PDF Reader Rendering Quality Comparison, Which Is The Best?

2 Lug/10

A question came up in the comments of the Foxit 4.0 release post here at Ghacks: How is the rendering quality of that pdf reader compared to that of Adobe Reader? I honestly could not tell at that time because I did not work much with pdf readers, and when I had to read a pdf I was not that much concerned about text rendering but the contents.

Still, it is a valid question. Do pdf readers render pdf documents differently, and if that’s the case, which one is the best of the pack?

Some rules had to be established for this test; All pdf readers should display the same page of the same pdf document in 100% and 200% view as well as a sample paragraph in 100%. Screenshot quality had to be the same to make it easier for anyone to spot possible quality differences in the text rendering engine.

I have also decided to only add free pdf viewers to the list.

List of pdf readers:

Test System:

  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • 8GB computer memory
  • Intel Core i7 860
  • HP w2408h widescreen monitor, 1920×1200 resolution
  • Ati Radeon 4870, latest Catalyst drivers
  • Test Pdf

The screenshots:

Thumbnails are displayed due to size limitations, click on a thumbnail to view the full sized image.


pdf reader quality samples

pdf reader quality samples

The first batch of samples shows that pdf readers display the same text in a different font sizes. Adobe Reader uses the largest font sizes while STDU Viewer the smallest, which offers a barely readable rendering of the text in that size. Quality obviously depends on a few factors that might differ from system to system.

What’s your favorite pdf reader? Let us know in the comments.

The 100% sample screenshot comparison

pdf reader quality

pdf reader quality

Now the 200% samples of the eight pdf readers

pdf reader quality 200

pdf reader quality 200

As you can see, rendering quality differs highly depending on which pdf reader has been used to display the pdf document. Adobe Reader followed by Sumatra provide a very good rendering quality. The pdf rendering quality obviously depends on a few factors that are influenced by computer hardware.

I would still recommend either Adobe Reader or Sumatra as they seem to provide the best rendering quality of all tested pdf readers. Sumatra especially for users who do not want anything to do with Adobe Reader.

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