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Standard Print Quality: Absorbency And Text Performance

Tom's Hardware Benchmarks Inkjet Printer Paper!
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Color reproduction is only one aspect of paper performance. The other major aspect is absorbency. The production of paper involves forming a fiber mat on a mesh screen and pressing it flat. High-quality inkjet paper must balance ink absorbency with a tendency to spread sideways. The easiest way to solve this problem is by producing very fine paper fibers. As the size of the fiber decreases, fewer fibers extend through the mat. This is why the text on one brand of paper can appear crisper than the text on another. Obviously, this is subjective, but we're using a high-powered microscope to show visual differences.

If you tend to print small fonts, you'll notice that each paper produces its own unique result. Brother's Multipurpose tends to produce fuzzy text because the paper is slightly more porous. Dynex and Epson seem to produce poor text because the first layer of fibers doesn't adequately absorb the ink pigments. Kodak shows a similar effect, but it's not as severe. HP's Multipurpose produces the crispest text, but ink still slightly seeps out from the font's edge.

Brother continues to produce fuzzy but uniform text, which is a result that Kodak closely mimics. HP's Multipurpose produces crisp text, but there are non-uniform aberrations throughout the letter.

When it comes to borders, HP's Bright White and Multipurpose produce the least color bleed between neighboring color patches. Notice that there is a slight tear in our Epson printing sample. This anomaly will occasionally turn up with paper. Sometimes paper arrives in the ream this way; sometimes it's the fault of the printer.

Duplex printing is an easy way to reduce paper consumption, but, if your paper tends to let ink bleed through a lot, printing on both sides of a page yields poor results. Ink soaks through the paper and over-saturation causes the paper to curl or buckle. When we examine the opposite side of our color border test, we notice that Brother, Dynex, and Kodak all tend to let ink bleed through to the other side. The Bright White paper from Epson and HP yield the least bleed-through, but recall that these have a heavier weight (more paper fibers). In comparison, HP's Multipurpose is only 20 lb. paper, but there is little ink penetration.

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  • -1 Hide
    hmp_goose , May 26, 2011 4:33 AM
    I'd been taught you feed an Epson Epson paper …
  • -1 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , May 26, 2011 4:35 AM
    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.
  • 3 Hide
    acku , May 26, 2011 4:39 AM
    Quote:
    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
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2011 5:48 AM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    acku , May 26, 2011 6:04 AM
    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 Hide
    acku , May 26, 2011 7:37 AM
    Quote:
    Seriously? You are benchmarking PAPER? Does the word "obsessive" mean anything to you?


    Maybe more neurotic than obsessive.
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2011 7:54 AM
    Does the word "KACHINGGGG" mean anything to you?
  • 0 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , May 26, 2011 9:55 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    nebun , May 26, 2011 12:16 PM
    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 :) 
  • -1 Hide
    zybch , May 26, 2011 12:42 PM
    No Canon papers?
  • 2 Hide
    WyomingKnott , May 26, 2011 12:56 PM
    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.
  • 3 Hide
    sempifi99 , May 26, 2011 3:10 PM
    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.
  • 4 Hide
    dstln , May 26, 2011 3:14 PM
    Another nice article covering yet another part of daily computing, good work branching out.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2011 3:18 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    gmgj , May 26, 2011 3:46 PM
    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.
  • -5 Hide
    dan4patriots , May 26, 2011 3:56 PM
    like someone else said, really-benchmarking paper?
  • 1 Hide
    clonazepam , May 26, 2011 4:50 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    clonazepam , May 26, 2011 4:53 PM
    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.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2011 5:52 PM
    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.
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