotic than obsessive.
    1
  • Anonymous
    Does the word "KACHINGGGG" mean anything to you?
    -5
  • iam2thecrowe
    ackuThat's very true when it comes to Photo Paper, but there are hundreds of attributes that matter. However, it is possible for brand B photo paper to be have more color gamut on brand A printer than brand A photo paper, if they're optimizing for color fastestness or water proofing. This was a look at everyday paper where differences are negligible on between multiple brands. We got the same results on Epson, HP, Brother, and Kodak printers. We know there are and we have seen different results with Photo Paper. Such as Canon Photo Paper behaving differently on a Canon printer, Epson printer etc....I have benchmarks from about 10 more printers of varying brands that line up with the results from the MG5220. For the sake of simplicity, we only presented one.Cheers,Andrew KuTomsHardware.com

    Thanks for clarifying that. Just didnt want people to get the wrong idea.
    0
  • nebun
    ackuMaybe more neurotic than obsessive.

    it is good....we need to know who manufacures the best paper if we want our prints to last us a lifetime :)
    2
  • zybch
    No Canon papers?
    -1
  • WyomingKnott
    Just to upset Dan_H a little more
    I write with a fountain pen. I've got about twenty of them and pick one, plus an ink, at the start of each week. Almost all printer paper is too glossy to take the ink; it sits on the surface so long that I would need to use a blotter.
    A paper called "Willcopy Ultra" takes fountain pen ink beautifully. Absorbs it, doesn't bleed. But it's only sold in pallet lots. So, by agreement with my office manager, I buy Staples paper and trade them ream-for-ream.
    Dan, whether it's print quality, durability, compatibility with certain inks, or other reasons, people do care. And we spend a lot of money on paper. Any given printer costs me more in ink, and separately more in paper, than I spend for the printer.
    2
  • sempifi99
    This was a fun read, definitely different than reading about motherboards or graphics cards.

    What would be a good follow up article is comparing standards in paper and consistency of results. I would imagine results varies sheet to sheet. But what about paper manufactured in different batches. Or paper manufactured at different production facilities.
    3
  • dstln
    Another nice article covering yet another part of daily computing, good work branching out.
    4
  • Anonymous
    Was the various different paper checked to see if all the paper comes from the same place? Like HP gets all of its paper from this mill. Because it would be really sucky if you buy HP paper and it doesn't act the way this 'bench' suggest merely because HP is using a different source for the paper.
    2
  • gmgj
    I really enjoyed your article. I spent a lot of time reading about calibration of monitors and got an appreciation of how complicated the subject of rendering colors is. If I want to print something to keep, I use a commercial service. I do not think there are many of us who could come close to approximating the expertise of a printer technician. For home use, this article gave me more confidence on the process for producing better quality results.

    On the other hand, any article on color should start out with the disclaimer that perception of color is a function of the light you see it in. And lighting conditions vary significantly.

    I look forward to more articles by you.
    0
  • dan4patriots
    like someone else said, really-benchmarking paper?
    -5
  • clonazepam
    I appreciated this article. I still remember the article from slightly over 10 yrs ago when you benchmarked the inkjet printers. It was great at the time b/c I worked at Epson's HQ in Long Beach, supporting all the pro-graphics printers, fiery rips, scanners, projectors, and digital cameras.

    I'd like to see a re-visit to the popular inkjet printer technologies employed by HP and Epson.
    1
  • clonazepam
    In addition, another future article can benchmark a manufacturer's printer, ink and paper system (as all 3 are tuned to each other) and how it changes when using 3rd party inks and papers. Also including some of the wilder 3rd party inks / drivers available would be cool too.
    0
  • Anonymous
    for an article about the paper quality and printing there was no focus on the paper and atributes of it. comparing 20# paper to 24# paper will give you very different results, and comparing brand name papers is useless because you do not know what mill is making it for them. I sell this stuff for a living and none of these companies make their own paper they have paper mills make it for them and slap their ream wrapper on it, they could change the mill that makes their paper every other month if they wanted to, unless you know the mill these tests are meaningless. And bright white paper (95-97 bright) will almost always have a strong blue when printing but it is purely because the paper has a blue hue to start with, the way they make the paper super bright white is by adding the blue to it (take a 92 bright and a 97 bright paper and compare them without ink). If you are printing photos, buy photo paper dont use these papers, if you are printing everyday documents almost any paper will be fine, if you want nice paper for reports or school work, buy some 95 bright paper or even better 24# paper. its pretty simple. And the prices shown here are insane, Best buy pays about $26 a case right now for their paper ($2.60 per ream) and the higher quality paper costs about $5 per ream (24# 97 bright), so they are going 100% markup.
    7