How to Shop for a Photo Printer

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What Do You Want Out of Your Printer?

You'll find that you have a number of different printer types to choose from: general-purpose, photo, portable, snapshot photo, and multifunction. Faced with so many choices, you have to ask yourself how you plan to use the printer.

If this new printer will be the only one you'll use, and you'd like to produce decent-looking text documents as well as high-quality photos, then you'll most likely need a general-purpose ink jet printer like the $150 Canon I860 Desktop Photo Printer, the $400 HP Deskjet 9650, or the $70 Lexmark Z615.

For the latest reviews and product pricing, check out PC World's Top 10 Ink Jet Printers.

On the other hand, perhaps you have a trusty old laser that handles all your text printing, and your new printer is going to be dedicated solely to printing photos and color graphics. If that's the case, then you can start by looking at photo-centric printers like the $179 Epson Stylus Photo R300, the $200 HP Photosmart 7760, or the $100 Lexmark P707.

Check out PC World's review of the Photosmart 7760, the Lexmark P707, and the Epson R300M.

Then again, if your home office or small business needs a device that scans, faxes, copies, prints text, and can produce great-looking photos to boot, you'll find some good multifunction ink jet printers, including the $250 Epson Stylus Photo RX500, the $150 HP Officejet 4215 All-in-One, and the $200 Canon MP390. These three models haven't been tested by PC World; however, none of the multifunction printers previously tested by PC World excelled at every function. If you're willing to trade stellar quality on one or more of these functions for the convenience of having one device that does it all, you should select one that excels at the function you plan to use most.

You may have a more specific purpose in mind: If you need to print while on the road--because you're a real estate agent, say--you'll want to check out mobile printers such as the $350 HP Deskjet 450wbt and the $250 Canon I80. But if you only want to print 4-by-6-inch photos, then you can limit your search to portable snapshot printers like the $199 Epson PictureMate, the $200 HP Photosmart 245, or the $380 Canon CP-330.

Another possible scenario: You want an inexpensive printer for photo and color graphics printing, and a certain member of your family insists on having something that will print directly onto CDs and DVDs. The $99 Epson Stylus Photo R200 and the $179 Epson Stylus R300 fit the bill.

For additional reviews of the latest printers in these different categories (except multifunction printers), see PC World's upcoming "Printers for Every Purpose."

At a Glance
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