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The best photo inkjet printer

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This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer's guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

By Amadou Diallo

After 76 hours of research and side-by-side testing with four different models, we found the $800 Epson SureColor P600 is the best photo inkjet printer for most people. It delivers professional-quality color prints, as well as black-and-white photographs that are as close to traditional darkroom prints as you'll see from any digital printer around. Its prints also last longer than anything you'd get from a typical online photo service. The P600 can print on a wider variety of media than the competition, and its LCD touchscreen control panel makes setup and maintenance easy.

Who is this for?

A 13-inch pigment-ink photo printer like the Epson SureColor P600 lets you make gallery-quality color and black-and-white prints on a wide variety of paper surfaces.

Home printing is a great option if you shoot with a high-end mirrorless camera or DSLR, if you plan to print at least a few times a month, and if you want to avoid the wait for online or in-store print orders. But any inkjet photo printer requires an investment of both time and money (an 8-by-10 from our top pick will run you about $1 per print in ink costs alone), so if you take only occasional photos of holiday festivities or family gatherings, you'll be better off with an online print service.

How we tested

At far left: the original print file. Clockwise from top left: Epson P600, Aspen Creek (online print service), Canon Pro-100, Snapfish (online print service). Photo: Amadou Diallo

Over the past few years, we've brought in several photo printers for a real-world look at their ease of use, performance, and, of course, print quality. We printed on both glossy and matte papers using ICC profiles for color images provided by the printer vendor. For black-and-white prints, we used the monochrome-only modes in the printer drivers at their default settings, disabling color-management options in Photoshop and Lightroom. We printed images at the printers' default resolutions. To evaluate print quality for this guide, we viewed prints from each inkjet printer along with those from two online print services using professional color-corrected viewing booths.

Our pick

The P600 has a front-feeding slot with a straight paper path for loading thick fine-art papers.

The Epson SureColor P600 delivers gallery-quality photos with more accurate colors, greater image detail, and better fade resistance than you'll typically get by farming out your prints. The tilting color touchscreen display lets you easily verify remaining ink levels and quickly perform maintenance tasks like swapping inks and performing nozzle checks. The P600's nine-color ink set comes in large, 25.9-milliliter cartridges. At about $1.28 per milliliter, these inks are not quite as cheap as those of our alternate pick but are much less than multifunction printer inks, which can cost more than $2 per milliliter.

The P600 can handle thicker media than our alternate picks; it can even print on inkjet-compatible metal sheets if you like to get creative. The printer has built-in Wi-Fi support, and Epson offers a free mobile app for direct printing from mobile devices. These wireless options are slow, however, nearly doubling print times in comparison with a wired connection.

The Epson P600 comes with a set of nine individual ink cartridges that each hold nearly 26 milliliters of ink, with a replacement cost of $32 per cartridge.

Our only complaint is that, like all Epson printers, the P600 makes you swap black inks when changing between matte and glossy papers, wasting costly ink in the process.

A great deal when the price drops

A great buy when its price drops below $500, the Canon Pro-10 makes excellent and long-lasting prints.

If our main pick is unavailable, the pigment-ink printer we recommend is the Canon Pixma Pro-10, but only when its price drops. It normally goes for about $700, but we've seen occasional price drops of more than $250, which makes it a compelling alternative. Like our top pick, it uses pigment inks for maximum print longevity; its per-print cost is about 20 cents less than the Epson's. Disappointingly, though, the Pro-10 requires a wide image border—1.2 inches on all sides—when printing on thick fine-art matte papers. On the same media, the P600 can print all the way to the edge of the paper.

A cheaper pick for personal use

The Pro-100 makes great-looking color prints for personal use, but because it uses dye inks, its photos are susceptible to fading over time.

If you're not comfortable spending $800, and print longevity isn't your top priority, we like the $380 Canon Pixma Pro-100. It offers great-looking color prints and the fastest print speeds of the photo printers we tested. As it's less than half the cost of our top pick, users who may occasionally skip a month between making prints can more easily justify the up-front expense. Because it uses dye inks, however, its prints are more likely to fade over time compared with those from a pigment-ink printer like our top pick—a big issue if you intend to sell your prints.

Wrapping up

The Epson SureColor P600 delivers excellent print quality and solid performance along with a flip-up color LCD touchscreen for faster setup and maintenance than the competition offers. You get professional-quality color and black-and-white prints with outstanding longevity, and with the built-in Wi-Fi support you can even print from your mobile device.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

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