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Are High-End Ink Jet Printers Worth Your Money?

Quality Tests

There are major disparities among the models in terms of print speed, as the preceding section made clear. But is that the essential point in choosing an eight-ink printer? Not necessarily. If you're buying a top-of-the-line printer, it's because you're concerned with quality above all. And in that department, the differences among the three printers we tested are much smaller, and each one has something to recommend it.

Printing High-Quality Photos, Bright Colors

OriginalCanon Pixma IP8500
Epson Stylus Photo R800HP Photosmart 8450
More DetailCanon Pixma IP8500
Epson Stylus Photo R800HP Photosmart 8450

In this photo that emphasizes bright colors with high contrast, it's immediately noticeable that the Canon Pixma IP8500's red and green cartridges had a strong influence on the saturation of the blues. The blue of the sky is a little too deep. Epson seems to make better use of its blue-ink cartridge, producing a sky color comparable to the original photo. As for the Photosmart 8450, which has no specific ink for these tints, it did quite well with the blues. The same can't be said for the greens. The grass looks pale as reproduced by the Photosmart, whereas the green produced by the Pixma IP8500 reproduces the almost fluorescent appearance of the original quite well. This can no doubt be attributed to the printer's green cartridge. While the Stylus Photo R800 didn't do as well with green, it offered the highest fidelity of all the printers for the image as a whole.

Blowing up a specific part of the image, we noted that the Photosmart 8450 had a tendency to smooth the points to the maximum, showing almost no graininess. This process is a bit deceptive, however, because instead of improving the image, it tends to create transitional areas when going from one color to another, slightly lowering the quality of the overall result. On the Stylus, on the other hand, each different color area was well delimited, and only the red of the mouth lacked depth. The Pixma IP8500 was halfway between its two competitors, performing visible smoothing, but rendering the red correctly.