Small businesses are looking to promote themselves around their community with inexpensive banners and posters. Desktop publishing and scrapbooking are increasing in popularity. Photographers (both amateur and professional) are demanding increased flexibility and higher image quality. Needs in every corner of this expanding market are making wide-format inkjet printers a near necessity for anyone interested in these activities. There are countless things to look for in a high-quality printer and we’ve identified several of these crucial factors in our reviews. In this article, we’ll review the essential attributes of a high-quality printer and how to spot them. Take a look at our reviews of the Epson Stylus Photo 1400, the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II and the Epson Workforce 1100 for a glimpse into what it takes to be one of our top ranked products. For additional information on these large printers, take a look at our articles on wide-format inkjet printers.
Wide-Format Inkjet Printers: What to Look For
When considering the purchase of one of these customized printers, be sure you consider more than just the price of a given device. The features of the device, its potential ease of use and the customer support that backs it are all key in selecting a device that will not only produce high-quality documents and photos at a reasonable price, but will give you the flexibility to produce the printed media that fits your needs. We’ve consolidated the many factors you will need to consider into the following categories:
A wide-format inkjet printer that produces a high-quality print every 30 minutes is equally as impractical as one that spits out 60 poor-quality pages in a minute. In this category, we looked at the maximum print dots per inch (DPI), the print speed and the physical dimensions of the device as well as several other key factors. The printer you choose should hold a good amount of paper (over 100 sheets) so you aren’t required to feed it often. It should also be compact, giving you plenty of extra space wherever you choose to place it.
Ease of Use
This category covers everything about the printer from its ease of installation (be it the simplicity of the cable configuration or the brevity of its installer application) to how easily you are able to configure print settings and produce the exact photo or document you desire. A balance between a large and complex feature set and overall device usability must be struck to create a great printer.
Help & Support
Customer service is essential for all sensitive electronics, wide-format inkjet printers included. For this criterion, we examined the support options offered by the respective manufacturers. We found several avenues that are available for support, including email addresses, telephone numbers, online chat, user forums and a FAQs section. An industry-standard one-year warranty is included with the purchase of these printers.
We at Top Ten Reviews have amassed a great deal of information on these unique printers to help you make the purchase that is correct for your needs. Take a look at our side-by-side comparison and our reviews for a complete picture of what makes the best wide-format inkjet printer.
Exceptional wide-format inkjet printers are only part of the impressive history of Epson, the Japan-based technology corporation. They began over 100 years ago by manufacturing watches, pioneering the first quartz watch. This legacy has continued through today, broadening the scope of this impressive company from watches to scanners, digital cameras and even large printers like the Epson Stylus Photo 1400. This full-featured printer offers a higher quality print than any other wide-format inkjet printer on the market, producing magnificent 5760 x 1440 DPI photos when optimized. The device itself is very easy to set up and use, granting prompt, full access to all of its features. It is backed by a respectable selection of helpful customer support options and comes with a standard one-year limited warranty.
What sets this wide-format inkjet printer apart from its competitor in the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II was its superior print quality. It takes the advantage over its Epson Workforce 1100 relative by implementing a few extra features like a direct external device connector and a slightly higher media capacity. All of these features and more put this large printer ahead of the competition.
The device measures 24.2” x 12.4” x 16.3” (width x depth x height) and weighs over 25 pounds. Surprisingly, these are relatively lightweight and portable dimensions compared to some of the Epson Stylus Photo 1400’s more substantial counterparts at Canon and HP. This wide-format inkjet printer won’t demand quite as much desk space as many other models.
An impressive 15 pages per minute (PPM) print speed puts this printer at the top of the heap. While the standard wide-format inkjet printers may not compare well with laser printers or smaller ink printers, it is the fastest device we reviewed for this media size. The media tray holds a substantial 120 sheets of the standard 8.5 x 11” paper. Varying paper sizes will result in different media capacities, however. With a thicker, higher quality paper, you will likely fit much fewer in the tray.
A helpful feature that sets this wide-format inkjet printer apart from the rest is the ability to connect an external device directly to the printer. With the industry-standard PictBridge technology, you can connect your digital camera to the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 and print the photos directly from the camera. This added flexibility augments the already impressive set of features offered by this large printer. Even though this device is optimized for photo printing, as the connection for a digital camera clearly demonstrates, it can print standard documents and mixed media productions like flyers and posters. For any oversized media need you may have, this printer can help you produce it.
Among the less common printing options offered by this large printer is the ability to print directly onto compatible CDs and DVDs. This function allows you to print onto a CD or DVD without being forced to use peel-and-stick labels.
The Epson Stylus Photo 1400 connects to your computer via a high-speed USB 2.0 cable. We looked for other options, such as an Ethernet port or a slot for a Firewire cable, but we were unable to locate another connector. While the USB is sufficient and will likely work for anyone purchasing the printer, we would like to see some added flexibility with the addition of a few more of these options.
Six DX5 MicroPiezo technology ink cartridges are included with this printer. These powerful cartridges are optimized for photo printing, producing ink droplets as small as 1.5 picoliters for one of the highest quality prints available. With six ink cartridges, however, it can get quite pricey to refill or replace them on a regular basis.
This wide-format inkjet printer is exceptionally easy to set up and operate. The device itself does not come with a USB cable to connect it to your computer, however. You will need to purchase a cable separately. This is one of the few things we found lacking with this printer, a small price to pay for the print quality and overall value of the device. Drivers required for the proper operation of this machine are available for download on the manufacturer’s website.
Documentation is included in the Epson Stylus Photo 1400’s box, helping to make the set-up and calibration processes as easy as possible. This user manual will answer most questions you will have upon installation, though more advanced questions can be answered by referring to their extensive online knowledgebase. If you are unable to find the answers you are looking for via these two avenues, you can contact their live customer support by email, phone or one of many other options detailed below.
The industry-standard one-year limited warranty is included with the purchase of this printer, meaning that the manufacturer will replace any damaged or defective products. This warranty does not protect you against user-incurred damage, as only manufacturing defects or errors in production will be insured by the warranty.
Epson’s website is full of useful and relevant information to help you get started with your new printer. Along the right side of the screen of the product you are viewing, Epson has listed several resources, including a directory to download the necessary drivers for your printer, a FAQs page, a troubleshooting guide, a link to an online user manual and avenues by which you can contact a customer service representative.
You can use the toll-free phone number as well as an email address to contact customer service. A tool to help you locate a nearby service center is also available on their website, in addition to a traditional mailing address. A live chat option is absent as is a user forum. While these features are not necessary, they are helpful and would improve their support service significantly.
Overall, we were impressed with the quality of the Epson Stylus Photo 1400. It produces prints of a fantastic quality at a high rate, its media capacity is high, it is very easy to use and it is backed by a respectable array of customer support options. In the world of wide-format inkjet printers, this device earns its place at the top of the heap.
Next in our lineup of the best wide-format inkjet printers is the powerful and versatile Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II. This large printer boasts a healthy feature set, including a PictBridge input that allows you to connect your digital camera directly to the device. It prints photos at a respectable speed (as it is photo-optimized) and it holds a large volume of paper media. Its print quality is relatively high and the help and support backing it is impressive.
Canon is a Japanese company that has been an established player in the imaging industry since the 1930s. The first printer produced by this company was the first device worldwide to use bubble jet technology. Since that time, Canon has continued to innovate and produce high-quality imaging products, including this professional-quality wide-format inkjet printer.
In the end, the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II didn’t have the print quality, feature set or print speed of our top product, the Epson Stylus Photo 1400. It did, however, beat out a competitor in the Epson Workforce 1100 with its higher media capacity and compatibility with the PictBridge connector. A few extra features, like CD/DVD printing, and a selection of additional help and support options would help this device in our rankings.
The maximized print DPI is slightly lower than that of our number one product, coming in at only 4800 x 2400 DPI. The quality is due largely to the slightly higher ink cartridge count, broadening the effective color range as well as increasing the resolution of the prints. Unfortunately, with eight individual ink cartridges at roughly $16 each, it will become quite expensive to replace them on a regular basis. For the print quality that this device produces, however, it will be well worth it.
A comparatively slow print speed of 1.5 ppm is only impressive in context. Since this wide-format inkjet printer is optimized for printing pictures, the fact that it can print a full-color, high-resolution photo in less than a minute is outstanding. The Epson Stylus Photo R1900, another photo-optimized printer in our lineup, is capable of the same 1.5 ppm print speed but only when printing a photo about half the size of the Canon’s 8 x 10. Standard documents will print more rapidly as they have less information to relay to the page, but the photo-producing speed of this printer is worth noting. It also accepts the largest standard paper size of 13 x 44”, making it ideal for printing banners and posters.
The PictBridge connectivity provided by this printer adds an exceptional amount of flexibility to this wide-format inkjet printer. The device does not come with the cable necessary to connect a digital camera. You must buy the cable separately.
The Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II is slightly larger than many of its competitors, measuring 26 inches wide by 7.6 inches tall and 13.9 inches deep. It also weighs a hefty 32.4 pounds, making it the heaviest printer in this lineup and a full seven pounds heavier than the Epson Stylus Photo 1400, our number one product. Make sure you have enough available desk space for this imaging heavyweight.
The Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II is one of the best wide-format inkjet printers in our lineup for ease of use. It is simple to set up; connect your device to your computer, install the printer using the convenient installation wizard and update the drivers. The drivers can be obtained from the Canon website. User reviews echo our sentiments on this wide-format inkjet printer’s ease of use; almost every user-submitted review on their website comments that it was exceptionally easy to set up and use.
Maneuvering and positioning this behemoth of a printer may be the only difficulty you encounter when using it. It is significantly larger and heavier than many of the other printers available. You can rest assured that virtually all difficulties with this printer will cease once you have it positioned where you want it.
An industry-standard one-year limited warranty comes with the purchase of this printer, insuring it against damages incurred during manufacturing. It will not replace devices damaged by user abuse. However, the warranty does cover malfunctions encountered during normal use.
Drivers for the printer are available on Canon’s website under the “Drivers & Software” tab of the product description page. To find drivers specific to your operating system, simply select your OS from the drop-down menu. On the resulting page are the drivers you will need to operate your printer as well as additional software downloads for printing and color management tools.
If you have a question that is not addressed by the FAQs section or the included user manual, Canon’s technical support is available via email and telephone. However, we found that we had few questions about the functions of the printer that could not be solved by referencing their printer documentation.
We were pleased with the quality of the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II. It offered several beneficial features like the PictBridge interface capability. It produces high-quality photos at an astounding rate, holds more sheets of 8.5 x 11” paper than most models and offers above average customer support. It is quite a bite larger than many wide-format inkjet printers on the market today, but it will still function well once it is in position.
Epson has created another great contender in the wide-format inkjet printer market with the Epson Workforce 1100. This flexible printer makes producing multimedia prints, photos, illustrated documents and scrapbook pages an absolute breeze. It produces prints of the same DPI as our top two wide-format inkjet printers, it produces printed pages rapidly, it is backed by great customer support and it is very easy to use. We were impressed with the versatility of this large printer.
Ultimately, what kept this printer behind the top two spots were its slightly slower ppm (pages per minute) print time, its lower media capacity, its lack of exceptional features and its more restricted color range. The Epson Stylus Photo 1400 offered the same print DPI with a higher print speed and the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II had more features and a much wider color spread. We liked this printer and it is still a high-quality product—overtaking the rest of the wide-format inkjet printers on our lineup with its DPI, functionality and ease of use—but it is still significantly behind our top two products.
The Epson Workforce 1100 boasts an impressive, industry-leading optimized print DPI of 5760 x 1440, equaling that of our number one product, also by Epson. Since this model only packs five high-capacity ink cartridges into its frame, its color variety is slightly more limited. This disadvantage, however, is balanced by the fact that there are fewer cartridges to replace.
The 13 ppm print speed is two pages per minute slower than the number one Epson Stylus Photo 1400, though it is still above average for wide-format inkjet printers. This model will give you the speed and flexibility you’re looking for by remaining economical in its ink usage and rapidly producing high-quality prints.
This device is not quite as meaty as the Canon Pixma, though it does weigh more than the number one product. It measures 24.3 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall by 12.7 inches deep, making it a definitively average sized printer. It is a bit taller than most wide-format inkjet printers, so make sure you have enough room if you plan to store it under a cabinet.
Unfortunately, there are no additional unique features included with this printer. There is no PictBridge interface for direct digital camera connections and the only connector for the computer is a standard USB 2.0 cable. We would like to see PictBridge compatibility or a few more connectivity options to round out this device.
The most difficulty you will have with this wide-format inkjet printer is not in its setup or operation, but in navigating the manufacturer’s website. If you remain on the website for more than a few moments, attempting to navigate to another page will result in a “Your Session Has Expired” error. This error can apparently be fixed just by refreshing the page, as it appears that no real problem has occurred. Utilizing the back and forward buttons proves equally frustrating, as it will often simply reload the page you are currently viewing.
Despite our frustrations with the manufacturer’s website, this printer is quite easy to use. It is not as ungainly as some of the larger models on our matrix, so you can position your device with greater ease. You can download the drivers and requisite software from the website, but spend as little time there as you can; more time will just lead to frustration.
The required drivers for Epson Workforce 1100 are available for download on Epson’s site and can be accessed via the “Drivers & Downloads” link on the right-hand side of the screen. Unlike Canon’s website, this site does not offer extra downloads like open-source print tools or basic photo editing applications.
If you have any questions, a large online user manual is available online. While this is not technically a user manual but rather a compilation of printer documentation, it will still serve to help you answer any question you may have. Video tutorials dealing with subjects like setting up and using your printer are also available online. This helpful feature surprised us; we were unable to find videos of similar things for our other large printer models.
A technical support telephone number and dedicated customer service email address are available if you are unable to find answers to your questions through the other support methods on their site. You may also submit a letter via standard mail to their headquarters. Telephone support is available from 6AM-8PM, Monday through Friday and 7AM-4PM on Saturdays.
This wide-format inkjet printer is very easy to use, though the same cannot be said for the website. The Epson Workforce 1100 offers a healthy feature set with top-of-the-line print quality and competitive help and support. It produces high-quality prints at an impressive rate as well as accepting the maximum paper size of 13x44”. This is a great printer with an affordable price point.
Epson Stylus Photo R1900
The Epson Stylus Photo R1900, as shown by its placement in our lineup, falls in as just an average wide-format inkjet printer. It has a decent set of features and the quality customer support that a customer of Epson can expect, but with an overall performance that would have a hard time impressing an average user. While this is not a bad printer, it does not provide the full package we’ve come to expect from these products. It does have the same optimized print DPI as the higher-rated Epson models, as well as the rare ability to print on CDs and DVDs that are printer compatible, however. Even with its redeeming qualities, we ended up hoping for a little more from this wide-format inkjet printer.
As noted above, the impressive 5760 x 1440 optimized print DPI is featured in the Epson Stylus Photo R1900, though its print speed is significantly lower than the other wide-format inkjet printers in our lineup. It is a photo-optimized wide-format inkjet printer, but its speed still does not compare well against the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II, the other photo-optimized printer in our lineup. It prints at a higher DPI than the Canon, but at almost half the speed.
The exceptional DPI this printer is capable of producing is enhanced by its impressive set of eight ink cartridges, giving you very high print quality as well as a broad color spread. As noted in previous reviews, however, the high cartridge count will result in a high cost when it comes time to replace the ink. The Epson cartridges are also traditionally unavailable in normal office supply stores, meaning you will need to order them online or directly from one of the manufacturer’s brick and mortar service centers.
Fortunately, one of the saving graces of this printer is its ability to print on printer-compatible CDs and DVDs. Rather than resorting to sticky and inconvenient CD labels, you can print directly on these specially formatted discs using this function.
The printer connects to your computer via a standard USB cable. No other connectivity options, such as FireWire or Ethernet interfaces, are available. Like other Epson models, the cable itself is not included with the purchase of the printer. You will be required to purchase your own cable separately.
This is an easy-to-use large printer with few surplus features to get in the way of its usability. It is definitively average in its girth, making it easy to position and store. You will not have any significant difficulties operating this machine; all of the drivers required for proper operation are available for download on their website. The ink cartridges on this printer have a history of malfunctioning, resulting in reading errors. This can lead to everything from smears on the printed document to being unable to proceed with a printing job. Beyond the few hiccups of purchasing the USB cable and difficulties with the ink, this printer is easy to use.
You can contact customer support if you have any questions via their dedicated telephone number or through email. A user manual is included in the box along with this printer, granting you instant access to an extensive amount of documentation. A one-year limited warranty also comes standard, insuring your printer against manufacturing defects and premature device failure.
If you’re looking for a wide-format inkjet printer that can print on CDs and DVDs and produce high quality photos, take a peek at the Epson Stylus Photo R1900. It tends to consume ink cartridges rapidly and it doesn’t have the print speed of some of our other large printers, but it still produces a stunning print.
HP Officejet Pro K8600
Hewlett-Packard’s entrance into the wide-format inkjet printer market has been lackluster at best. Their HP Officejet Pro K8600 received unfavorable reviews from most customers, lacks many of the features we’ve come to expect in these large printers, will not print documents larger than 13 x 19” and is painfully difficult to use. Despite its flaws, it is still a respectably functional wide-format inkjet printer. Its print quality is high and it is backed by the most thorough and courteous customer support in the industry. This device will serve you well, but not as well as some of our top rated printers.
The optimized DPI for the HP Officejet Pro K8600 is 4800 x 1200, which is the lowest available on our lineup. This is still quite a bit ahead of comparable laser printers and comparable with photo-quality printers, however. The advertised print speed of this model is 13 pages per minute (ppm) though several users have reported a much slower run speed after brief use.
The HP line of wide-format inkjet printers is the only type we were able to find that offered interfacing options beyond the standard USB cable. This model is able to connect to a computer or network via an Ethernet cable in addition to its USB capabilities. It does not, however, offer additional features like CD and DVD printing, and it does not accept paper sizes larger than 13 x 19”. Some users have even reported that this size is not compatible without extensive configuration of the printer.
The largest complaint of users who have purchased this large printer is its stunning lack of usability. While it produces high-quality prints and is relatively economical when it comes to ink usage, it will occasionally “get lost” when it begins a print job and cease printing at random intervals. It will sometimes grab several sheets of paper for a single print job or the print head will fail before you’ve even used up the first batch of ink cartridges. The laundry list of difficulties with this printer is extensive and many users claim that the print quality is not worth the difficulties experienced when operating the device.
The shining high point of this printer is the exceptional customer service that backs it. HP’s website is full of helpful tools to aid you in your quest to set up this exceptionally temperamental printer. You can download the necessary drivers via a link displayed at the top of the product description page, you can view user reviews of the product and see its overall rating, you can view their online knowledgebase and FAQs section and you can even sign up for an extended warranty from the accessories page.
If you need additional help answering a question, HP’s customer support representatives are available via phone, email or live chat. If you allow your browser to rest on the website for a short time, a window will pop up inquiring if you’d like to chat with a representative.
This proactive approach to customer service impressed us.
The HP Officejet Pro K8600 is decidedly below-average in its usability, but it still provides a decent set of features and an impressive display of customer service. However, even with its few redeeming characteristics, it still cannot compete with our top ranked wide-format inkjet printers, which offer more features, a higher print quality and vastly superior ease of use.