Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Photobook Review: Mixbook (Premium Lay Flat Hardcover)

Mixbook Classic Landscape Premium Lay Flat

Basic Information

For my first foray into photobook making, I decided to try Mixbook's Premium Lay Flat book, as I had read some sites online stating Mixbook was overall the best available. It turns out I don't really agree with those reviews, but I can recognize there are some things to like.

Basic Information
WebsiteMixbook (link)
ProductClassic Landscape Premium Lay Flat Hardcover
Size11x8.5"
Actual Dimensions
(exterior cover)
27.3 cm x 21.6 cm
(10 3/4 " x 8 1/2 ")
Actual Dimensions
(interior pages)
26.6 cm x 20.5 cm
(10 1/2 " x 8 1/8 ")
Cover TypeHardcover (image wrap) "SoftTouch Matte Nylon 1.3mil Scuff-Free Laminate"
Spine Printing?Yes (text and background colour only)
Type of Pages/BindingLay Flat (seamless)
Type of Paper65# cover Mohawk Navajo Brilliant white, semi-gloss finish, mounted on 12pt board
# Pages47 (maximum 99)
End pages?Not available
Pricing
List Price
(excl. shipping)
$123.83 (pricing info)
Shipping Cost$6.99 (shipping info)
Promotion Used50% off (excluding shipping)
Total Price Paid
(incl. shipping)
$68.91
Cashback at time of order?12.5% on Ebates (referral link)
Shipping
Date Ordered9/20/2015
Date Shipped9/21/2015 (UPS Mail Innovations)
Date Received9/23/2015
Software
Photobook EditorOnline photo editor


Software Review

Here are a few screenshots of Mixbook's photobook editor:

Easy to use online software

A decent selection of pre-made layouts, but more suited to scrapbook-style photobooks

Lots of cute stickers and scrapbooking elements. I didn't use any in my book though.


Spine width is misleading in the photo book editor software

You can apply brightness, contrast and saturation edits within the editor, but I did not use them. 

Yellow guide lines appear to help you line-up objects

Sort options for your photos - surprisingly, not all companies have these options

Although the trim area is not explicitly shown, images automatically snap to the correct bleed area. Thumbs up. 

I had trouble uploading photos on the last day of a sale code. 



Pros
  • yellow guide lines to edges or center of images to help line up images
  • images are automatically snapped to bleed/trim area
  • can copy paste objects
  • can select multiple images boxes and move them together, also can scale it up and down
  • borders can be used to make even white space between pictures
  • lots of kitschy stickers and scrapbooking images

Cons
  • there are no position coordinates or length/width dimensions of objects
  • there are no grid guidelines, so it is difficult to ensure that margins are exactly the same on each page
    • Workaround #1) use a square sticker snapped to bleed area at edge of page, then zoom in and line up corner of picture to corner of square sticker 
    • Workaround #2) select all page elements, line up to edge of page, then shift+arrow key to move up and in)
  • I created my book over a period of 3 days; for one of the days, I was totally unable to upload pictures (possibly due to heavy traffic during the sale code period?)
  • the spine can only have a solid background colour, not an image (the editor width of the spine also does not reflect real life thickness of spine)
  • not a great selection of fonts
  • no premade layouts spanning 2 pages


Product Pictures

The book comes with a nice box

However, the box was dinged up during transit (and actually affected the book itself)

Front cover - Mixbook describes the cover as "SoftTouch matte". I think it feels and looks great. 

You can see the ding in the corner from shipping

The spine can accommodate text and a background colour, but no image. The font size on the spine cannot be changed.

View from the bottom of the book

How the binding behaves and the thickness of each page

Inside of front cover and first printed page (note there is no fly or end sheets)

Designing across a spread looks great

Or you can spread a single image across two pages

Here is a close up of what the center of the spread looks like

Here is a close-up of the ding from shipping

There is a slight sheen where the ink is present

Example of full bleed page, and the sheen

Inside of back cover; note the Mixbook logo

A bit hard to see, but there is also a light grey QR code in the bottom left corner of the last page

Close-up of how the cover image is bound over the back cover

Back cover

Comparison to 4x6 Prints


I printed some 4x6 prints at ProDPI as a control for reviewing the colour reproduction of my photobooks. Here are some examples:

The cover printed a bit lighter than the 4x6 and slightly less contrast. 

The photobook prints are a bit warmer than the 4x6s

The photobook prints seemed a bit lighter than the 4x6s; it's most noticeable in this night skyline of the Bund. 

I'm looking a bit oompa loompa here in the photo book print compared to the 4x6. 

The greens printed a little yellower and warmer than the 4x6s. 

This is my favourite picture from the book - I think it looks excellent blown up. 

This comparison also illustrates that the photobook was lightened (here, to its advantage, as the 4x6 is too dark)

My fingers look a little more saturated in the photobook print when compared to the 4x6 print

First, yes, my arms are double jointed. Now that we've moved past that, you can see the skin tone looks different, although not too awful. 

This was the most disappointing page for me. 
Again, the photobook print is lighter than the 4x6 print, but it works well for this bowl of dan dan noodles.

Overall, the colour reproduction is pretty good, but I found that skintones looked too saturated and slightly orange-ish. The bright blues (particularly in the last picture) were surprisingly flat looking as well.

Macros

This part of the review is a bit unfair; to the naked eye, you cannot detect the individual dots, but you do get kind of a sense that the print resolution is not great here. Please compare these to the normal pictures above!

Cover

What text looks like up close

This guy has some visible pores! ;)

You can see the dots in my fingers here

Spicy dots! 


Final Thoughts

This was the first photobook I made, and my first impressions was that the quality was higher than I expected, but overall I was not blown away by the quality. After having sampled ~10 other photobook companies, I can summarizes the pros and cons of Mixbook's Premium Lay Flat product as follows:


Pros
  • Sturdy and thick pages (possibly too thick)
  • Nice feeling cover (matte, kind of rubbery feeling? In a good way)
  • Came in a nice gift box, with "Mixbook" on the cover
  • Incredibly fast turnaround and shipping time
  • Full bleeds look great, spreads across two pages also look nice

Cons
  • Some skintones appear overly warm (almost orange); bright blues not reflected accurately at all
  • No end sheets
  • Slight 'ding' at the corner from shipping
  • Cannot wrap a single image around the front and back cover

While the book's construction is quite good and the software is more robust than many others I tried, ultimately, print quality matters the most to me. The poor colour reproduction is a deal killer for me. The super thick pages are also not my favourite. As such, I do not plan to create any more photobooks with Mixbook.


Additional Reviews

9 comments:

  1. Wow love your book! I like to see more pages. I'm working on mine en want to get some inspiration :)

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  2. Wish I had found your review before making my book. I think the colors on the lay-flat pages were washed out on mine. Especially the bright blue skies I had - all look dull. I wonder if the lay-flat pages are part of the problem but I don't feel like spending the money to print it on a different paper choice with Mixbook. I've used a lot of other companies and like My Publisher best but for some reason after finishing this book on their app it wouldn't upload (boo) even after dealing with their tech support for an hour to try to get it working.

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  3. I'm trying to decide which company to go with for making our family's annual photo books. Layflat, high quality, and at least 100 pages are must-haves. The books have to stand up to being handled by kids, so I'm thinking thicker pages like the ones offered by mixbook would work great. I've ordered from Adoramapix but I'm worried that their books won't hold up over time (something about it being real photo paper makes me think they're more delicate?). What would you recommend? Print quality is also an important consideration. I'm not too worried about cost if the book hits all the criteria. Thanks in advance!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Marta!

      I can't say I'd recommend this particular layflat book from Mixbook (the colors are a bit washed out).

      I did a round-up post on all the companies I tried here: http://www.daughterlaoye.com/2016/05/overview-photobook-companies-roundup.html.

      I think the Shutterfly (deluxe) layflat pages are pretty sturdy, while still having nice color reproduction (only downsides are the logo on the last page and the unsightly barcode they printed on the back of the book; not sure if they changed those yet!).

      Photobook America has a very similar product, but slightly less vibrant colors. No barcodes or logo though!

      I do like AdoramaPix, but I agree they may not be best for sticky kid fingers. That said, you can't really beat the print quality of their photo paper pages... Hmmm - tough choice!

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  4. I ended up reprinting mine with Adoramapix and liked it so much better than the Mixbook version. The colors were so much more vibrant it was like night and day when I held them up next to each other. I didn't get lay-flat with Adoramapix so I can't speak to that option (if it's an option, I assume they have that). But I will say that in my opinion the thick lay-flat pages of the Mixbook were not aesthetically pleasing. If you're just looking for them holding up to handling by kids it would probably be good for you but they're really like pieces of cardboard. Just a personal thing but I didn't like it. But my main issue was the washed out look of the printing with the Mixbook book.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you liked your reprint much better (although I think all Adoramapix's offerings are layflat!). I had the same feeling about cardboard pages with this Mixbook one. Like a children's board book :/

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  5. Oops, didn't realize the adorama was layflat but it's at home so I couldn't check from work :(
    Agree totally the pages felt like a children's book. I have to say Mixbook was great about refunding me and I was ready to pay to mail it back but they said I didn't need to return it.

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  6. Thank you for the in-depth review! I'm actually reading this after my Lay-Flat Mixbook came. I'm not totally blown away and think the matte pages are actually a little too matte (wish there was slightly more sheen), but I was disappointed that my book did not come with a gift box. My book actually arrived with more damage on the top of the spine (just emailed Mixbook about it), and I'm planning on gifting this, so we'll see what Mixbook has to say.

    But, for anyone interested in buying this book, please note that the book DOES NOT come with a box like before, just an Amazon-style cardboard shipping cover.

    ReplyDelete