The Best Holiday Printers Offer Something Extra

Snapshot Printers: Easy Photo Printing

Although any color printer can print an adequate (or better) photo, a snapshot printer creates nothing but photos--and is well worth considering for families with lots of pictures to share. Check out our snapshot printer reviews to learn about current models.

The following questions will help you decide whether your gift recipient really needs a dedicated photo printer, or whether a regular color printer would be a better choice. (Looking for the absolute best? High-end photo inkjet printers, which PCWorld does not review, are for enthusiasts or professionals who are willing to pay more to create truly gorgeous images.)

Does your gift recipient like small devices? Snapshot printers are small and boxy, so they can fit pretty much anywhere. Most have carrying handles for portability, and a few even have battery options.

In Video: Snapshot Photo Printers

Is their media covered? Look for a model with a media slot that accommodates the camera storage-card type your gift recipient uses, or a model with a PictBridge port for connecting a camera using a cable. Some PictBridge ports also take USB thumb drives; a printer's specs should indicate whether its port does.

Do they want to preview their photos? A color display lets the user view and select photos for printing. Such screens vary in size, but obviously bigger would be better (and more expensive). A few displays are also touch-sensitive, an interface that feels more natural for navigating on-screen options.

Canon Selphy CP790 snapshot printer
Does the gift recipient prefer fast gratification over editing freedom? All snapshot printers are capable of printing a photo without being connected to a PC. As a rule, the less-expensive models offer just basic editing, such as red-eye removal and maybe clip art, sepia tone, or borders. Higher-end models also let you add captions or draw on the image, print layouts such as albums or calendars, and more. Don't pay for the additional features unless you think the recipient will really use them. If the person habitually fiddles with their photos in editing software before they print, then they'll still want to hook it up to their PC so that they can use full-fledged applications.

What paper sizes do they want to use? All snapshot printers can create a standard 4-by-6-inch print; in addition, HP's models can print on 5-by-7-inch and 4-by-12-inch photo paper. If your gift recipient wants to print on more sizes, consider a full-size inkjet printer or even a wide-format model.

Does the printer's technology matter? The major snapshot printer vendors use two technologies: the commonly known inkjet, and dye-sublimation, which involves transferring ink from a continuous roll to paper. We've tested both kinds of printers, and we recommend buying an inkjet model. Dye-sublimation technology creates a lot of wasted ink film, with no noticeable advantage in image quality or speed.

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