How to Shop for a Photo Printer

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Kick the Tires

The final test is to see some printers in the flesh. When you visit retail stores, be bold. Lift the printer's cover and look inside--check for card slots and see how many ink cartridges it uses. Play with the lid, the hinges, and the paper trays to make sure they're sturdy. Some stores won't have actual working printers available, but if they do, give them a workout and see how loud they are, just for the fun of it.

If you can't make your own print for comparison, look carefully at the print samples. Of course, these tend to look flawless--you'll be hard-pressed to duplicate their perfection. But look for defects such as blurriness and weird colors, especially in the flesh tones. They could be a subtle hint of much more pronounced irregularities you'll see in your prints. And while you're in the store, take a trip down the paper and ink aisle, and find out what you'll be paying for paper and inks before you buy.

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