AIOs are the most popular type of
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 many 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 usually
aren't 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, laser printer or color laser 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 standard printers in separate reports. If all you want is a scanner,
we have a separate report on those as well.
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 they're cheap at the outset – we found a very good inkjet MFP for $90 – you'll pay dearly for replacement ink cartridges. AIOs tested by Consumer Reports cost between $180 and $720 to buy and run for two years. Ink cartridges also tend to clog or dry up if the printer is left idle, requiring an ink-guzzling cleaning cycle to get them working again. Still, if you plan to print photos, you'll need an inkjet. Even an inexpensive inkjet MFP can print decent-looking color snapshots on glossy photo paper, unlike the vast majority of laser printers, though many dedicated inkjet printers can print photos that are nicer still.
Monochrome Laser All-In-One Printers
Laser printers work by bonding powdered ink (toner) to the page. They're a better choice for heavy users because toner doesn't dry up or clog like ink, and you can print more pages on a cartridge. These days, a good black-and-white (monochrome) laser MFP doesn't cost that much more than an inkjet; we found a great budget model for $140. Mono laser all-in-one printers cost about the same to own over two years as inkjets: between $210 to $550, 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 – over $450 for our Best Reviewed pick. They cost the most to run, too ($430 to $960 over two years, including the printer's purchase price), 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
"Best All-in-One Printers 2018"
"The Best All-in-One Printer"
"The Best All-in-One Printers of 2018"
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 Tom's Guide, PCMag, and Wirecutter. PCMag also conducts
an annual Readers' Choice survey to find out which printer brands break down
the least. We also look at Consumer Reports, which conducts thorough, unbiased
tests for more than 130 all-in-one printers, but provides less discussion than
the other sites. Owner reviews at retail websites (such as Staples, B&H Photo, Amazon and Best Buy)
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
No inkjet all-in -one
printer gets more recommendations from professionals than the (Est. $90). This inexpensive AIO is a Best Buy at Consumer
Reports and earns the title of best all-in-one photo printer in Tom's Guide. The
reviewers at Tom's Guide are impressed with its "warm skin tones" and
"well-saturated colors," as well as with its ability to print a color
photo in about two and a half minutes – twice as fast as the average
printer in its tests.
Consumer Reports is a
little less enthusiastic, saying color graphics come out very well on this
machine, but photo and text quality is only average. However, the XP-640 offers
numerous other benefits. Text printing is quick, at 9.4 pages per minute (ppm).
Scans and copies both look very good in tests, and the editors say it's one of
the easiest printers to use. It can print from your PC over either USB or Wi-Fi,
from an SD card, from your camera via PictBridge, or
from your tablet, or phone. Its auto duplexing feature can print both sides of
a page "with no loss of quality." It has touchscreen controls and a
secondary paper tray for photo paper. Also, it uses very little ink for
However, there are some
features this printer lacks. It can't fax, and it doesn't include an automatic
document feeder, Ethernet hookup, or NFC (Near Field Communication) support.
Its other big downside is its pricey ink. According to Consumer Reports,
printing a single page of text on the Epson costs 7.4 cents, well above the
average for an inkjet MFP. Even with its low purchase price, the editors
estimate that the Epson will cost you $390 to own over its first two years. The
printer is backed by a one-year warranty, which is typical for printers
While expert reviews are
very favorable, we found somewhat mixed feedback for the Epson Expression
Premium XP-640 among users. It earns overall ratings of 4 stars out of 5 or
better at Best Buy and B&H Photo, where owners praise its
print quality and easy setup. However, at Amazon,
about one in three reviewers blasts it with a 1-star rating. Aside from the
pricey ink, owners complain of malfunctions, frequent paper jams, and poor
customer service. Some also claim that a firmware update has made it difficult
if not impossible to use non-Epson inks.
That backs up the findings
of some large user surveys. A Consumer Reports survey found that one out of
every five new Epson inkjet printers broke within three years, as opposed to
about one in eight Brother inkjets. And in PCMag's reader survey, Epson earns a below-average score of 7.9 points out of 10.
That's all a little concerning, but given the low purchase price, and the
strong feedback from experts and most users (for example, 4.3 stars based on
nearly 1,600 reviews at Best Buy), we think that the Epson is an appropriate
choice for home use.
For small offices, or for
heavy home use, however, the Epson's high per-page cost is likely to be a deal
breaker. A better choice might be the (Est. $160). Tom's Guide
rates it the best all-in-one printer for high-volume printing, saying it has "one
of the best costs per page in its class": just 0.8 cents per
black-and-white page and 4.6 cents for color. Consumer Reports puts the price a
bit higher, at 2.8 cents for a page of text, but agrees that it's one of the
cheapest for inkjet printers. However, the editors note that this MFP uses more
ink than most for cleaning cycles. Still, it will cost about $60 less to own
over two years than the Epson, even with its higher purchase price.
In Consumer Reports'
tests, the Brother nearly matches the Epson for speed, shooting out about 9 ppm.
However, it's much slower for photos, taking 6 minutes, 47 seconds to produce a
color print in tests at Tom's Guide. On the plus side, testers agree that color
photos, as well as scans and copies, all look quite good. 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 in normal use.
Like the Epson, the
Brother printer can print over wired and wireless connections from a computer,
smartphone, or tablet. It also offers Ethernet and NFC connections, which the
Epson doesn't have. However, it can't link to a camera via PictBridge.
In addition to a built-in duplexer, the MFC-J985W has a 20-sheet automatic
document feeder for faster scanning and copying. It also includes a fax
Owners at Amazon and
Staples are mostly happy with the Brother MFC-J985DW. They say it's easy to set
up, and the ink really does last a long time. Most are happy with its print
quality, although some say that colors are off or look washed out. There are
also some complaints of glitches, though not as many as we saw for the Epson. Brother
printers as a group deliver the highest user satisfaction in PCMag's reader survey, with 8.6 points out of 10 overall
and top marks for ease of setup, reliability, and consumables costs.