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Ink, Color Gamut, And Test Method

Tom's Hardware Benchmarks Inkjet Printer Paper!
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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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