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7 Reasons Why You Should Avoid a New Smart Photo Printer Today

printed photos

7 Reasons Why You Should Avoid a New Smart Photo Printer Today

Key Points

  • Smart photo printers can be expensive to operate and frequently experience technical difficulties. 
  • The ink in smart photo printers dries up too fast, rendering the printer useless.
  • Smart photo printers require special types of paper for optimal print quality.
  • The overall print quality from smart photo printers is often not good.
  • Printer ink for photo printers tends to be expensive.

Walking down the printer aisle of an electronics store, you may notice things are very different than they were just a decade ago. At one time, smart photo printers were all the rage, but today there are countless reasons to avoid them. For instance, smart photo printers are notorious for high costs and technical difficulties.

Now that nearly all printers have smart functionality, you may think that finding a good photo printer is easier than ever. However, that isn’t the case, as today’s photo printers often cost more than their predecessors and still deliver subpar results. After reading the reasons below, you will see that it is better to avoid a smart photo printer and instead get your photos printed professionally.

Background on Smart Photo Printers

Smart photo printers combine the functionality of standard home printers with higher-quality prints. Better quality is critical to creating stunning printed photographs. Of course, you can always use a conventional home printer for photos, but the results will be underwhelming. Photo printers gained a lot of popularity throughout the early 2000s as digital cameras became more accessible.

However, with the advent of mobile devices such as smartphones, in many ways, paper photos became obsolete. Now, if you want to share a photo, you can simply send it in a text message. Yet smart photo printers still have a place for photography enthusiasts and scrapbookers. In addition, a smart photo printer still functions like a conventional document printer.

Reasons to Avoid a Smart Photo Printer

Smart photo printers are not for everyone, and the reasons to avoid them listed below will illustrate some of the many problems that arise. While some issues also exist with conventional printers, they are often more prevalent with smart photo printers. Now, let’s take an in-depth look at the reasons you should avoid a new smart photo printer.

The Ink Dries Too Fast

The first problem with smart photo printers is that the ink dries up too fast. In a standard inkjet printer, plastic cartridges hold liquid ink that can dry just like the ink in a pen. Considering the cartridges are sealed, this should take a long time, but many people report that their ink dries up after several months.

In some cases, all of the ink in the cartridge may not be dry, but some could have clogged the print head rendering the printer useless. Nothing is worse than using a printer only to discover the ink is empty or dried. A laser printer may be a good option because it uses powder toner rather than ink. This is especially true if you rarely use a printer but still want one for your home.

They Require Different Types of Paper

Most smart photo printers also work as regular document printers. The main exception is portable photo printers that can handle only 4 x 6 or wallet-size prints. However, you need to use a special type of paper when printing photos. Otherwise, printing photos on copy paper will lead to the colors blending and really bad quality.

The solution is to use the same type of photo paper that professional printers use. Photo paper comes in a range of sizes and finishes. The most popular options are either matte or glossy. You can find the paper easily online or at big box retailers. The downside is that the paper is pretty expensive, and the quality varies greatly.

While buying a pack of paper for $10-$15 isn’t going to break the bank, you need to have different types and sizes on hand. If you have to go to the store to buy more paper, you might as well just have the store print the photos. You also have to pay close attention to paper quality because it is common for the layers to separate or the ink not to stick properly with cheaper paper.

best photo printers
Photo printers use special photo paper that is thicker, heavier, and more expensive than standard paper.

The Print Quality Is Not Good

Speaking of ink not sticking correctly, the overall print quality from photo printers is not great. That isn’t to say that some printers don’t do a decent job, but they likely won’t do your picture justice. Low-quality ink and photo paper are not a good mix, and the result is often colors that run together or are otherwise distorted.

Commercial photo printers are designed and calibrated to deliver a perfect image. Unfortunately, that is not something you can easily achieve with a $150 smart photo printer at home. With that in mind, they may do a good enough job for certain tasks like scrapbooking, but you should probably avoid them for important photos, like the ones you want to hang on a wall.

Ink Is Too Expensive

Another great reason to avoid a smart photo printer is that the ink costs too much. Printer ink is notoriously expensive, and ink for a photo printer tends to be even more costly. Before buying any printer, you should always check how much ink costs. If the ink seems unreasonably expensive, then you should consider buying a different printer.

You may even find that ink costs more than the printer itself. That is because many printer manufacturers make the bulk of their revenue from the ink rather than the printer. Making matters worse, new printers often come with trial cartridges that are much smaller than the standard printer cartridges found on store shelves.

These small cartridges mean you will have to buy ink soon after buying the printer. However, some printers do come with full-size cartridges. The worst thing about photo printers is that they often use more than a simple black and tri-color cartridge. Instead, many use three different primary color cartridges, while others may even require a black photo cartridge.

Smart Functions Are Often Glitchy

One of the main reasons to buy a smart photo printer is for its smart functionality, but it is also a good reason to avoid a smart printer. Smart printers are great when they work properly, but they often get hung up or don’t connect to your computer. Exactly how a smart printer operates varies by brand, but they usually connect to your network for local printing.

This allows all of your home’s computers and mobile devices to print without having to plug in a cable. Many printers are wireless, so they can easily connect to your home’s router. Some printers can also connect directly to a device or even receive a print command via an email or app.

It is very common for printers to inexplicably become disconnected from a network and not operate properly. Fixing it may require several troubleshooting steps, like resetting the device or setting up the internet connection again. These problems aren’t unique to photo printers, as they can occur with any type of smart printer. In many cases, it is easier just to use a wired connection.

Limited Selection

In recent years photo printers have become less common, even as smart technology has become more prevalent. Printer manufacturers realized that most people weren’t printing that many photos, so it became less lucrative to market the devices as photo printers. Just look at HP, who once had an entire line of photo printers.

Today, however, the company only has a few photo printers as a subset of its Envy line. Looking at competitors like Canon and Epson provide the same result. If you are really serious about photography as a profession, then you would want to look at high-end photo printers rather than consumer models. While there is still a limited selection, professional photo printers will deliver much better results.

Photo Printing Is Cheap

One thing you may not realize is how cheap photo printing is today. The cost of buying a printer for the primary purpose of printing photos will almost never be worthwhile. Of course, professional photo printers are not cheap, and you could easily spend thousands of dollars on one. However, they serve a specific purpose and can actually make money for the photographer.

On the other hand, consumers can get high-quality prints at various stores for pocket change. Buying a smart photo printer is a bad choice because they cost more than a standard smart printer, and you can get better photos printed affordably. For instance, Walmart offers photo printing that you can pick up at many stores for less than a quarter for a 4 x 6 picture.

Smart Photo Printer Alternatives

If a smart photo printer isn’t the right choice for you, consider some of these alternatives. There are a lot of great printers on the market with functionality that you previously couldn’t get in an affordable home printer. You should also check out specialty photo printers, such as portable ones that are compact and designed specifically to print pictures on the go.

Portable Photo Printer: HP Sprocket

Mini Printer
HP Sprocket Portable Instant Color Photo Printer (Luna Pearl)
$79.99
  • Uses Zink printing
  • Print size: 2x3 inches
  • Resolution is 313 x 400 dpi
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Edit images in the HP app before printing
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/18/2024 08:26 am GMT

Our first alternative to a smart photo printer is the HP Sprocket. This handheld device is the perfect option for printing photos wherever you go. It can only print 2″ x 3″ photos, which is perfect for scrapbooking. However, the great thing about it is that it does not use ink. Instead, its special paper is infused with ink that becomes visible when run through the printer.

No ink means you don’t have to worry about making a mess. It also contributes to the device’s compact size. HP’s Sprocket is compatible with Apple and Android devices, giving you the ability to print wirelessly from your smartphone or tablet. There is also an HP app that lets you customize or edit your photos. Unfortunately, the price is a little high for its size, and the print quality isn’t the best, but the portability makes up for these shortcomings.

Multipurpose Home Printer: Canon PIXMA TR7020a

Multipurpose Printer
Canon PIXMA TR7020a All-in-One Wireless Color Inkjet Printer
  • 1.44-inch OLED display
  • Print, copy, and scan
  • Auto document feeder
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Print from mobiles devices with the Canon PRINT app
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The next option is the Canon PIXMA TR7020a, which is a smart home printer that delivers many conveniences like wireless printing without being a specialty photo printer. This conventional printer is the perfect option for your home. It can handle basic document printing and serve as a copier and scanner.

The TR7020a also has some really nice features commonly found on higher-end devices. These include a document feeder for scanning multiple pages and a duplex module so you can print on the front and back of a piece of paper. The printer comes in at a low price point, especially considering its many features. More importantly, the ink is very affordable.

Laser Printer: Brother HLL2305W

Fast Print Speeds
Brother HLL2305W Compact Mono Laser Single Function Printer with Wireless and Mobile Device Printing
$189.00
  • Print resolution up to 2400 x 600 dpi
  • Print speeds up to 24ppm
  • Adjustable paper tray with 250-sheet capacity
  • Built-in wireless plus USB port
  • Wireless printing from mobile devices
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 06:45 am GMT

Another option is a smart laser printer like the Brother HLL2305W. Laser printers are often considered too expensive for home use. However, the truth is that laser is superior for consumer printing because toner doesn’t dry up. The downside is that laser printing doesn’t work well for photos since it will not work with photo paper.

Another misunderstanding of laser printers is that they are expensive. Although they are more expensive than inkjet printers, modern laser printers are very affordable. Additionally, you can print wirelessly from the HL2305W, which is a tried and true model that Brother has made for many years. Check out Brother’s other laser printers if you need color printing or copying abilities.

Reasons You May Still Want to Purchase a Smart Photo Printer

If the reasons outlined above don’t apply to you, then it may be worth purchasing a smart photo printer. There are many situations where smart photo printers are not a good choice, but they can actually be a good option for those getting into photography. Aspiring photographers may want to purchase a smart photo printer to quickly see what their work looks like on paper.

Plus, if you already print a lot of photos, the convenience alone may be worth it. If this sounds like you, then you may want to check out a higher-end printer like the Canon PIXMA PRO-200. Otherwise, consumer photo printers are still a decent option if you like to do scrapbooking and don’t want to leave the house every time you want to print a simple picture.

Wrap Up

Based on the problems mentioned above, you probably should not buy a smart photo printer. Photo printers are not a good choice between the high cost, lack of options, and the number of problems surrounding ink. A better option is a standard multifunction printer that supports network connectivity.

You can print, copy, and scan basic documents with a regular multifunction printer. Unfortunately, you will not be able to print very good photos. However, picking those up locally from somewhere that offers photo printing will be much cheaper and easier. Plus, there are online retailers, such as Shutterfly, that specialize in printing photos that go straight to your door.

As you’ve seen, smart photo printers are expensive and troublesome for the marginal convenience they provide. Printer manufacturers clearly saw demand for smart photo printers slipping and stopped making nearly as many. Instead, manufacturers are now heavily marketing multipurpose machines that use ink tanks, which are better for the environment and users’ wallets.

  1. HP Sprocket Portable Instant Color Photo Printer (Luna Pearl)
    $79.99
    • Uses Zink printing
    • Print size: 2x3 inches
    • Resolution is 313 x 400 dpi
    • Compatible with iOS and Android
    • Edit images in the HP app before printing
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/18/2024 08:26 am GMT
  2. Canon PIXMA TR7020a All-in-One Wireless Color Inkjet Printer
    • 1.44-inch OLED display
    • Print, copy, and scan
    • Auto document feeder
    • Built-in Wi-Fi
    • Print from mobiles devices with the Canon PRINT app
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  3. Brother HLL2305W Compact Mono Laser Single Function Printer with Wireless and Mobile Device Printing
    $189.00
    • Print resolution up to 2400 x 600 dpi
    • Print speeds up to 24ppm
    • Adjustable paper tray with 250-sheet capacity
    • Built-in wireless plus USB port
    • Wireless printing from mobile devices
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 06:45 am GMT

Summary Table

ReasonExplanation
The Ink Dries Too FastInk in smart photo printers can dry up quickly, even when the cartridges are sealed. This can lead to clogged print heads and render the printer useless.
They Require Different Types of PaperSmart photo printers require special photo paper for printing photos. This paper can be expensive and the quality varies greatly.
The Print Quality Is Not GoodThe overall print quality from photo printers is often subpar. Low-quality ink and photo paper can result in colors that run together or are otherwise distorted.
Ink Is Too ExpensivePrinter ink is notoriously expensive, and ink for a photo printer tends to be even more costly. Some printers use more than a simple black and tri-color cartridge, adding to the cost.
Smart Functions Are Often GlitchySmart printers often have issues with connectivity and may require troubleshooting to fix. This can be frustrating and time-consuming.
Limited SelectionAs demand for photo printers has decreased, so has the selection. This can make it difficult to find a printer that meets your specific needs.
Photo Printing Is CheapProfessional photo printing services are often cheaper than buying and maintaining a smart photo printer. These services also tend to produce higher quality prints.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a printer a photo printer?

There are some minor factors, like the paper tray fitting smaller sheets, but it mainly comes down to ink and marketing. Photo printers typically use better-quality ink, but that isn’t always the case. It also has a lot to do with how the manufacturer decides to market the device, as they can take any printer and call it a “photo printer.”

Where can you get photos printed?

Many pharmacies and big box stores still offer photo printing even if you don’t see it advertised. You can check local retailers like Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS.

Can you use a laser printer for photos?

No, laser printers don’t do well with photo paper because the toner does not properly adhere to the paper.

How long does printer ink last before it dries up?

Printer ink is designed to last for months without use. In some cases, an ink cartridge will last several years before drying up.

What does a smart printer do?

Smart printers perform a range of different functions depending on the brand and model. In general, smart printers let you print remotely from a computer or mobile device.

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