Gone are the days when wide-format printers were solely the domain of graphics professionals and architects. If your business calls for large-format printing, there are now a number of inkjet printers that will turn out beautiful larger color prints for you. These models can’t handle poster-size 24-by-36-inch output (at least, not on one sheet without tiling), but they’re right at home with 11-by-17-inch (tabloid or A3) prints, and some can manage 13-by-19-inch (supertabloid) and banner printing. Several wide-format printers now have impressive output quantity ratings as well. So save yourself all those trips to the copy shop and check out our favorite machines for doing wide-format printing right in your home or office.
A couple of years ago, we dubbed this group of machines “the occasional oversizers,” primarily because they were expensive, expensive to use, and set up to print only the occasional wide-format page. But the major manufacturers—Brother, Canon, Epson, and HP—have introduced new oversize-capable models to meet the growing demand for printing larger documents.
The paperless office is a nice dream, but most businesses still need to print data or images from time to time. With a wide-format printer, your complex spreadsheet or array of charts and graphs can fit on one page. Many of these printers take advantage of recent improvements in inkjet technology to turn out fine photos, so you can advertise real estate or travel destinations, promote events, boost morale with inspirational posters, or show off your vacation snapshots.
Most of these small-office, home-office (SOHO) wide-format models are all-in-one (AIO) printers that can also scan, copy, and sometimes fax. Pricing varies, but most of these machines range from $150 to $400, well within reach for just about anyone.
This roundup doesn’t include professional and semi-pro wide-format models that are dedicated to photo printing, such as Epson’s various SureColor printers or Canon’s Pixma Pro-100, Pixma Pro-300, and ImagePrograf Pro-1000. Those are really a separate class of printer altogether, with a whole different set of considerations around quality, size, ink cost, and support for fancy art-minded media.
A note on paper-size terminology: the most common inkjet “oversize” paper is known as tabloid stock, or 11 by 17 inches. (The term tabloid is sometimes used interchangeably with A3, but they are actually two different sizes: A3 measures 11.69 by 16.54 inches.) All of the printers we’ve rounded up here support at least tabloid printing.
Some of them also support 13-by-19-inch media, or supertabloid. One example is the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-7840 Wireless Wide-Format All-in-One Printer. But note that tabloid and supertabloid printing are often referred to collectively as “wide-format” output in the industry lingo.
If you’re looking for the ability to turn out larger prints occasionally or regularly, here are the main factors for your checklist.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a proliferation of wide-format printers with different intended applications. Some models feed the oversize stock, one sheet at a time, through a paper-bypass slot on the back of the printer. These are best suited for printing a single oversize page once in a while. If that’s too fiddly for you, most vendors have at least one model with a tray or trays meant for pre-loading a supply of wide-format stock, which means much less babysitting for a run of oversize prints. The Brother MFC-J6945DW INKvestment Tank AIO, for example, has three trays that can hold a total of 600 tabloid-size pages.
Some of these printers are AIOs that also scan and copy; a subset of those have automatic document feeders (ADFs); and a smaller subset of those can feed in all the sizes of paper that the printer can print on. The Brother MFC-J5845DW can print up to tabloid-size stock, but it can only scan and copy letter- or legal-size documents; the Editors’ Choice–winning Epson EcoTank Pro ET-16650, a bulk-ink wide-format model, can print up to supertabloid-size media, but its scanning and copying are limited to tabloid-size stock and smaller. Check the manufacturer’s spec sheet (and our expert reviews) to be sure you’re getting a printer with the features you need.
ADF functionality varies quite a bit. Auto-duplexing models can scan both sides of their source sheets automatically. An ADF that cannot auto-duplex will require you to flip double-sided source materials manually.
Another question is the scanning element itself. An emerging feature on higher-end AIO printers is the “single-pass” scanner, which has scanning elements above and below the feed path. A single-pass scanner can scan both sides of a two-sided document at the same time, effectively doubling the scan speed.
Wide-format printers take up lots of desk space. Look for built-in Wi-Fi (not always a given), which will give you the flexibility to place your printer where you have room for it without worrying about running Ethernet or USB cables to it. Other connectivity features worth investigating include slots for flash-memory cards and a USB port on the front for printing straight from a tethered digital camera, a USB flash drive, or a hard drive.
Some models may have near-field communication (NFC) hotspots for wireless tap-to-connect printing from mobile devices, but that’s fallen out of fashion. You’re more likely to see support for Wi-Fi Direct (for printing from a computer without a network), AirPrint (for connecting to iOS devices) or MOPRIA (for Android devices).
These printers vary widely in price and intended usage, as do the number and configuration of ink tanks and their rated costs for each color or monochrome page. Business-centric models will typically have four ink tanks (cyan, magneta, yellow, and black), while photo-minded ones will usually add another tank or two.
Our printer reviews generally give cost per page (CPP) for letter-size pages. Since tabloid-size pages are twice as large, double the letter-size CPP to get tabloid running costs. The supertabloid CPP will be about 110% of tabloid CPP. Printing full-page color photos on oversize stock with 100% ink coverage can quickly drink down a lot of precious ink, so see our reviews for more on the ink economics for each printer.
Still not sure whether you really need a wide-format printer? Take a look at our picks for the best inkjet printers and best laser printers, and our guide on choosing between inkjet and laser, so you can find the exact right printer for your needs.Source