4 color vs 6 color ptinter

4 Color vs 6 Color Printer – Which is best for regular use?

If you have been searching for a printer for regular home use, then you may have already heard about the 4 colors and 6 colors printer. In this write-up, we will be differentiating the key areas between both with pros & cons and try to recommend a suitable printer for regular home use.

4 color printer

A 4 color printer makes prints with four different colors which are Black, Magenta, Cyan, and Yellow. Usually, these are the four main colors that almost every professional color printers use. If there are some extra colors, those will be some minor variants of these four.

Four-color printers are affordable and best for personal home use.

6 color printer

6-color printer prints with a combination of 6 different color tones often referred to as Hexachrome color. Apart from the 4 CMYK color ranges (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black), there is two additional color tone which is orange and green.

So, in a 6-color printer, the color tone is  CcMmYK which refers to the additional light magenta and light Cyan. A 6-color printer may be difficult and often expensive to a 4-color printer but due to having a color variety, it produces more vibrant and colorful images.

Here are the two versions of a 6-color printer

There are two different versions of 6 color printers. One is Hexachrome 6c and the other is 6c dark/light.

Hexachrome 6C

Hexachrome represents the 6 colors which are CcMmYK. That means, there are two additional Cyan and Magenta variants on top of the regular four colors. Hexachrome color patterns are truly amazing for photo prints.

6C Dark or Light

The four primary printing colors CMYK can be diversified by adding two versions of Cyan and Magenta. But, the versions are again diversified by two categories which are light and dark.

For instance, the 6C dark represents that there are additional dark Cyan and dark Magenta on top of the basic four colors of CMYK.

Let’s compare two printers

This is a comparison of two printers. One is 4 colors (Epson Ecotank ET 4800) and the other is 6 colors (Epson Ecotank Photo ET 8550). Here’s what we have noticed:

Epson ET 4800 Epson ET 8550
Type 4 Color 6 Color
Black Page Yield 3340 Prints 4990 Prints
Color Page Yield 4213 Prints 3320 Prints
Ink Type Dye Dye & Pigment
Black Print Cost 0.004 US$/print 0.004 US$/print
Color Print Cost 0.010 US$/print 0.026 US$/print
Photo Print Cost 0.026 US$/print 0.070 US$/print
Photo Print Time 93.4 s 48.1 s
Print Speed (Black) 8 PPM 15 PPM
Print Speed (Color) 4 PPM 10 PPM

These were the 5 best regular home-use budget printers that we shortlisted earlier.

Color Print Quality

The Epson ET 4800 appears to be a budget-friendly family printer with a 4 color option and makes good color speed but at a slower speed than the Epson ET 8550. The quality of the color is more vibrant in ET 8550 which is also accessible by the smartphone.

Overall, the color quality was okay for the ET 3800 printer and we really appreciate its yield ratio which was 4,213 prints with color. The Color print yield was even higher than the ET 8550 which makes the cost per page incredibly lower.

Besides, the 6 color printer (ET 8550) produces less quantity than that of the 4 color printer but prduces amazingly detailed documents.

Only the ET 8550 can produce a borderless print which is an added advantage here.

The weaknesses of both printers

Despite having positive sides, both printers have some drawbacks as well.

The ET 4800 cannot automatically print double sides of the document which means you need to manually flip the document when needed. Also, from the automatic document feeder (ADF) you cannot do the suplex scanning which was not seen while testing the ET 8550.

There have not been any major weaknesses of the 6-color printer (ET 8550) except for some minor color mismatching issues which often go after calibration.

The Dimension

The ET 4800 appears to be taller than the ET 8550 by an additional 2.7 inches. However, the second one is wider than the ET 4800 with a very good build quality. Both of the printers are available in two different colors and are delivered with inks.

Print Speed

The Epson ET 8550 is 150% faster than the ET 4800. However, the print time taken by the printers is always justifiable from the users’ objective. For instance, Epson ET 4800 is surely a suitable choice for home users and students since it costs significantly lesser than the other one.

Scan Performance

Unfortunately, the Epson ET 8550 does not have any automatic document feeder for scanning which limits its appeal but the scan speed it offers is 100% higher than what the other one shows.

You can scan documents up to 8.5″ x 14″ in Epson ET 8550 but the maximum document size of the Epson ET 4800 is limited to 8.5″ x 11″. That means, if you want to scan the legal size documents, the second one is the only suitable option that you have.

Average Color Delta E

Average color DE refers to the color quality of a color print which is measured on a scale of 0 to 10+. Overall, any prints above DE 5 are considered to be good except for the need for specialized use.

While assessing, the Epson ET 4800 had a color DE of 6.63 and the other had 6.48 which means that both printers offer above-average color tones.

Print Details

Print details are measured by the resolution in DPI or dots per inch. We have seen that both printers were capable to print at 5760 x 1440 resolution which is amazing in relation to the price of both.

Why 6 color + is preferred in commercial printing?

These are the reasons why commercial printing requires 6 colors or even more:

  • Commercial prints are high-value adding materials that target to convert the audience into customers so, maximum print resolution is the priority.
  • For business competitiveness, everyone tries to be unique and the uniqueness starts from the print material they are sharing with others.
  • Commercial printers offer increased productivity with 6 colors
  • The printing company employs a lot of staff and tries to offer something appealing to ensure their own business sustainability.
  • Overall, the graphical presentation becomes more attractive with the 6 color printers.

What should you notice before buying a 4-color or 6-color printer?

These are factors you should always check before choosing any printer. There are more than 25 decision-making factors which we have earlier talked on our comprehensive buying guide. But, for discriminating between the 4 colors & 6 colors, the followings are the key factors:

Key Decision Making Factor for occasional use printer

Print Technology

There are different kinds of printing technology and you need to choose the one wisely. Usually, inkjet printers use liquid ink droplets to produce prints and the droplets are again quantified by the size of each. For instance, a lower-size droplet represents better-quality color prints.

Both the 6 colors and 4-color printers are from Inkjet technology and you should focus on the resolution that they make.

There are other printer types such as thermal & laser. Normally thermal printers take the help of heat to place the color over any paper which we see in a shopping mall’s point of sale (POS).

Laser printers are the other type that uses a laser beam to place to visualize the characters. Laser printers are truly fast & obviously more expensive than inkjet printers.

You can have a look at the differences between a laser printer & others.

Types of Ink

There are different types of inks. Inkjet printers run on both fillable ink tanks and ink cartridges. The ink tanks are more affordable since the tanks are refillable for an infinite time but the ink cartridges are not reusable. Furthermore, per print cost becomes lower with an ink tank but for the cartridges, the costs are not as low as the fillable inks.

You have a look at the detailed differences between ink tanks and ink cartridges here.

Print Yield

Print yield is a parameter that helps to anticipate the number of prints you can make with a set of inks. A higher amount of print yield also reflects the lower print per page cost. As you have seen in the earlier comparison table the yield may vary depending on the black & color prints. The reason is when you print black only, one ink is used but the color prints require multiple.

When choosing a 4-color or a 6-color printer, it is not recommended to go for the lowest print yield since print quality is the most important factor for the user.

Color Quality

As you have seen both the printers above were capable of making good quality colors which are proven by the dE number & resolution. However, there are some other issues that may affect the color of your printer and you need to troubleshoot instantly.

If the driver of your printer is outdated, the colors may deteriorate to some extent. That’s the reason we always recommend updating the driver when possible.

Sometimes the print head gets clogged by the residue & the outside dust. We, therefore, recommend running schedule maintenance to keep the print head and nozzle efficiently working. Follow these 7-step easy maintenance steps to get good color prints.

Occasional Use Printer Maintenance Checklist

You need to carefully choose the paper type when making color prints. For example, if your ultimate concentration is to print a photo, you should always get the glossy photo paper with proper GSM as mentioned by the manufacturer.

Let’s Conclude

If you are a student and occasionally make color prints then the 4-color printers are always the best option to go with. Otherwise, 6 color prints are only recommended if your priority is to get good images with proper & detailed color tones. But you should always remember about the initial cost, ink consumption amount & the print yield which tells when the printer will pay back and how fast will it do!

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