What kind of printer do you need?
All-in-one printers that can scan,
copy and fax are wildly popular, but there are still great reasons to buy a
stand-alone inkjet printer instead. All-in-ones are expensive if you don't need
the extra functionality, and they can take up considerably more space on your
desk than a dedicated inkjet printer alone. Although all-in-ones can print text
and graphics flawlessly, most can't print photos as beautifully as a
stand-alone inkjet printer. Still, if an all-in-one solution is right for your
situation, ConsumerSearch.com covers all-in-one printers in a separate
Laser printers are another option
not covered in this report. Although they cost more than inkjet printers
initially, laser printers cost less to run, and they tend to be more reliable,
without the frustrating ink clogs that can plague inkjet printers. Laser
printers can't print photos like an inkjet, but they're great for office-type
use (printing text, charts, etc.). See our reports on color laser printers and black-and-white laser printers for the top choices.
Types of Inkjet Printers
General-Purpose Inkjet Printers
General-purpose inkjet printers are fine for home use or small offices. Even basic inkjet printers now print text nearly as quickly and clearly as a laser printer. Photo quality is typically good, but not great on cheap models ($100 or so), but they'll suffice for families and others who just want to be able to print out homework assignments, personal documents and a snapshot now and then. Mid-priced inkjet printers ($150 to $350) are faster, more feature-rich, and print very nice photos and graphics. These are the workhorse printers you'll need for a print-heavy home office or frequent home photo printing.
This type of printer lets you take your printing on the go. They are small, lightweight machines, but can print nearly as well as a full-size basic inkjet printer. Although they used to cost more than a basic desktop inkjet printer, the price has come down (about $150 to $200, without the optional rechargeable battery) -- but mobile printers' ink tanks are tiny, so you'll pay more to operate one in the long run.
Though photo printers are overkill for general home and office use, they're essential if you want to produce truly beautiful photo prints on your own. For about $400, you can get a semi-pro model that can easily outclass any run-of-the-mill photo lab. Top-notch pro photo printers cost much more ($1,100 and up), but they're the preferred choice for professionals and many serious photo enthusiasts.
Finding The Best Inkjet Printers
"Printer Reviews, Ratings, and Pricing"
To find the best inkjet printers, we studied professional
tests from both home- and office-centric sources (ComputerShopper.com,
ConsumerReports.org and PCMag.com) and those that cater to photo enthusiasts (such
as Shutterbug, Northlight Images and Imaging-Resource.com, among others) to
find out how quickly, easily and beautifully each printer produces text,
graphics and photos in the eyes of experts. We also scoured owner reviews from
Amazon.com, Staples.com and BHPhotoVideo.com, to see how printers perform in
For terrific text, photos and graphics, Canon Maxify iB4120 does
For an active small- or home-based business, print quality
is important -- as are speed, easy paper handling and low ink costs. Problem
is, it's been hard to find a stand-alone inkjet printer that can do it all --
until now, experts say.
The (Est. $140) fills that void, and it has
quickly snapped up the Editors' Choice award at PCMag and ComputerShopper.com. "We
can't think of many reasons not to
buy the Maxify iB4120," ComputerShopper.com's William Harrel writes.
Despite its low price, the Maxify iB4120 produces
surprisingly professional-looking text, graphics and even photos. Color photos
"were at least the quality you'd expect from drugstore prints, and several
of them were better," says Tony Hoffman at PCMag.com. Black-and-white
photos printed with no hint of tint. "Graphics should be fine for printing
PowerPoint slides, even for handouts going to people you are trying to impress
with your professionalism." Harrel agrees: "As long as we started
with quality images, the results were very sharp. We've no real complaints
about this Maxify model's output."
It's speedy, too, outputting 7 to 21 text-only pages per
minute in various tests. And you won't often need to fool around with switching
or refilling paper trays: The Maxify iB4120 boasts two spacious 250-sheet
drawers for up to legal-size paper, a very unusual perk at this price.
Another surprise bonus: low ink costs. Budget-priced inkjet
printers usually jack up the price on their ink cartridges -- but not the Canon
Maxify iB4120, experts say. You'll spend 1.7 cents to print a page of text, or
12 cents for a page of color graphics.
So, how does the Maxify iB4120 cut costs? It slashes a few frills,
"but nothing you probably can't do without," Harrel says. Instead of
a big, color touch screen, you get a two-line monochrome LCD panel. You can
connect to the printer via Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB, and print from mobile
devices and the cloud -- but you'll have to pair the printer with your device
using the menu, as there's no Wi-Fi Direct or Near-Field Communication (NFC) capability
to let you pair with just one tap.
If we have any reservations it's that relatively few owners
have reviewed this new printer as of yet. At Amazon.com, most of the 30 or so
reviews are "Vine" reviews (from people who were given the printer
for free to review), which tend to be overly glowing -- although in this case,
the Vine reviews do include criticisms of the product. The Maxify iB4120 earns
3.7 stars overall; the most common criticism is that initial setup is tedious.
Although this new printer isn't yet tried-and-true, Canon as
a printer maker has a strong reputation and the Canon brand ranks highest for
reliability among all print-only inkjet manufacturers in two separate,
independent consumer surveys. The Maxify iB4120 carries a one-year warranty.
Although it can print up to 30,000 pages in a month, Canon's recommended print
volume is up to 2,000 pages per month.
If photo prowess is especially important to you, consider
the more expensive (Est. $340). A cross
between a high-class photo printer and workhorse office printer, the Artisan
1430 nearly does it all, reviews say. Photos (up to 13 by 44 inches), graphics
and text all look impressively crisp.
It's not a fast, high-volume pro printer; instead, this
inkjet printer is ideal for families, schoolwork and small offices. At this
price, "it's hard to find fault with the printer," says Joe Farace at
Shutterbug. Owners are highly satisfied with the Artisan 1430 too; it gets high
ratings from photo enthusiasts at BHPhotoVideo.com, as well as customers at
Amazon.com and Staples.com. We did find some complaints from Amazon.com
customers that say that they received buggy units, but most report no problems.
Photo-wise, "Colors are rich and vibrant, and skin
tones are reproduced beautifully," especially on Epson's own Premium
Glossy photo paper, Farace says. "Detail is exceptional, particularly for
a printer in this price range." Landscapes, flowers and portraits look
great, but black-and-white photos suffer from a distinct color cast. There's
only one monochrome ink in the Artisan 1430's six-tank dye array. On the plus
side, the prints really are smudge- and water-resistant (Farace rubs and douses
them to find out). To print better photos, you'll need to step up to a dedicated
photo printer (discussed in our section on best photo printers).
The Epson Artisan 1430 offers "features that could
appeal to many photographers, especially for those who enjoy printing but do
not print day in, day out," Farace says. It can handle most types of photo
paper, but not heavy fine art papers. It does print on CDs and DVDs, like
dedicated photo printers can. Tiny ink cartridges (11 milliliters, testers say)
mean the Artisan 1430 isn't for high-volume users, though.
Text and graphics look very nice, too, but unlike the Canon,
this isn't a particularly fast printer. Epson estimates print speeds of just
under three pages per minute for black-and-white or color documents, and nearly
two minutes for an 8-by-10-inch borderless photo.
Like the Canon Maxify iB4120, the Epson will print
wirelessly from your computer, smartphone or tablet. You can connect via USB or
Wi-Fi, but -- unlike the Canon -- the Epson has no Ethernet jack. It does have
a PictBridge port that allows you to print directly from your camera, though.
Like the Canon, the Epson carries a one-year warranty. Epson doesn't publish a
monthly maximum duty cycle for the Artisan 1430.
Mobile printers for color printing on the go
Mobile printers are ultra-convenient if you need to print on
the go (while traveling, for example). HP's newest mobile printer, the (Est. $230), easily outclasses its rivals in reviews.
"Today's overall best mobile inkjet," says William
Harrel at ComputerShopper.com. "The best mobile single-function inkjet
we've come across," says PCMag.com's Tony Hoffman. It captures the
Editors' Choice prize at both sites, and it's the top-rated inkjet printer at
another major testing organization, too. It has quickly become customers'
favorite mobile printer at Amazon.com, earning 4.3 stars in about 90 reviews.
Weighing in at under 5 pounds ("about the heft of a
big-screen laptop," Harrel says), the OfficeJet 200 Mobile folds up
smaller than a shirt box when it's not printing. It's small but mighty, experts
say: "Although the OfficeJet 200 is a mobile printer, its output quality
is better than that of most desktop inkjets we've tested," Hoffman writes.
That means sharp text, vivid graphics and even drugstore-quality (or better)
photos. Harrel agrees: "A real-estate agent, for instance, shouldn't have
any trouble using this little machine's output for printing on-the-spot
The OfficeJet 200 Mobile's lid folds open to become a
50-sheet feed for up to letter-size paper. You can plug the printer into the
wall, or run it off of its included rechargeable, swappable battery (an extra
battery costs about $60).
It's easy to set up and easy to print, testers say. You can
connect via USB or Wi-Fi, or use Wireless Direct (HP's name for Wi-Fi Direct)
to print directly from a computer or mobile device. The HP can print from your
computer, iOS or Android phone or tablet, as well as from USB thumb drives and
PictBridge devices. HP's Auto Wireless Connect "remembers" your
computer or mobile device, so it will reconnect automatically the next time.
Speed is snappy, for a mobile printer (about 10 text pages
per minute, in tests). The HP bogs down while printing photos at
ComputerShopper.com, taking more than 2 minutes to print a 4-by-6 -- but it
takes only 42 seconds in PCMag.com's test.
Mobile printers drink pricey ink, and the HP is no
exception: It costs 6.6 cents per text page and 24.4 cents per color page in a
leading test. On the bright side, HP offers bigger cartridges than other
brands' mobile printers, so you won't have to change them as often.
The OfficeJet 200 Mobile can print up to 500 pages per
month. It carries a one-year warranty.
Last year's top mobile printer, the (Est. $155), costs less than the HP -- but, importantly, it
doesn't include a battery. You have to buy the (Est. $85) separately.
Although both brands print nice-looking photos, the HP
prints better-looking graphics than the Canon in two leading tests. It also
prints a bit faster than the Canon in tests. And although ink costs are
comparable, the HP's bigger tanks mean less tank-swapping.
Otherwise, these two mobile printers are very similar --
size, weight, paper capacity and connectivity. Like the HP, the Canon carries a
1-year warranty. However, Canon doesn't publish a monthly duty cycle for the
Pixma iP110. Canon does enjoy a better reputation for reliability than HP in
two separate consumer surveys, and the Pixma iP110 earns mostly high marks from
owners at Amazon.com, Staples.com and BHPhotoVideo.com.