The Best Wide-Format Printers of 2020

By Andrew Martins,
business.com staff
| Updated
Jun 16, 2020

Wide-format printers deliver large and highly detailed prints on a wide variety of materials. Check out the top reviews on the best wide-format printers of 2020.
Best for Small Businesses
Small form factor
Comes with a stand
Reasonably affordable
Best for Architects
Prints 24-inch wide documents
Sports a high-quality touchscreen
Relatively speedy production
Best for Outdoor Signage
Uses eco-solvent UVgel
Great for outdoor prints
Unmatched production quality
Best for Fabric Printing
Offers variety of colors
Can use fluorescent inks
Four- and eight-color options
Best for Large Businesses
Massive, yet versatile printer
Can print on 4x8-foot board
High-quality results
HP DesignJet T1700
Best for Maps
Read Review >
High-quality CAD functionality
Extremely detailed lines
Copious storage
Wide-format printers deliver large and highly detailed prints on a wide variety of materials. Check out the top reviews on the best wide-format printers of 2020.
Updated 06/16/20

We've updated our review with expanded info comparing and contrasting our best pick selections.

Small businesses looking to print images and designs above the standard 8.5 x 11-inch size may want to consider wide-format printing. Wide-format printing is a great way to produce sharper and clearer images on a much bigger medium. With the use of droplet technology, high-quality images can be rendered at high resolutions with great speeds. 

When choosing a wide-format printer, it's best to consider the size of your business and what you need the printer to do. The best wide-format printer depends on your business, but it's generally a great idea to focus on affordable printers that can perform specialty printing like fabric and designs. After researching numerous wide-format printers, we've found the ones we think are best for various business needs.

 

Find the Right Wide-Format Printer for Your Business

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How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
18
Considered
9
Researched
6
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

  HP DesignJet
T100
Epson SureColor
T3170
Canon Colorado
1650
Roland Texart XT-640
Dye-Sublimation Printer
Mimaki
JFX200-2531
HP DesignJet
T1700
Max print size 24 inches 24 x 36 inches 64 inches N/A 8 x 10 feet 44 inches
Max resolution 1,200 x 1,200 dpi 2,400 dpi 1,800 dpi 1,440 dpi 1,200 x 1,200 dpi 2,400 x 1,200 dpi
Size 38.9 x 20.9 x 11.2 inches 38 x 20 x 9 inches 119 x 43 x 52 inches 111.7 x 32.7 x 65 inches 14 x 14 feet x 49.2 inches 70 x 27.4 x 39.3 inches
Weight 56.2 lbs. 59 lbs. 1,631 lbs. 471.8 lbs. 2,200 lbs. 159 lbs.
Approx. 
price
$1,000 $995 $70,000 $29,995 $80,000-
$115,000
$4,495

Our Reviews

HP DesignJet T100: Best for Small Businesses

The T100 is designed with small businesses in mind.
Its mobile app can help with print jobs.
It has a reduced feature set compared to enterprise options.

Affordable and small, the HP DesignJet T100 is our best pick for small businesses. The wide-format printer produces prints up to 24 inches wide, and the printer can produce materials in under 30 seconds, depending on the job. The ability to connect from Wi-Fi and print smaller sizes make the T100 a versatile large-format printer that can do a little bit of everything for small businesses. While it doesn't have the deluxe features that other wide-format printers offer, the HP DesignJet T100 offers everything a small business might need in a large-format printer.

 

Read Review

Epson SureColor T3170: Best for Architects

The Epson SureColor T3170 is easy to use.
The printer is very affordably priced.
This printer only supports small ink cartridges.

Epson's SureColor T3170 makes our list as our best pick for architects. This model creates crisp lines, is reasonably sized and can quickly print items up to 24 inches wide. By thinking small and stripping wide-format printing to its essential elements, Epson's SureColor T3170 can have a huge impact on a company's largest printing jobs. It's an excellent alternative to an office tabloid printer without sacrificing speed and print quality. With a 24-inch-wide carriage, the T3170 may not compete as well as printers that use 36-, 44- or 65-inch stock, but it works well for projects like architectural plans, school banners, large Excel spreadsheets and marketing materials.

Pricing

At $995, the T3170 is incredibly affordable for this size of machine. It is no hulking machine that needs its own room – it's compact without losing performance or quality.

Epson sells 16 kinds of paper on 24-inch-wide rolls, including premium photo media of several different finishes, as well as plain paper for works in progress, but it lacks fabric and vinyl options. Paper typically costs between $65 and $250 per roll, and the T3170 can print directly onto 11 x 17-inch paper stock.

The T3170 is one of the most affordable wide-format printers in the industry. Small architectural firms, or even larger firms looking for an affordable and dependable option, should look at this model.

Product Specs

Smaller and lighter than the company's SureColor T3270 printer, the T3170 measures 38 x 20 x 9 inches and weighs 59 pounds. It can sit on a table, shelf or even wheeled cart. Unlike traditional wide printers, it doesn't include an output tray or print catcher, but Epson sells an optional stand.

Like HP's more expensive DesignJet T120, the Epson SureColor T3170 uses four inks: black, cyan, magenta and yellow. Epson's pigment-based UltraChrome XD2 ink family uses an aqueous formulation, and the inks are colorfast and quick to dry. They should be fine for mixing text with images, such as in a plan for a new office complex with a 3D color image in the corner, or a spreadsheet with outlines of sales regions and product photos. A drawback, however, is that printed materials are not rain or weather-resistant and are intended for indoor or occasional outdoor use.

With a 1.3-inch-wide MicroTFP piezoelectric printhead, the SureColor T3170 matches the output of the SureColor T3270 with droplets as small as 3.5 picoliters. The printer has a top resolution of 2,400 dots per inch, twice the fine details that the DesignJet T120 can print. It also matches the T3270 with lines as small as 0.018 mm with an accuracy of +/- 0.1 percent – more than enough for a technical drawing, scientific plot or a marketing poster. However, the T3170 can't produce borderless 24-inch prints.

The printer has self-cleaning nozzles and Epson's Nozzle Verification technology to monitor its spray pattern. If any nozzle clogs, the printhead sends a signal to adjacent nozzles to assist so there are fewer wasted prints or delays. The only necessary maintenance is periodic replacement of the overflow tank in the back. 

A disadvantage, though, is that the printer's ink cartridges are small: They hold 26 and 50 ml for colored ink and 50 or 80 ml for black ink. You'll change the cartridges more often than you would with wide-format printers that use larger ink modules.

Without a native processor or hard drive, the T3170 relies on its host computer more heavily than some other printers. It can use ESC/P, HP-GL/2 and RTL languages; Postscript is not available on this bare-bones printer.

It connects via Ethernet or Wi-Fi so your office can share the printer. Alternatively, it can use USB cabling with a dedicated computer, but the printer lacks a USB port in front for inserting a flash drive to produce quick prints. The system comes with software and drivers for PCs and Macs, as well as wireless apps for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

Features

The Epson SureColor T3170's control center is its 4.3-inch color touchscreen. In addition to letting you select print quality and resolution, the display shows the current configuration, the type of paper being used and ink levels.  

Unlike the larger members of the SureColor T family, the T3170 doesn't have an add-on scanner available that could turn it into a large-format multifunction copier/printer. You can directly connect the company's DS-530, DS-7500 or DS-70000 external page scanners to the T3170. Because the T3170 holds a single roll of paper, it takes a few minutes to change media.

After the print is done, the rotary cutter slices it from the roll. Rather than using an output tray or fabric print catcher, the T3170 gently holds the output in place until someone grabs it.

By stripping everything to the basics, the T3170 is fast. Epson rates its speed at 34 seconds to produce a D-sized (24 x 36 inches) print. The printer's size, speed and reliability make it an ideal option for architectural firms. The combination of size and speed also make it a printer that can be used by working professionals who frequently use detailed spreadsheets. An affordable price makes this printer a quality option to produce large spreadsheets on larger paper than the traditional 8.5 x 11-inch route.

Designed with architects in mind, the exact lines, reasonable price and simplicity make this an ideal selection for architects. The ability to also create large spreadsheets is a bonus. Overall, the printer keeps everything simple – the SureColor T3170 isn't overly complicated.

The SureColor T3170 is efficient, fast and precise. Yes, there are wide-format printers on the market with more features, that produce significantly larger prints and that are more suited to industries outside architecture. Despite all the other fancy offerings on the market, few printers, if any, are as consistent, reliable and trustworthy as Epson's SureColor T3170.

It gets the job done in a timely fashion and rarely makes errors. It might not be the only printer in an architecture firm, but it's earned the right to have a place in smaller architectural firms.

Customer Service

Like other SureColor T printers, the T3170 includes a one-year warranty. Epson sells extended coverage, but you'll have to buy it before the original coverage has ended. This is standard for most of the warranties we've seen across the industry, as most companies offer one-year warranties with the ability to purchase additional warranty time.

 

Canon Colorado 1650: Best for Outdoor Signage

The Canon Colorado 1650 offers six different print speeds.
It's capable of printing on porous and uncoated materials.
This printer was among the most expensive devices reviewed.

The Canon Océ Colorado 1650 offers tremendous versatility in a large-format printer. Thanks to its technological advances and use of UVGel technology, the Colorado 1650 offers flexible prints that can be folded and moved without compromising the print. The prints it generates using the UVGel technology is one of many reasons why we consider the Océ Colorado 1650 to be the best large-format printer for producing outdoor signage.

Pricing

While the price varies by dealer, the Colorado 1650 sells for approximately $70,000. Unless your business can afford the one-time purchase cost, leasing this piece of machinery might be the better option.

This printer is one of the most expensive we've reviewed. Given its size and versatility, though, the price point is fair. Its ability to produce large, durable outdoor prints is unmatched in the industry, which makes it a top option available at one of the top price tags.

Product Specs

At 119 x 43 x 52 inches and 1,631 pounds, the Colorado 1650 is a behemoth. If you're a small business printing the occasional outdoor sign, this printer isn't for you. If you're a midsize business that expects to print a lot of outdoor signage, the size and price won't be as much of a concern. The printer will likely need its own room or take up a sizable portion of the room where it's located. Thanks to its large size, it can produce prints of up to 64 inches.

The Colorado 1650 uses UVgel 460 ink, creating print resolutions up to 1,800 dpi. The 1-liter bottles produce prints using a standard CMYK color scheme. The printer uses a UV light to create an instant drying effect at a low temperature. According to Canon's website, the UVgel technology helps with a few things, including the ability to control the ink dots effectively.

The printer uses UVgel printheads – two for each color. The roll width on the printer goes up to 64 inches, the print margin sits at 0.21 inches, and the roll weight can go up to 110 pounds. It's a heavy printer, and many of the materials are heavy as well. The setup process will certainly require a few people, and so might using the printer with certain materials.

The Colorado 1650 uses six different printing speeds:

  • Banner/max speed mode: 1,720 square feet per hour
  • Banner production/high speed mode: 1,320 square feet per hour
  • Production mode: 610 square feet per hour
  • High-quality mode: 430 square feet per hour
  • Matte mode: 305 square feet per hour
  • Specialty mode: 215 square feet per hour

Designed to use ink efficiently, the Colorado 1650 prints quickly for such a large printer. The waterproof prints work well for eye-popping outdoor signage. Not having to wait long for the prints is a bonus for businesses looking to produce major quantities of outdoor signs. The matte prints are another selling point for the printer: The matte colors allow businesses to produce outdoor signs that look sleek regardless of the weather.

According to Canon's website, the Océ FLXfinish technology allows you to print on different materials and in different colors. The printer can print on both porous and uncoated materials thanks to the FLXfinish technology.

In terms of maintenance, the printer automatically monitors itself. Océ PAINT is constantly looking for nozzle failures. When it detects errors, the printer can fix them automatically in seconds. This keeps the printer moving, without unnecessary idle time. The machine is more reliable thanks to its automatic maintenance system.

When it comes to software, the Canon Océ Colorado 1650 supports a few different types of raster image processors (RIPs). It supports ONYX Thrive, Caldera and API for third-party RIP vendors, according to the company site.

Features

You can refill ink on this printer during the printing process, which helps with its overall efficiency. If you're paying for a printer this size, you'll want it to act as efficiently as possible. The automation features also help make the printer as efficient as possible.

Much of the maintenance is automatic, and there's also an automated media feed. Not having to constantly monitor the printer is a tremendous asset for small and midsize businesses. Employees can work on other projects while waiting for prints instead of keeping an eye on the printer to fix errors.

After the initial purchase, this printer's efficient ink usage and automation keep future costs reasonably low. For a large-format printer of its size, the Océ Colorado 1650 does a good job of reducing variable costs.

The Colorado 1650's versatility also makes it one of the top wide-format printers on the market. The machine can print on a few different materials, including self-adhesive vinyl, polyester textiles and paper. This makes it an ideal printer for outdoor signage, as you can print on different materials using durable color schemes.

Given its size and price point, this printer makes sense for midsize businesses looking to create a lot of outdoor signage. Businesses looking to host events and or create outdoor banners on a regular basis can benefit from this printer. It's reliable and consistent, able to produce quality prints regularly. The ability to print on different materials is a rare asset in the printer industry.

Through our research, we found that many large-format printers create prints for indoor use. It can be difficult to find wide-format printers whose prints work well for outdoor usage, but the Océ Colorado 1650 fits the bill.

Customer Service

Canon offers good customer service options should you ever run into an issue with your printer. You can make service requests online, email or call customer service representatives for any problems. They respond promptly and adequately.

The printer offers a one-year limited warranty, which is standard for Canon large-format printers and other printers in the industry.

Roland Texart XT-640 Dye-Sublimation Printer: Best for Fabric Printing

The Roland Texart XT-640 is one of the top dye-sublimation options.
This printer produces prints up to 64 inches wide.
Colors of the initial print might not match final product.

The Roland Texart XT-640 Dye-Sublimation Printer is our best pick for fabric printing. This large-format printer can produce prints anywhere from 10.2 to 64 inches wide, and its versatility makes it a top option in the industry.

The prints are transferrable, which means the machine creates a print that is then transferred onto clothing or merchandise. The versatility of the printer and the dye-sublimation transfer printing make the XT-640 a great option for companies printing a lot of merchandise or clothing.

Pricing

Unsurprisingly, this massive printer is expensive. It costs $29,995 to buy it, and leasing it costs $600 a month for 60 months. Depending on where you purchase it from, the leasing terms may vary.

The price and features take a standard small business working from an office out of the customer pool, but clothing shops, Etsy stores and businesses generating a lot of merchandise should consider the Texart XT-640.

Product Specs

At 111.7 x 32.7 x 65 inches and 471.8 pounds, the Texart XT-640 is on the larger side of the wide-format printers available. It can print at speeds of 1,098 square feet per hour, which is about 18.3 square feet per minute. (That's the printer's highest speed – not all prints will take that short a timeframe.) It supports media of up to 110 pounds.

The printer uses Texart ink, which comes in four- and eight-color packages. The wide range of colors, listed below, helps the printer produce eye-catching fabrics and clothing materials:

  • Cyan
  • Magenta
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • Light cyan
  • Light magenta
  • Orange
  • Violet
  • Fluorescent pink
  • Fluorescent yellow

By using so many different colors, especially fluorescent colors, the XT-640 produces eye-popping prints. These prints are ideal for transferring to fabrics, as the different colors create gorgeous patterns on clothing and merchandise. Most printers we researched don't offer the same variety of colors as this Roland model. By including fluorescents, orange and violet, you can create exceptionally bright and vibrant prints.

The maximum resolution on this printer is a respectable 1,440 dpi. This isn't the highest resolution of the printers we've seen on the market, but it's plenty good enough for producing prints for clothing. This type of printer doesn't require the same resolution or accuracy as printers designed for mapmaking or line drawings.

To save power, the printer has a setting that allows it to automatically shut off. This is helpful if you plan to use the printer intermittently. The printer does require about 5-20 minutes to warm up after being turned on, so turning the machine on and off will likely cause some delays in the production process.

When you order the printer, you will receive stands, a power cord, media clamps, a media holder, a software RIP, a replacement blade for the separating knife and a manual. This is a standard set of items to receive with a printer order.

Features

The Roland Texart XT-640 is designed for dye-sublimation transfer printing. That, unsurprisingly, is where it excels. If you're looking to use dye sublimation and transfer those prints onto merchandise or different fabrics, this printer is a quality option.

For those unaware, sublimation printing requires the use of transfer paper. By printing the designs or colors on a special transfer paper, you can then move the designs onto your desired fabric. This process normally involves a heat transfer, as sublimation inks rely on heat to create the desired color. Your initial print might not accurately reflect the eye-catching colors in the final product, as the heat transfer with the transfer paper and fabric will bring out those colors.

The transfer can make the entire printing process more complicated than using other printers, but the added difficulty is often necessary to create colorful designs on fabric. With the XT-640, the extra work is worth the end result.

We consider this the best wide-format printer for fabric printing because you can transfer the designs onto sportswear, soft signs and even items like couch cushions. That versatility in fabric printing makes it an excellent option for anyone producing clothing, merchandise or furniture designs.

The printer uses dual printheads and seven-droplet technology, both of which are designed to speed up the production process while also ensuring efficient and effective color creation. You can expect quality prints in a timely fashion with this printer.

The seven different dot sizes – which you won't find in many printers – help the XT-640 create detailed prints with staggering displays of color. Whether you're creating sports jerseys or merchandise, the ability to transfer vivid colors onto different fabrics is a big plus. Given the printer's great color gamut, using multiple dot sizes to showcase the different colors is a good decision by Roland, helping the XT-640 produce high-quality graphic images.

A unique offering of the printer is its four- and eight-ink modes. If you're looking to print quickly, you can use the four-ink mode and go with more basic prints that come out in a timely manner. The automatic bulk ink-switching system is particularly noteworthy when you use the four-ink mode. Once a packet of ink runs out, the printer automatically switches in the new ink, which keeps the print process running quickly. If you want greater detail and coloration and don't mind waiting a bit longer, the eight-ink mode is more effective.

The iPad printer assist is another feature users may enjoy. Coupled with the automatic ink switching, this feature allows the XT-640 to print without being constantly monitored. This can save businesses valuable time, as employees don't have to worry about switching the inks or adjusting the printer frequently.

To use the iPad printer assist feature, all you need to do is download Roland Printer Assist, a free app in the App Store. This allows you to manage the printer from an iPad, which can be a convenient way to take care of printing needs without monitoring the printer from right next to it.

A new media feed is another selling point for this printer. It accepts a range of thin to thick papers, which is an important feature if you're looking to transfer prints onto fabric. The printer uses a vacuum to keep the paper flat as it's being loaded into the machine.

The XT-640 is one of the better sublimation printers on the market. The image quality, color range and versatility are among the best you can find. While the high price might keep some small businesses away, renting the printer can ease the financial burden. It's a top wide-format printer whose numerous features set it apart from the competition.

Customer Support

Roland offers a two-year warranty on this printer, which is one of the best warranties of any printer on the market. To ensure you get the second year of the warranty at no charge, you need to register your printer within 60 days of the purchase, and you must exclusively use Roland inks for the duration of the warranty. Both are standard warranty requirements, and some companies include those same guidelines to receive just a one-year warranty. While you likely won't buy a printer because of its warranty option, the additional year of a free warranty is a nice bonus on top of this printer's other features.

Mimaki JFX200-2531: Best for Large Businesses

The Mimaki JFX200-2531 has an overall resolution of 1,200 x 1,200 dpi.
The printer uses two Green Guard-certified inks.
To properly run this printer, you will need some expertise.

If you're looking to print massive items, the Mimaki JFX200-2531 tops the list of wide-format printers on the market. This versatile printer is huge and excels at creating large prints. It's double the size of the popular JFX200-2513 model and includes two vacuum pumps that work independently of one another, which allows one to work while the other gears up.

Rather than spooling its media from rolls, the JFX200 can print on large sheets of just about anything flat, which makes it a valuable option for large businesses. The Mimaki JFX200-2531 is our best pick as a wide-format printer for enterprises.  

Pricing

The exact price depends on where you buy the printer, but the Mimaki JFX200-2531 is one of the most expensive printers available because it can put an image onto plywood, glass, wood or stone as well as paper. We found that the printer can cost anywhere from $80,000 to $115,000 depending on the dealer. You may be able to find a used printer on the market for cheaper. The JFX200 can produce prints up to 98.4 x 122 inches in size, another factor that explains why the price is so high. It's a large machine with an understandably large price tag.

Mimaki offers financing options and doesn't force a customer to pay the full cost upfront. There are payment plans for 2-5 years in duration, which makes the cost more reasonable for midsize businesses. Large businesses expecting to use the printer consistently probably won't be overwhelmed by the hefty price tag. This printer isn't one that should be on the radar of small businesses.  

Product Specs

The JFX200-2531 doesn't look like your standard long and narrow wide-format printer, because it is built around a huge table that can accommodate up to 4 x 8-foot sheets of media. This makes the printer just as appropriate for creating bus shelter ads as photos printed on glass for an art show. It can also use 8 x 10-foot boards if you're looking for even larger prints.

This is a huge machine that takes up roughly 14 x 14 feet, stands 49.2 inches tall and weighs in at nearly 2,200 pounds. It would be a good idea to dedicate a room to it and have a small group on hand to install it. Again, the installation makes sense for larger businesses but removes small and some midsize businesses from the target market. This is one of the largest wide-format printers that we encountered in our research.

The JFX200 has a pair of staggered printheads that spray variable-sized droplets and uses six different ink types to produce eight different colors. The printer's wave-form control technology means the drops will be as close to perfect circles as possible. Its overall resolution of 1,200 x 1,200 dpi translates into 1.4 million dots per square inch.

In addition to primer inks for specialty uses, Mimaki has two ink families for the JFX200: its LUS 150 (for flexible media) and LH 100 (for rigid materials) inks. Both have the expected cyan, magenta, yellow and black, as well as white formulas for undercoating and accents and a clear coat for giving the print a glossy appearance. The LUS 150 family adds light versions of cyan and magenta for smoother gradients and better color matching. Both have low volatile organic solvents as carriers and are Green Guard certified. 

One of the most versatile printers around, the JFX200 can print directly on stock up to 2 inches thick. Its printheads automatically sense an obstruction and rise to accommodate just about any thick material. It works with a wider variety of materials, including plywood, stone, aluminum, plastics, glass and foamboard. (Yes, it can also print on paper.) 

Large businesses can feel confident that the Mimaki JFX200-2531 can cover all their large-format printing needs. The versatility to print on almost any material is extremely valuable and helps explain the printer's price. This machine can do it all.

Features

Because it doesn't use rolls of media, the Mimaki JFX200-2531's setup is more manual. You need to place the sheet onto the table precisely. Luckily, the surface has a vacuum backing that securely holds the media down, preventing wrinkles, warping and creases. It also has layout pins for alignment and holding the corners in place. Given its size, cost and setup challenges, this printer makes sense for larger companies and likely won't be on the radar of small businesses.

Instead of the paper moving under the printheads, the JFX200's printheads are on a gantry that rides above the sheet and moves down its length. After the printhead passes a section and has laid down its ink, the JFX200's ultraviolet lights blast the ink, transforming it into a dry solid that adheres to the surface. 

Rather than traditional UV lamps, the printer uses LEDs to save power and keep the machinery running cool; they're rated to last for 5,000 hours of use. The lamps are also designed to reduce energy consumption, which many businesses may appreciate, as being eco-friendly is a common goal of businesses in 2019. The prints emerge cool, dry to the touch and able to stand up to weathering. This makes them a good choice for many applications, from a coffee shop's opening banner and outdoor advertising to packaging prototypes and point-of-purchase marketing materials. 

Instead of a touchscreen, the JFX200 has a simple alphanumeric display and 15 buttons to control the process. This means that it will take some time to get used to its way of printing. The JFX200 also lacks a wired networking connection and relies on a USB 2.0 port instead, so you'll need a dedicated workstation for the printer. 

The JFX200 is relatively slow, printing up to 269 square feet per hour in draft mode, according to Mimaki. It drops to a crawl of 36.4 square foot per hour in its best-quality mode, or 10 minutes to produce a top-quality D-size print (24 x 36 inches). 

The printer includes drivers (Windows only), RasterLink6 for prepping images (Windows and Macs), and Profile Master 3 for color matching and calibration (Windows only). 

The maintenance requirements for the JFX200 start with daily cleaning of the wipers. You need to check the waste ink tank weekly and empty it before it gets full. The printer's filter, pads and wipers need regular inspection and periodic changes.  

Customer Service

With three years of warranty coverage, you may not need to get an extended warranty for the Mimaki JFX200. However, other than software downloads, there isn't much in the way of self-service support. The company has phone support to help you with troubleshooting and setup.

The three-year warranty is one of the longest policies in the industry. The warranty is particularly important for this printer, as most wide-format printers don't cost $100,000. A three-year warranty is a good safety net should anything happen to the monstrous machine.

 

HP DesignJet T1700: Best for Maps

The HP DesignJet T1700 is light for its size.
This printer includes a 500GB self-encrypted hard drive.
Ink replacement for the HP DesignJet T1700 can get costly.

Measuring up to 44 inches wide, the HP DesignJet T1700 handles complex files, produces vibrant prints and is the best wide-format printer for mapmakers. Mapmakers need large-format printers that deliver exact lines with accuracy and precision. This HP model does exactly that. It also is affordable, which is an additional benefit for a printer of its size and accuracy. Last but not least, the printer's added security features are impressive.

 

Read Review

Pricing

Depending on what you want in a wide-format printer, the price ranges from $1,000 for a basic model to $100,000 for a flagship integrated printing system with all the bells and whistles. In between lies a world of models that come in several widths and include various features, such as scanning, automatic sheet cutting and the ability to print on a wide variety of stock.

With this level of upfront costs, the hardest decision is which model to get. Here's a rundown of the major criteria that should go into the decision process.

Buying vs. Leasing

Depending on the company and the printer model, you may be able to lease a wide-format printer. This decision depends on your business's needs and the cost-benefit analysis of buying or leasing a printer. If you're looking to use a wide-format printer to print signs and banners for major events over a few months, you might find that leasing is a better option. If you run a professional photography shop and expect to print frequently for years to come, buying might be the best option.

Leasing a printer gives you the chance to test it over a set timeframe. If a company won't send you a model to test out, leasing gives you a chance to use the printer without investing thousands of dollars in a model you may not like in the future.

Another benefit of leasing is the regularity of new makes and models hitting the market. If you buy a wide-format printer, you may find in five years that your model is multiple iterations behind the latest in the industry. Leasing allows you to upgrade your printer once your lease expires. Not all businesses will want or need the latest and greatest printer, but it's something to consider before you buy a large-format printer.

Buying Guide

What Is a Wide-Format Printer?

Wide-format printing uses rolls of material instead of individual sheets, which means you can size your prints according to your needs. They're precise enough to use for tasks previously relegated to wide-format plotter printers, like drawing up schematics or floor plans. You can print on a variety of media, including plain bond paper, backlit film, adhesives and fabric.

Businesses from many different industries use wide-format printers. We found that professional photographers, construction and architecture firms, mapmakers, and companies creating marketing materials are the most common businesses using large-format printers. The ability to create high-quality photos and detailed line drawings makes wide-format printers valuable tools for small and midsize businesses.

A good wide-format printer gets the job done quickly – some can print drafts at speeds of more than 5,000 square feet per hour. Different inks let you tailor your purchase for your business, whether you need output that stays bright and vibrant over time, stands up to outdoor weathering, or simply has a long shelf life.

Size matters, and these printers come in several widths based on the largest stock they can handle. For many, an entry-level, 17-inch model will be enough; others will want to move up to a 24-, 36-, 42- or even 64-inch model. The good news is that most can use narrower stock to reduce paper waste.

Some wide-format printers can print on huge sheets of paper, but most rely on rolls of printing stock that can be as long as 300 feet; the best models can use either. After the print is made, it either is automatically cut and lands in a catcher tray or needs to be manually cut off the roll. This setup works just as well for printing a 20-foot banner for a company's annual meeting as it does for the blueprints of a new building.

Although some printers have a USB interface for use with a single system, all wide-format printers connect via your company's networking infrastructure through Ethernet cables. This network connection not only simplifies initial setup but allows anyone authorized to use the printer to send it a job from a desktop, laptop or even tablet.

Wide-format printers have one big drawback: the cost. These aren't for simple around-the-house tasks, and their price tags prove it, ranging from $5,000 for a machine a lone designer might use to over $80,000 for a shop-ready printer with all the add-ons and accoutrements.

To provide a rounded view of each wide-body printer, we've examined the major aspects of these devices. Because of their complexity and tight focus, we take a holistic approach to the assortment of features and abilities. In addition to page width, speed and the variety of media they can print on, we look at what inks and consumables they use and the manufacturers' support options.

Wide-Format vs. Large-Format Printing

When researching wide-format printers, you may also see the term "large-format printers" a lot. For the most part, the two terms are used interchangeably. Some companies may call them large-format printers more often, but the meaning is the same. We use the terms interchangeably throughout our reviews.

Our research found that most companies also use "wide format" and "large format" interchangeably. When speaking with sales representatives, you won't run into any confusion if you use either or both terms.

Wide-Format Printers vs. Plotters

There's some confusion among consumers about the differences between wide-format printers and plotters. Both wide-format printers and plotters create high-resolution images, but the way they produce those images is different.

Plotters use vector graphics to create images, while wide-format printers use pixels. If you're looking to create extremely detailed prints with lots of lines, a plotter may be exactly what you need. For example, construction companies making blueprints of building designs may opt to use a plotter, because they create accurate and detailed lines.

Plotters are similar to wide-format printers, but the specific use case differs. Architects and engineers may prefer plotters due to the accuracy when drawing lines. This doesn't mean a more traditional large-format printer can't accurately draw lines, but a plotter nullifies the chances of minor errors.

Wide-Format Printer and Plotter Features

Image Quality

These printers match the best office machines with resolutions up to 2880 x 1440 dpi (dots per inch). While basic models paint the image with four or five inks, others can print with up to a dozen different colors and emulate Pantone standard colors.

Most use a combination of long-lasting pigment-based and vibrant dye-based inks. There are also wide-format printers that rely on latex inks (for outdoor use) or dye-sublimation technology (for photo-quality output).

One big difference with more pedestrian printers is that wide-format models can print on several stocks, including plain or bond paper, clear film for backlit advertising, and polypropylene and vinyl stock for outdoor installations. You can print huge photos on matte or glossy photo stock, or even print on fabrics with many of these printers.

The distinction that scientific and engineering wide-format plotters produce monochrome prints while graphics-oriented models use color is quickly disappearing. This is a result of lower prices for general-purpose wide printers and the increasing use of color in technical drawings, such as for highlighting areas of concern or including 3D renderings. 

Software

Most of these printers use PostScript and other popular printer languages, including an Office or Adobe plugin so you can upsize any document or image created at your desk for large-format printing. Some have apps for giving permission and accounting for the printer's use so it can be charged to budgets or departments.

Some manufacturers require you to pay extra for software that enables some of these extra features if you want them. For instance, it's not unusual for automated workflow to be an optional extra.

Design

Wide-format printers are the heavyweights of the printer world, reaching up to 1,000 pounds, although some are meant to sit on a desk. Many include a stand and a tray to catch the prints. Then there are the workhorse printers that can easily measure 7 x 5 feet, which are built around a huge cabinet and often set up in their own room.

Most of the newer models have a touchscreen for interaction with the printer. Some flagship models include a powerful processor such as an Intel Core i7, as much as 64GB of RAM, and large hard drives or flash storage for images.

With small and midsize businesses in mind, we looked for printers with sleek designs that aren't overly cumbersome. A few printers on our list are difficult to move, but their other elite features earned them a spot in our reviews.

Finding the right large-format printer design for your business requires a thorough understanding of your needs. Some of these printers require multiple people to set up, and moving them is a near impossibility. If you have a team of 5-10 people that expects to use the wide-format printer only a handful of times per week, look for a smaller and more affordable option. Some of the smaller wide-format printers still produce quality prints. If you can find an affordable option with good print quality, there's no reason to buy one of the massive printers. On the other hand, some businesses can't work without the larger models. If that's the case for you, it might be worth dedicating an entire room or area of your business to housing the printer.

Performance

Speed is of the essence with wide-format printing. There's nothing worse than waiting for print jobs, and nothing better than finishing print jobs quickly (and correctly) and the printer moving on to its next task. The more you use a wide printer, the cheaper and more valuable to the company it can become. It can also be costly if the prints are inaccurate. Wasting ink on large prints can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Performance ratings consider both print speed and accuracy.

Wide-format printers not only supersize prints but create beautifully detailed output for a variety of purposes, from event graphics to those oversized checks for lottery winners. On the downside, the more detail the print requires, the slower the printing. High-end photo paper or canvas, which require more ink, slow things down even further.

While the current speed demons can pump out roughly 5,000 square feet per hour in draft mode (for checking, proofing or marking up a print), most slow down to under 500 square feet per hour for final prints. That's still fast enough to pump out dozens of D-sized (24 x 36-inch) prints an hour.

Some printers connect to mobile phones or tablets. This can make the printing process more efficient. Many of the best wide-format printers offer Wi-Fi connectivity and the ability to work with mobile phones, tablets and other technological devices. Consider the connectivity of mobile devices when making your purchasing decision.

Supported Media

All wide-format printers can work with plain, heavy bond, and photographic paper and automatically adjust how much ink is used to prevent bleed-through and missed spots. Many go a step further with the ability to print on less common stock, like film for backlit advertising or vinyl for an outdoor banner or poster. Some devices can even print on textiles for an old-master look or to simulate what a new textile would look like.

Like an office printer with several paper trays, to support this variety of media, the larger printers can hold up to four separate rolls of paper, ready to switch on demand. Most entry-level wide printers have a single roll, though.

Ink Types

Most inks either are water- or solvent-based, the former generally being more expensive and subject to degradation if left outside. Solvent-based inks cost less, are waterproof and resist fading, so they're the better choice for outdoor applications. Eco-solvent printers are a good option for businesses looking to create outdoor banners or signs.

The ink's color comes from either a dye or a pigment, but this constitutes only a small portion of the formula. Dye inks are made from organic compounds and are generally bright, but often transparent in thin layers and degrade in bright sunlight. For instance, over time, an orange portion of a banner might end up looking yellowish. Pigment inks are made from opaque minerals that provide better coverage. They look duller but tend to last longer.

A third class of ink includes a curing agent to solidify the liquid ink before it leaves the printer. After the ink is laid onto the paper, intense ultraviolet lights are aimed at the ink, curing it in less than a second. It is dry to the touch and good for outdoor use.

February 2020: In addition to UV curing, Canon's UVgel technology requires the use of LEDs to properly cure its industry-leading ink type. According to the company's website, Canon UVgel ink is created with "maximum flexibility" in mind, with increased "stretchability" sought for every cured ink droplet. Through the use of LED curing, Canon's printers – like the Colorado 1650 – allow the user to choose between matte and glossy finishes for each print job without changing the type of ink or media used.

March 2020: UVgel has been drawing significant attention within the industry, as Avery Dennison recently certified the ink under its Integrated Component System (ICS) Warranty Program. Officials specifically touted the ink in conjunction with the Colorado 1650, with Canon acknowledging that it worked closely with Avery Dennison to obtain an ICS warranty certification for the UVgel 460 inks.

"With the Colorado 1650 printer and the UVgel 460 ink, we are excited to add a unique high-quality print production platform to our extensive Integrated Component System Warranty Program," said Paul Roba, Avery Dennison's OEM relationship manager. "We continue to provide thoroughly tested solutions to our Print Service Providers, increasing confidence in graphic performance and identifying throughput improvement processes."

Depending on the Avery Dennison media and laminates used, the Colorado 1650 and UVgel inks are covered for up to five years for outdoor applications and up to eight years with indoor applications.

Consumables

Getting a wide-format printer is only the start of the costs. As with every printer, the costs of ink, paper and waste containers add up when you use it every day. Depending on how you use the printer and how often, you might need to replace the printheads.

The good news is that these wide-body printers use ink tanks as large as 700 milliliters, so they're cheaper on a per-ounce basis than desktop printers, and the paper rolls actually work out to be fairly inexpensive on a square-foot basis. Regardless of which printer you choose, it'll be cheaper to print this specialty material in-house than have it done by a local print shop. For instance, a 24 x 36-inch print on plain paper might cost about $2 to print in-house – one-tenth of what a print shop might charge.

Some printers save ink better than others, which reduces the future cost of ink cartridges. This is an important consideration in seeking the best printer for your business, as ink can cost hundreds of dollars per cartridge.

Another factor worth considering is how you dispose of materials, especially ink. Ink waste is often considered hazardous, which means its disposal can be tricky. The EPA lists a few options for disposal methods, including using a registered hazardous waste transporter to send the waste to an approved disposal area. This process may include sending certifications and notifications with the material. This can be time-consuming and difficult, and it's worth taking a look at the ink you're using before making a purchasing or leasing decision.

Contracts and Service Support

With four- and five-figure price tags for these printers, you'd expect top-shelf help and your choice of support via phone, email or live chat. That's generally what you get, with the larger companies offering dedicated support technicians on call 24/7 and a wide variety of resources online, including videos, tips, FAQs and downloads.

Some companies offer onsite maintenance as well. Many of these services are available within one business day of your request for maintenance. Businesses don't want their printer to sit idle, so this is a quality offering for many small businesses.

On the other hand, while the one-year warranty is still standard in this business, some vendors only cover their hardware and software for a short 90 days. The expectation is that you'll buy a service contract that includes onsite repairs. This can run several thousands of dollars a year but might include installation and initial setup. Other companies offer multiyear warranties. These are rare but can be a nice addition.

You can also lease or rent a wide-format printer from various brokers or third parties. Most provide the same services for a monthly fee. There are generally two types of leases: a buck-out lease or a fair market-value lease. In the first, you lease the equipment for a set amount of time (36 months or so), and after that time you buy the equipment for $1. In an FMV lease, you also pay a monthly fee for a set amount of time, at the end of which you can either purchase the equipment with a final balloon payment or upgrade with a new lease.

Additional reporting by Brian Nadel.

Our Methodology

To determine our best picks, we looked at a variety of factors. We placed an emphasis on size, printing speed, features and customer support. We wanted to find large-format printers on the market that could improve the operations of small businesses. We looked at customer reviews and spoke with company representatives to receive their recommendations for their company's best wide-format printers.

One of our first steps in the process was to seek out the major players in the industry. We found that HP, Canon and Epson are three of the top companies offering wide-format printers. Roland, Mimaki and Fujifilm also stood out as top wide-format printer companies. Once we'd found the major players, we dove deeper into their best offerings for specific use cases.

From there, we compared many different features and factors of each company. These are the main features we considered:

  • Printer size
  • Price
  • Printing speed
  • Printing quality
  • Types of ink used
  • Price of ink
  • Customer service options
  • Warranties
  • Durability

After reviewing those many different factors and looking at the features of each individual printer, we compiled our final list of best picks.

What to Expect in 2020

As printers seek to expand their options, wide-format printing becomes an attractive opportunity. Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is the world's third-most widely produced synthetic polymer, and it's steadily declining. PVC is a major contaminant, non-recyclable and non-biodegradable. As the wide-format printing market aims for increased sustainability, consumers can expect to see more corporations enforce PVC-free policies in 2020.

Although vinyl, plastic and paper have traditionally been the favored choices for signage, fabrics and textiles are taking over. Consumers can also expect to see soft signage become standard practice for a few reasons: 

  • Digitally printed textiles usually produce shaper images and richer colors.
  • Fabrics and textiles are better suited for curved structures.
  • Soft signage generally costs less to ship and can be folded or rolled without causing damage.

The Printing Industry's Response to the Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic and corresponding shelter-in-place order is still in effect in many areas around the world, and as such, the wide format printer industry has had to make changes to keep its workforce safe.

Multiple major players in the industry have pledged to maintain safe work environments during the crisis, opting to keep their workers safe at the risk of maintaining profits.

"As a business community, we are all focused on managing the unprecedented Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation with both urgency and a deep sense of care," wrote Enrique Lores, president and CEO of HP wrote in a recent press release. "I know our teams have been in regular contact with you, and I'm personally reaching out to express my support for your teams during this difficult period."

Along with HP, leaders at Xerox, Canon, Roland, and others have committed to ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. In addition to following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some companies have extended warranties, established work-from-home initiatives, provided remote support options when possible, and limited domestic travel.

If your small business utilizes wide format printers in some fashion, it would be best to reach out to your service provider or the manufacturer of your device to learn how your small business could be further impacted.

May 2020: Companies around the world have recalibrated their expectations for 2020, thanks to the pandemic, and Xerox is no stranger to that concept. According to WideFormatOnline.com, the international corporation has pulled back its 2020 revenue and profit forecasts due to the virus.

This news comes after its first quarter earnings saw a 14.7% drop. Officials said the global lockdown and social distancing measures have severely cut into the company's earnings, with revenue falling "to $1.86 billion in the first quarter ... [while] $173 million of operating cash flow from continuing operations was down $49 million year-over-year; $150 million of free cash flow was down $57 million."

"Our operations are being negatively affected by a range of external factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic that are not within our control," Xerox Holdings said in a statement. "Such restrictions [like the widespread quarantines and lockdowns] limit our ability, as well as that of our channel partners, to sell, install and service our equipment for our customers, negatively impacting our operations and financial performance."

Just two months ago, Xerox put its plans for a $35 billion corporate takeover of HP on ice because of the growing COVID-19 threat. With the disease expected to continue for a few months more, it's unknown when that effort will start back up again.

Regardless, Xerox CEO John Visentin pointed to past financial decisions made by the company as to why he believes it will weather the storm.

"While Xerox saw an immediate impact to our business due to the rapid implementation of lockdown measures globally, the disciplined approach we implemented over the last two years provided a foundation to move quickly to preserve cash, continue operations, provide support to our many clients on the frontlines, and apply our manufacturing and R&D expertise to help save lives," he said. "I’m incredibly proud of the Xerox team's dedication and ingenuity during this extraordinary time."

Andrew Martins: Writer
Andrew Martins,
business.com staff
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I am a former newspaper journalist who has transitioned to strictly cover the business world for business.com and Business News Daily. I am a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner and prior to joining my current team, I was the editor of six weekly newspapers that covered multiple counties in the state.

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