AIOs are the most popular type of printer
All-in-one printers (AIOs)
-- also called multifunction printers (MFPs) -- are inkjet or laser printers
that, in addition to printing, can scan; copy; and, in many cases, send and
receive faxes. The latest all-in-one printers print wirelessly from your
computer, smartphone, or tablet. Many can connect directly to the web, so they
can print web pages, emailed documents or documents stored in the cloud. Prices
of all-in-one printers have fallen in recent years, with excellent models
selling for $200 or less. As a result, all-in-ones now account for the majority
of printers sold for home use.
However, while all-in-one
printers might appear to be do-everything devices, reviews show that they are
not necessarily equally adept at printing, scanning, copying and faxing. Often,
a multifunction printer that excels in one aspect falls short in others. Still,
if you only occasionally need to fax, copy or scan, an all-in-one printer can
save you from having to buy two or three separate devices. On the other hand,
if you don't think you really need to scan or fax, you can save a bit of money
by going with a standard inkjet printer. You can also save desk space,
since all-in-ones generally take up more room than a standard printer (although
not nearly as much as a separate printer, scanner and copier). ConsumerSearch covers inkjet printers in a separate report.
If all you want is a scanner, we cover those in a separate report as
Types of All-in-One Printers
Inkjet All-In-One Printers
This type of all-in-one prints by spraying ink onto the page. While cheap at the outset -- we found a very good budget inkjet MFP for $80 -- you'll pay dearly for replacement ink cartridges. In one major test, inkjet all-in-one printers cost between $210 and $720 to buy and run for two years (not counting one super-guzzler that'll gulp more than $2,000 worth of ink in two years!). Ink cartridges also tend to dry up or run out suddenly (and often). Worse, if you don't print regularly, the ink nozzles can clog and ruin the printer. Still, if you plan to print photos, you'll need an inkjet. Even an inexpensive inkjet all-in-one can print decent-looking color snapshots on glossy photo paper, unlike the vast majority of laser printers.
Monochrome Laser All-In-One Printers
As long as you don't plan to print photos, monochrome laser AIOs perform better than inkjets in almost every way. They're less hassle, and cheaper to own in the long run. Laser printers work by bonding powdered ink (toner) to the page; toner doesn't dry up or clog like ink, and the cartridges don't run out as quickly. These days, a good black-and-white (monochrome) laser MFP doesn't cost much more than an inkjet: We found a great budget model for $130. Mono laser all-in-one printers cost the same -- or even less -- to own over two years than most inkjets, too ($210 to $440, including the purchase price of the AIO). Plus, you're rewarded with sharp text and faster printing than an inkjet. Mono laser all-in-ones can usually scan in color, even though they only copy and print in black and white.
Color Laser All-In-One Printers
Color laser all-in-one printers cost the most -- nearly $400 for our Best Reviewed pick. They cost the most to run, too ($580 to $860 including the printer's purchase price over two years), and they still don't print photos as well as an inkjet. Their strong point? Color graphics and text. If you need to print professional-looking color documents for your home or business (brochures, charts, etc.), a good color laser all-in-one printer will print them crisply, quickly, and with few ink aggravations.
Finding The Best All-in-One Printers
"All-in-One Printer Ratings"
"The High Cost of Wasted Printer Ink"
"Multifunction Printer Reviews, Ratings, and Pricing"
To find the best
all-in-one printers, we evaluate all aspects -- ease of use, features, cost to
own and, of course, how well they perform. We study professional tests at tech-specific
publications such as PCMag.com, ComputerShopper.com, TomsGuide.com, CNET and
TheWirecutter.com. PCMag.com conducts an annual Readers' Choice survey, as
well, to find out which printer brands break down the least. We also look at
ConsumerReports.org, which conducts thorough, unbiased tests for 102 all-in-one
printers, but provides less discussion than the others. Owner reviews at retail
websites (Staples.com, BHPhotoVideo.com, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com) provide
the last piece of the puzzle; they unearth real-life problems that don't show
up in short-term tests.
Inkjet all-in-one printers for your home or office
Most inkjet all-in-one
printers are just too slow and ink-wasting for small office use -- but not the (Est. $170). "Unusually low running costs ... unheard of in a printer
at its price," says PCMag.com, where it's the Editors' Choice.
TomsGuide.com concurs, naming this "cost-per-page champ" one of
2017's best all-in-one printers.
It's incredibly cheap to
run -- actually rivaling a black-and-white laser printer in that important
consideration. Text pages cost 0.8 cents per page, experts calculate, and 4.7
cents for color. Over two years, expect to spend about $350 to buy and run the
printer, according to a leading test.
It prints text quickly,
for an inkjet. It shoots out about 9 pages per minute (ppm) in two independent
tests. Mixed text/graphics slows to 4.6 ppm at PCMag,com, "a typical speed for an inkjet MFP at its
price," Tony Hoffman says.
Color photos and graphics look
pretty darn good, testers agree -- not as brilliant and detailed as from a
photo-centric printer, but impressive. "Glossy photos printed with very
sharp details, rich colors and good shadow detail," says Eric Butterfield
at TomsGuide.com. Text looks "near-laser quality all the way down to fonts
of about 6 or 7 points," says William Harrel at
Scans and copies look very
good in tests. There's a letter-size flatbed scanner, and the MFC-J985DW can
print and copy on paper up to legal size. The main paper tray holds 100 sheets,
with a 20-sheet 4-by-6-inch photo bypass tray. A built-in duplexer and 20-sheet
automatic document feeder allow two-sided printing and scanning. Brother says
the printer can churn out up to 2,500 pages in a month, but recommends a maximum
of 1,000 pages per month normally.
Wi-Fi, Ethernet and USB
hookups allow you to print either wired or wirelessly from your computer or
directly from your smartphone or tablet (iOS, Android, Windows or Kindle Fire).
You can also print from and scan to the cloud (Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive,
OneDrive and more are supported) or a USB drive. A touch screen makes the MFC-J985DW
easy to use.
Owners love the MFC-J985DW
according to reviews at Staples.com and BestBuy.com, where it averages over 4
stars. They say the printer is compact, well built, and the ink really does
last a long time. At Amazon.com, owners award the printer 4 stars over more
than 300 reviews; that's high praise for an inkjet printer, but not nearly as
high as some Brother laser MFPs get, and we talk about a top choice among those
in our discussion of laser all-in-one printers, elsewhere in this report.
If you're on a tighter budget,
you may want to consider the cheaper (Est. $80). It
offers a lot of the Brother's features and costs half the price -- but it can't
fax; lacks an automatic document feeder, Ethernet hookup and NFC (Near Field
Communication) support; and its pricey ink winds up costing more in the long
"Still, if you're
looking for an all-in-one device that won't break the bank while handling most
tasks you can throw at it, Epson's XP-640 fits the bill," TomsGuide.com
says. Text doesn't look as sharp as the Brother's in tests, but graphics and
photos actually look better, in some testers' eyes -- in fact, TomsGuide.com
names it "Best for Photos" among all-in-ones. PCMag.com agrees:
"Without question, the XP-640's photos came out looking good enough to do
justice to your keeper snapshots."
The Epson prints about as
fast, handles the same paper sizes and ticks a lot of the same boxes as the
Brother -- touch screen, duplexer, wireless printing (including directly from
your phone or tablet), cloud printing and one-year warranty.
Now for the drawbacks. You'll
spend more on ink over time (7.4 cents per text page -- nine times as much as
the Brother, according to one leading test), although the printer's cheap price
offsets that (expect to spend $310 to buy and run the printer for two years). As
for durability, Epson doesn't specify anywhere how much printing the XP-640 can
handle per month. At any rate, reviewers say Epson printers aren't as durable
as Brothers. In a major consumer survey, one out of every five new Epson inkjet
printers broke within three years, versus about one in eight Brother inkjets.
And in PCMag.com's reader survey, Brother beats Epson
in every category, including reliability, need for repairs and need for (and
quality of) tech support.
Still, like the Brother,
the Epson Expression Premium XP-640 earns high marks from customers at
Staples.com and BestBuy.com. But at Amazon.com, about one in six owners blast
it with a 1-star rating. Malfunctions and paper jams are common complaints.