A Landslide Of Attractive Features
For this first run of tests, we have chosen the four main manufacturers only: Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark.
On the retail shelves, they alone have more than thirty representatives ranging from $50 to $450. The price differences (and, indirectly, their purchase), are justified by top resolutions, printing speed and some extra functions. The resolutions claimed are supposedly proportional to the highest level of detail that the printer can reach. Speed ranges vary from one to five. The extra functions involve things like border-free printing, four cartridges instead of two, automatic paper analysis, etc.
Moving on to the tests, the thirteen models in this review claim to produce prints of photo quality. The resolutions in our tests ranged from 2400 to 2880 dpi (dots per inch), with dpi representing the number of ink droplets.
To give you an idea, the size of these droplets is between 3 and 9 pico-liters, or between 3 and 9 billionths of a milliliter (10-12), and therefore beyond the detection capacity of the human eye,.
The second criterion is speed. All the printers claim to print more than 9 pages per minute (ppm). Some of them claim up to 20 ppm.
Lastly, all claim to be for general-purpose use, meaning that they can print text close to laser quality and photos comparable to those on photo-sensitized paper.
Unfortunately, this is not exactly so. Though none of these claims are actually bold-faced lies, but there is a certain amount of cheating involved, because the speeds that are advertised have mostly been measured in conditions quite far from the norm.
Let's start with a few examples. According to our estimates, based on the average of several documents, a normal page of text is filled to something in the region of 8%. A Web page has a rate of about 15%. With the assumption that it is more common to print Office text than Web page text, we can estimate an average filling rate of about 10%.
To show their products in the best light, the manufacturers claim speeds based on documents filled at 3.5%, and in draft mode at that.