What is a dye-sublimation printer?
make use of a thermal print transfer system that heats solid ink to a gaseous state. This print method requires the use of special layered paper and long ribbons of ink. The cellophane ink ribbons typically do not use black ink; instead, they combine cyan, magenta, and yellow ink with a clear overcoat that effectively laminates your prints. The results are quite similar to traditional photo prints and don't require the drying time that is typical with inkjet photos.
you can expect excellent color duplication without the occasional pixilated effects seen in all but top-of-the-line
This precision can, in some cases, limit the range of media sizes, but if you plan on printing in a few standard photo sizes (4 x 6 inches and 5 x 7 inches), you'll capture prints that look and feel remarkably like ones from the photo lab. For preserving vacation photos or home printing of family archives, it's hard to beat the quality. Some versions allow users to
connect their digital cameras directly,
which is a great combination for instant party mementos.
The thermal-transfer print method presents a potential privacy concern: Because the ink ribbons lay images down on paper, a duplicate of the image remains in place on the cellophane ribbon. This is of greater concern in professional applications, such as medical imaging or financial documentation, but home users should also take note.There are so many different machines, what should I buy based on my needs?
are excellent all-around printers, and with quality photo paper and the highest resolution, you can get fine image results in a range of sizes. These are the best bet for anyone who adds images to professional materials--brochures, newsletters, or letterhead--and wants reasonable quality without breaking the bank. Compare the highest color print resolutions between models for a clear idea of what to expect for image clarity. Some models offer replacement of individual color ink tanks; others are designed with a single black cartridge and a single multicolor cartridge. If you plan on heavy printer usage, it pays to do some comparison shopping on the cartridge pricing before making a final decision. Inkjet printers are the typical choice for families who intend for one printer to produce school reports, vacation photos, greeting cards, and business documents.
color laser printers
make them most appealing to professional offices where high output is at least as important as the quality. They do a fine job producing images on a variety of paper weights and sizes; however, the cost in comparison with both inkjet and dye-sublimation printers tends to bump them out of the running for home users. Laser prints are typically less likely to fade in sunlight than other methods, which makes it a consideration for photos that are intended for permanent display.
are designed primarily for photo printing and come in a variety of sizes. Some are designed to work directly with a digital camera, camera phone, or memory card; you need to confirm the compatibility between specific devices and brand interfaces. Smaller versions of
dye-sub printers with battery packs
are nicely portable, making them highly convenient for parties, vacations, and business conventions. The
is typically available in an assortment of standard photo sizes and sticker sheets, but it does cut into the printer's flexibility --printing text with plain paper or envelopes is not an option. Paper and ink prices can drive up the cost per print, but the result is a quick, quality print.If portability is a concern, what should I buy?
These days, a battery and Wi-Fi capability are as important as size and weight in determining how portable a device is. Both inkjet and dye-sub models offer these options or have a battery pack available separately. Bluetooth is the most widely available wireless technology, compatible with a range of laptops, cell phones, cameras, and PDAs. USB is a standard wired alternative; it's equally flexible, and only requires the addition of a
to connect any USB-compatible device to the printer.
You'll want to make sure that the measurements of the printer and battery combined will work with your luggage or laptop bags, and that you're okay carrying the additional weight--printers sold as portable can weigh anywhere between a few ounces to five pounds, before adding in the extra batteries, paper packs, or power adapters.
If your primary use will be monochrome documentation, you can save on the cost of ink and the total weight by choosing a black-only printer. For those who intend to print only photos, a dye-sub printer will offer great results and often a small size and low weight.
Color inkjet printers
are the most flexible, but generally are also the bulkiest--they're better for professional use than a vacation.