While basic inkjet printers are fine for home and other occasional use, they really don't cut the mustard for an active small or home-based business. Print quality becomes even more important, as does speed, easy paper handling and other factors, including low initial and ongoing cost.
Reviews indicate that several printers could meet the above challenges, but we give a slight nod to the HP Officejet Pro 8100 (*Est. $100) . Text is sharp, PC World notes, but blacks could be blacker. PCMag.com, which gives the 8100 an Editors' Choice award, says text is suitable for just about any business purpose.
If you need your business printer to print photos, the HP Officejet Pro 8100 can handle the job. PCMag.com says snapshots are equal to what you'd expect from drugstore photo finishing, but graphics performance is a little uneven. PC World says prints could be darker and PCMag.com complains of some banding, although neither reviewer reports what the other spots. In any event, both say graphics is at least good enough for internal business use, and PCMag.com's Stone says it could be suitable for more than that "depending on your level of perfectionism."
Paper handling is strong, printing is fast and the feature set includes automatic duplexing. The included tray has a 250-sheet capacity, with a second 250-sheet tray available (*Est. $80). Just about any connection method is available, including direct printing from Apple iOS devices over Wi-Fi via AirPrint and emailing your documents to the printer via HPs ePrint service. Ink consumption is rated better than most. The Officejet Pro 8100 ships with startup cartridges that have enough ink to get you through the printer setup process and last as long afterward as a standard inkwell. HP even throws a USB cable into the box.
The HP Officejet Pro 8100's closest competitor is the Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4020 (*Est. $100) . These printers' features lineups and overall performance match up closely, with only slight differences. Which one is better for you will likely depend on your priorities and any available deals.
In PCMag.com's tests, the Officejet Pro 8100 scores slightly higher on speed, but the WP-4020 does a bit better on image quality. As Stone notes, "In both cases, though, the key word is slightly." Ink costs are similar for black-and-white prints, but about a half-cent cheaper for HP's printer for color. The Epson ships with low-capacity starter cartridges only, and many users complain that they were empty from the get-go.
Still, the Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4020 makes a good alternative to the HP 8100. Features include two paper trays of 80and 250 sheets, and an automatic duplexer so you can print on both sides of the paper. The WP-4020 can't print directly from your camera's memory card or a flash drive, but does include Wi-Fi connectivity, Apple AirPrint support and native support for Google Cloud Print. In addition, Epson's Email Print lets you email documents from any device directly to the printer. There's Ethernet and USB connectivity, as well, but no free cables.