How to Spend Less on Printing and Get Better Results

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What type of printer should I buy for printing photos?

If you're printing only 4-by-6-inch photos, consider buying a snapshot printer that uses either dye-sublimation or inkjet printing technology. The devices take up little space, and they're often portable.

For printing larger photos, or if you also need to print text documents, you'll need a desktop inkjet printer. Models with four or more color ink cartridges generally produce the best quality. For high-resolution black-and-white photo printing, look for a model that prints several shades of gray and black.

Most photo printers have a PictBridge port that enables you to print directly from a digital camera without having to plug a memory card into either your PC or the printer. If you'll be printing most of your photos directly from your camera, you don't need an LCD on the printer itself--you can use the screen and controls on your camera to operate the printer instead. Many printers have media slots for printing from your camera's memory card, or for transferring the images to your PC. A good-size LCD on the printer is worth having if you intend to print directly from a memory card.

See PC World's Top Photo Printers and Top Snapshot Printers charts for our latest ratings.

Can I print high-quality photos on a color laser printer?

Color laser printers work well for printing documents that combine text, graphics, and photos. Most produce photos that are adequate for many purposes, such as real-estate brochures, car insurance claims, and missing-kitty fliers. Current models, however, lack sufficient color accuracy and print resolution to rival inkjet printers.

Many laser models, including the HP Color LaserJet 2605dtn, the Konica Minolta Magicolor 2500W, and the Lexmark C500n, let you print on glossy paper, which makes their images look more like real photos. A few lasers, such as the LaserJet 2605dtn and the Magicolor 2430DL, have either media slots or a PictBridge port for printing from a digital camera.

How do I print high-quality text on an inkjet printer?

To get the best text output from your inkjet printer, check the user manual to see what sort of paper the manufacturer recommends. Cheap multipurpose paper absorbs ink too easily, giving characters fuzzy edges.

Some inkjets, such as Epson's Stylus C88+ and Stylus Photo R800, use only pigment-based inks, which bleed less on more types of paper than do common dye-based inks. Other models, such as the Canon Pixma iP4300, the HP Deskjet D4160, and the Lexmark Z845, add a pigment black ink to their dye-based inks for printing darker and sharper black text.

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