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Tom's Hardware Benchmarks Inkjet Printer Paper!

Tom's Hardware Benchmarks Inkjet Printer Paper!
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Do you own an inkjet printer? If you are concerned with the quality of your prints, you will want to read this article. We go over the technical differences between paper from Brother, Dynex, Epson, HP, and Kodak, and why one gets our recommendation.

Many of us print off pages of email, school projects, packing slips, and invoices every single day. It's one of those almost-ironic relics of a world before everything started going digital.

But we're not here to debate the ramifications of burning through trees. No, we're wondering how the quality of the paper you do use affects what comes out the business end of your printer. You probably sunk a lot of time into researching the right printer to buy, but did you consider that your paper of choice matters as well?

The texture and composition of paper play a big role in output quality. When copy machines print on standard office paper, the paper doesn’t get wet. However, the composition of cheap office paper is too weak to work well with inkjet printers because ink tends to pool around the point of contact (printer head) and wick through the paper's fibers. The result is a piece of paper in which ink seeps along the fibers, creating miniature spider web-like patterns.

Inkjet paper is specifically different because it's made using a high-quality chemical-based manufacturing process. The goal of this process is to produce a paper with the right degree of absorbency to accept ink, while preventing it from wicking sideways. That's why inkjet paper tends to be heavier, brighter, and smoother than copy paper.

Ultimately, you need to understand that there are three major factors in paper quality: absorbency, brightness, and weight. Photographers often have their personal favorites when it comes to photo paper, which benefits from chemical coats that change how ink behaves once it hits the paper, but this isn't what we use on a day-to-day basis. We do know that matte paper is cheaper, but what makes the paper of one brand different from another?

In order to find out how paper affects the quality of your everyday printing tasks, we're testing six different reams of paper, with 500 pages per ream.

Price$6.99
$4.99$8.99$10.99$6.99$8.99
BrandBrotherDynexEpsonHPHPKodak
TypeMultipurposeMultipurposeBright WhiteBright WhiteMultipurpose
Everyday
Brightness (ISO)9692969796
96
Weight (lb.)2020242420
20
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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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