When looking for a new printer, print resolution is often near the top of the list of attributes that people consider, but, what exactly is print resolution and how much does it really matter when choosing a printer?
Resolution, in terms of print, is a measure of the number of dots that a device can put in one square inch of page space. Print resolution is referred to by a horizontal and vertical measurement often portrayed in this fashion – 600 x 600dpi.
The first number generally denotes the number of horizontal dots and the second the number of vertical dots. On an inkjet machine, the horizontal resolution is determined by the number of dots the print head can put down on each pass and the vertical is determined by the ‘stepping’ of the page through the machine.
Print resolutions vary significantly depending on the type of machine and its intended function. Printers for general office use will not usually offer a resolution higher than 1200 x 1200dpi whereas specialised devices, particularly inkjets can produce resolutions up to 9600 x 2400.
So, why the big difference in print resolution?
It’s essentially down to the intended application and how the output will be viewed. For text and general office documents a resolution of 600 x 600 or 1200 x 1200 is adequate as this gives definition that is easy to read, especially when it would generally only be viewed at arm’s length.
Photos, graphics and artworks on the other hand tend to come in for much closer scrutiny than general office work. When viewing images close-up, a lower print resolution would lead to the individual dots being more visible at this distance and as a result make the image appear ‘grainy’. At higher resolutions, this affect is diminished as the size and quantity of dots gives the illusion of a solid and smoother image.
The current Epson range of A3 professional photo printers offer a resolution of 5760 x 1440dpi and their Canon equivalents offer a resolution of 4800 X 2400dpi making them ideal for all photographic applications. A2 photographic printers and large format devices tend to offer slightly lower resolutions (2400 x 1200dpi or 2880 x 1440dpi) – whilst this may seem counterintuitive it is again a result of intended use. A2 size and larger prints tend to be for display purposes and are often in the form of posters or artworks. As these would be viewed at much greater distances than standard photographs the resolution can be lower, whilst still giving the same smooth and detailed effect.
Print resolution is an important factor to consider when choosing a printer but thought should also be given to the intended application. For producing large wall mountable prints then look for A2 or large format printers with 10 or 12 ink colour sets.
A4 printers can produce good quality album sized photos, but if you want the best results for images being viewed close-up then look to desktop A3+ professional photo devices that have excellent resolution and large colour sets of ink for maximum vibrancy.
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