Printers can be cheap but ones that are high enough quality for prints good enough to match a professional print company can cost more. Where printers aimed at documents often have two ink cartridges – one black, one multi-coloured – photo printers usually have, say, three colour cartridges as well as black, sometimes more. The benefits here are you only replace the cartridges as the ink in each one runs out and greater colour fidelity is possible. Features to look out for include wi-fi so you can print from your living room while the printer’s in the study. All the full-size printers here have this. Printers routinely work as scanners and photocopiers, but be sure to check before you buy. Printing direct from smartphones and tablets is possible when there are dedicated apps, like Canon has, or compatibility with Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print and so on. If you want big prints, some models here can print in sizes up to A3 while for tiddly photos, a portable photo printer may be all you need. The brands that stand out here are Canon (a camera brand, so no surprise) and Epson.
1. Canon TS8050: £139.99, Currys
This is a slick machine that produces great photos. Not least, that’s because it has six ink cartridges, including one that has grey ink. The idea is that it helps to reduce graininess in prints and improve the appearance of shade. The large (10.8 cm) touchscreen is easy to use. You can also print from a smartphone or tablet thanks to Canon’s Print app, though it also supports AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. The TS8050 delivers great results at a good price.
2. HP Envy 5544: £59.99, John Lewis
This is an efficient, well-priced all-rounder ideal for those who occasionally want to print photos. HP has a system for buying ink by subscription which, depending on your usage, can reduce costs noticeably. Ink comes in two cartridges, one black, one tri-colour. HP's printers are known for simplicity of use and reliability. The quality doesn’t match the pricier machines on the list, but this is a good-value option.
3. Epson Expression Photo XP-760: £129.99, John Lewis
Another all-rounder, the XP-760 scores above most general printers for picture quality, not least because it has six ink cartridges - black and five colours. This also means you can replace each ink as one runs out. A second paper tray for 5x7in prints is included. Epson quotes photo durability at 300 years, while other brands promise 100 years. Clearly, we haven't tested either claim but the prints look good.
4. Canon Selphy CP1200: £116.99, John Lewis
If you need to print photos on the move, the CP1200 is one of several that will suit. It only prints postcard sizes or below (15 x 10cm), though that’s bigger than on the HP Sprocket or Prynt below. It’s small and light to be truly portable and has enough connections (wireless, SD card and USB) to be versatile. Print quality is very good so if you only need small prints, it’s worth considering. Speed isn’t optimum, especially with wireless connectivity, but doable.
5. Epson Expression Photo XP-960: £209, AO.com
The XP-960 is another beast that’s capable of printing photos up to A3 size though it has a footprint not much bigger than an A4 printer. To print A3 you fold out a telescopic adjuster, which keeps the size of the unit smaller for non-A3 printing. Its six-ink system makes for excellent, faithfully realised photos with deep blacks and rich colours.
6. Canon Pixma PRO-10S: £519.50, Jessops
This is a full-on professional inkjet photo printer. When you pay as much as this you get a printer that handles paper bigger than A3 (called A3+ which is 328 x 423mm). It has 10 ink tanks, which contributes to the high quality of photos it delivers, especially with black-and-white photo prints. As such, it’s overkill when you use it on text documents, though these look good, too. Quality of photos printed is the best on test and running costs are on a par with other printers.
7. Epson EcoTank ET 3600: £239.99, Currys
This printer isn’t cheap to buy, but should offer lower running costs. That’s because it comes with a high-capacity ink tank system and two sets of ink bottles, each with one black bottle and three separate colour ones, which Epson claims is enough for 11,000 pages. Print quality is strong, though it’s not the fastest printer on test.
8. Epson Stylus Photo 1500W: £194.99, Argos
This is a big beast, as wide as it is because it prints up to A3. It'll take up half your desk, it feels like, when you have the feed and output trays open. It's a good price for a printer that can print to this size but the six-colour ink system means you can spend a lot on ink if you do a lot of A3 prints. Print quality, especially on photo paper, is very strong with realistic colours.
9. HP Sprocket: £99.99, Amazon
The Sprocket, available in black or white, is a compact portable printer that’s battery-powered (a microUSB socket recharges it). Prints are small (5 x 7.6cm) and come in a 10-sheet pack, either of regular prints or stickers. It’s designed to make it easy to print from your smartphone or tablet on the go and is great fun, though image quality is good but far from exceptional.
10. Prynt Smartphone Case: £119.99, Amazon
This is a real novelty: a phone case available in models to fit an iPhone from the iPhone 5s onwards. Then use the app to shoot, adding filters and text if you wish. Then press print and a photo pops out of the case. What’s more, a video shot at the time is automatically stored in the cloud. View the photo on the Prynt app and the video is revealed. The prints, like on the HP Sprocket, are 5 x 7.6cm and are sticky-backed.
The Verdict: Photo printers
Canon’s winner delivers strong photo quality, is easy to use and good value. For occasional photo printing, the Epson Expression Photo XP-760 is very good value, though lacks the exceptional print quality of the much-pricier, more versatile Canon Pixma PRO-10S. For portable prints, the Canon Selphy CP1200 and HP Sprocket are efficient and fun.
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