The Test Procedure
Our tests focus on three main considerations: quality, speed, and cost of use. As usual, the quality tests show very little difference from one model to another. Also, the differences aren't always perceived in the same way by each user, since some people may appreciate the flatter tones provided by HP ink and others the brilliant colors you tend to get from Canon. In any case the quality is always excellent; the disparities were greater with respect to printing speeds, whether in text mode, office applications, or photo printing. The same holds for cost of use, which has taken on determining importance and proves that the purchase price is almost not even a factor in the overall price equation, even with printers costing over $150.
All time measurements are made from the moment the printer's software driver is activated, not when the print job is launched. We don't take the time spent preparing the document into account, since it varies from one PC to another, nor any time spent positioning the printing head, which may have been put on hold if the printer hasn't been used for a few minutes.
- Time for printing a 10-page text in draft, standard, and high-quality modes
- Time for printing a document combining text, images, and graphs in standard mode, in color and grayscale
- Time for printing an A4 color photo in photo mode at maximum resolution
Since inkjet printers are multi-use, we conducted quality tests both in text and photo modes. All photos were printed on glossy A4 photo paper.
- Printing text containing fonts in 2, 10 and 72-point sizes in standard mode
- Printing a photo of a landscape with pronounced blue-green tones
- Printing a photo with heavy contrasts between very bright colors
The results we give for cost-of-use tests are only an indirect reflection of reality. The actual cost of operating a printer is impossible to determine exactly, due to the many possible ways that inkjet printers can used. For this reason, we've opted for a relatively simple procedure that tests each printer under the same conditions and gives a good indication of relative cost of use, providing a basis for comparing models. These include the following:
- Life span of the black cartridge alone, printing 25% black documents
- Life span of the color and photo cartridges, printing an A4 document containing 25% black, 25% cyan, 25% magenta, and 25% yellow
Cost calculations were then made using prices from a representative e-commerce site, using cartridges from the manufacturer (never third-party compatible cartridges.) We don't count the volume of ink used for maintenance, and in particular for cleaning the nozzles and alignment of the cartridges, which depends heavily on the downtime between printing sessions. The results we show are for optimal conditions and for standard use, and therefore the actual cost will probably be slightly higher.