Mpix (mpix.com) is an online print service of Miller's Professional Imaging (based in Pittsburg, Kansas). Clearly, this company understands photography, which is evident in the printed photo quality. We found a lot to like about Mpix, especially the photo reproduction. But the software wasn't consistently good, and the construction of our photo book could have been better. For more consistent quality, we recommend Mixbook for the best photo cards, the best photo books, and the best photo calendars.
|Overall Product Rating||Software Rating||Printed Product Rating|
What I liked
Fully editable book and calendar templates
On the surface, Mpix's book and calendar software is very similar to Costco Photocenter's photo book interface, because both license the software from the same third party. The major difference between the two is that Costco's photo book software has photo editing tools and more content. Mpix (and Costco) declined to name the licensor, but an Mpix spokesperson confirmed that the company is not a competitor in the consumer photo market.
Mpix's book and calendar templates are flexible. Text and photo placeholders can be moved, reshaped, resized, rotated and deleted. In addition, you can drag and drop photos and clip art or add text to a page rather than being restricted to the layout's placeholders.
Easy-to-apply photo frames
In addition to Mpix's limited photo borders (see below), all three interfaces have a small selection of "Fancy" frames and drop shadows. To apply a frame to a picture, you just click to select the picture and then double-click on the frame's thumbnail. The frame automatically fits to the picture, regardless of its size and proportions (unlike Amazon's kludgy frames).
Mpix's only drop shadows are those associated with some of these frames, plus a single shadow-only option in this library that applies to a picture in the same manner, as though it were another frame.
Well-organized, generally attractive clip art for books and cards
Mpix has two collections of clip art: one for books and cards, and another for calendars.
The libraries in the book and card interfaces are very similar to Costco's. These comparatively small collections of clip art are intelligently organized into categories such as Flowers, Food, Butterflies, and Symbols & Shapes. What's more, many (such as the Jewelry photorealistic clip art) are very attractive. On the other hand, the Symbols & Shapes category offers only 22 black or white shapes, such as a heart or a rectangle.
The more limited selection of illustrated clip art that I could use with my calendar was primarily occasion-oriented, such as Graduation Art Elements, Wedding Elements and Lettering and Baby Art Elements, plus Family Art and Lettering, Holiday and a couple of others. However, the categories aren't as representative of the contents, as they are in the card and book libraries. For instance, the Family Art Elements are leaves, flowers, hearts and lines. The vast majority of the calendar clip art are black and white only.
What I disliked
Restrictive card templates
Many (if not most) card templates are inflexible, with fixed photo and text placeholders, clip art and other decorative elements. However, by pure luck (and a lot of wasted time searching), I found a birthday card template that gave me a bit of freedom, allowing me to remove the references to the 6th birthday, but not the "you're invited" headline. The two photo placeholders were fixed, but I could move or delete the template's clip art and text boxes, as well as add photos, clip art and text. The back was more flexible, allowing me to add, move, delete, resize and reshape anything, including an additional photo. However, the card had no alternative backgrounds or layouts.
The book layouts are categorized into Page or Spread. However, the Spread group has no layouts that spread photos across two pages (which is the purpose of a spread layout); spreads are available only if you buy a (more expensive) premium panoramic book.
The calendar interface has only three layouts, all for a single horizontal photo of different sizes. However, I was able to reshape, resize, move and delete the layout placeholders, as well as drag and drop to add photos.
Few background options
Mpix's background options are far more limited than Costco's.
If you don't like the backgrounds provided with your selected photo book template, you can select from a small library of backgrounds in the interface. These alternative backgrounds are divided into five categories of rather cartoonish illustrations, plus a choice of only 18 solid colors and a useful lined background for a page of guest signatures. You can't even swap template backgrounds among the pages, unless you reorder the pages.
I had the option to change my theme so I could access more backgrounds, but that deleted all the work I had already done on the book and reset it to whatever Mpix decided was appropriate for that theme. What's more, the library of available alternative backgrounds remained the same unappealing seven categories. Because the theme backgrounds were better-quality than the alternatives, I decided to change only those that were inappropriate for the pages' pictures (such as graffiti behind parents with children).
My calendar and card had no alternative backgrounds.
Clumsy borders interface
The 45 borders available are of fixed width and nonadjustable colors. The border colors do not necessarily match the text colors, nor are there any numerical color values to help with such matching.
Time-consuming calendar events management
When I wanted to add a photo to a date in the calendar grid, I couldn't just drag and drop it as I could in Printique, Mixbook, Picaboo, Snapfish and others. Instead, I had to click the Edit Events icon to open the sidebar and then, click Add New Event, click the photo placeholder, and drag and drop a photo. The same steps were also required for editing an existing event; I couldn't simply double-click on the date.
The printed projects
Mpix's printed products have lively, appealing photos, but the book production falls short.
The photo book
The binding of the Mpix book isn't tight; you can see the stitches. The end papers felt cheap. However, the page paper was an acceptable weight, with a metallic sheen.
On the other hand, the photo reproduction was very good. The cover photos were bright, crisp and vibrant, with good color that was well-balanced among different skin tones. The interior pictures were generally lively, with good color and sharpness and details in both shadows and highlights. However, a few pictures lost detail in darker areas, specifically in dark hair. The type was solid with smooth edges.
The calendar was printed on very nice quality heavy paper with an appealing pearl sheen. And the photos shone with very good exposure, saturation, contrast, dynamic range and color balance (though with a slight magenta shift). The type was clean and solid.
Printed on medium-weight card stock, the card had a significant sheen that added a bit of sparkle. The photos were lively, with good color and exposure, but the shadows were blocky. The type had clean edges, but some of the letters weren't filled in solidly.
Pricing and options
My Mpix 8 x 8-inch, 20-page, hardcover photo book cost $34.99. The same book with a fabric cover would have cost $24.99. An 8 x 8-inch panoramic softcover book would have been $24.99; a premium (hardcover) panoramic would have been $44.99 (and up). I could have selected to have my shipping label be white (nonbranded) at no extra cost. "Boutique packaging" in a box with a ribbon would have cost me $7.
Mpix has a variety of book sizes and styles, from 5 x 5 inches to 8.5 x 11 inches, including both portrait and landscape orientations.
My 11 x 8.5-inch calendar cost $20. The price per calendar goes down when you order a larger quantity. For instance, it would be $19 each for two to 10 calendars and $14 each for more than 101. While I chose a centerfold calendar to conform with most of the others in this roundup, I could have ordered the same design in a 12 x 18-inch calendar that had the binding at the top for the same price. Mpix has two other types of calendars. A single-sheet 8 x 10-inch photo calendar costs $2.39, with no discount for larger quantities. And a cute 2.5 x 3.5-inch mini photo book that opens like an accordion to display the 12 months costs $19.99.
I had a choice of three types of paper for both my book and calendar — a "standard" acid-free smooth, a thick pearl with a "subtle shimmer" or a linen with a "fine texture" — at no extra cost.
My Mpix 5 x 7-inch card cost even more than the one from Artifact Uprising (but less than the one from Minted): $2.99 each for five cards. However, the price reduces with the number of cards ordered. For instance, for 20 cards, the price is $1.55 each, and after 30 cards, it's a much more reasonable $1.39 each. Free paper options include the three above, plus Signature (thickest with soft texture) and recycled (thick with "organic" texture). White envelopes are also included. The card could have a gloss coating for free and rounded corners for $1 for five cards. Kraft (brown) or silver envelopes are $1 extra for five. And having the return address printed on the envelope costs $1.25 extra for five.
Other Mpix photo products include prints (e.g., snapshot- up to poster-sized, canvas wraps, metal prints), tags and keychains, banners, magnets, playing cards and blankets.
Other than the card interface, Mpix's software is creative and flexible, and the photo reproduction is lively and appealing. I was impressed with the calendar, too. But in the end, it all adds up to a generally good, but not great, print service. For more consistently flexible and creative software, better overall print quality and a less expensive book or card, go with Mixbook.