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Are High-End Ink Jet Printers Worth Your Money?

The Contenders

A printer is not like a CD burner. When a vendor increases the speed of its burner, all the other manufacturers follow suit and the models from previous generations disappear from the market. The concept of eight-color printing shouldn't be seen as the future of inkjet printing in the short or middle term. It's simply a technological exception until the development of classic five- and six-ink models catch up in quality. That's why we chose not to include these three models in a broader comparison, since their specifications put them more or less in a special class.

Canon Pixma IP8500

As we said in the introduction, the Pixma IP8500 is the only printer that really uses eight different colors. The innovation is the red and green inks that are added to the usual tints that six-color models offer. But that's not the only thing that sets this printer apart. It's also incredibly fast in photo mode, without sacrificing quality to achieve that speed. And to put the icing on the cake, while its purchase price is higher than the other models tested, its post-sale costs are the lowest.

Epson Stylus Photo R800

The Stylus Photo R800 is for printing, and printing only. Don't look for a PictBridge connector or memory-card slots. Users who'll be interested in this type of product generally work on their pictures with photo-retouching software and don't need standalone printing. And they'll get what they're looking for, given the quality of the color rendering the UltraChrome inks deliver and the innovative gloss layer that also helps preserve prints for a longer time.

HP Photosmart 8450

We'll say right off that the Photosmart 8450 is the model we found least convincing. It seems to be more of a high-end version of the Photosmart 8150. It uses the principle of three ink cartridges installed simultaneously (compared to two in the case of the 8150), which means you don't have to choose between the black cartridge and the photo cartridge. Its most original feature is the dedicated cartridge for grayscale printing (an option the Photosmart 8150 already had). Beyond that, the usual strong and weak points of HP's products are here - on the positive side, the numerous additional functions, and on the negative side the high cost per page and relative slowness.