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 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 the cheapest 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 $350, you can get a semi-professional 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
"The Best Inkjet Printers of 2018"
To find the best inkjet printers, we studied professional
tests from both home- and office-centric sources (Consumer Reports and PCMag) and
those that cater to photo enthusiasts (such as Shutterbug, Northlight Images
and Imaging Resource, 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, Staples, B&H Photo and
Best Buy to see how printers perform in real life.
For terrific text, photos and graphics, Epson WorkForce WF-7210
does it all
For an active small office or home-based business, print
quality is important -- as are speed, easy paper handling and low ink costs. Problem
is, it's hard to find a stand-alone inkjet printer that can do it all.The (Est. $150) is one of the few that can, and it has quickly snapped up
the Editors' Choice award at PCMag.
Despite its low price, the Epson WF-7210 produces surprisingly
professional-looking documents. Text looks "quite close to laser quality
down to about 6 or 7 points, and easily readable below that," says William
Harrel at PCMag. Full-page business graphics look good, with only a few slides
showing slight banding or color shifts. Photos print nicely, with "good
detail and color accuracy … In fact, except for a few minor flaws here and
there, I like the WF-7120 for most types of business output."
This is a wide-format printer, capable of printing large
pages – including borderless pages up to 13 by 19 inches, and automatic
two-sided pages (thanks to the built-in duplexer) up to 11-by-17-inch tabloid
size. In fact, Epson says you can load a single sheet of paper up to 13 by 47
inches in the rear feed. The Epson's two main paper drawers hold 250 sheets
each -- "a huge benefit in business environments, especially if you plan
to print more than just one size of page," Harrel says.
Speed is on par with other printers in this class: 15 ppm
(pages per minute) in black-and-white, or 7.6 ppm for files with colorful
photos and graphics in PCMag's test. Ink costs are typical for the class, too.
You'll spend 3.2 cents to print a page of text or 11.4 cents for a page of
color graphics, using the biggest ink cartridges the WF-7120 accepts.
Plenty of features are built in. You can connect to the
printer via a Wi-Fi or Ethernet network, USB cable attached to your computer,
or wirelessly without a network via Wi-Fi Direct or NFC (near-field
communication), which allows you to print by simply touching your smartphone or
tablet to the printer.
So, how does the Epson WF-7120 cut costs? It slashes just a
couple of frills. Instead of a big, color touch screen, you get a two-line
monochrome LCD panel. The Epson can't print directly from a USB thumb drive,
Owners mostly love the WF-7120. It averages 4.6 out of 5
stars (or better) at B&H Photo, Best Buy and Staples, with more than 150
ratings posted at those sites combined. Amazon users give it lower marks
– 3.1 out of 5 stars -- but most of the bad reviews come from Amazon Vine
reviewers who were given the printer free to test, many of whom, it appears,
would personally have rather had an all-in-one printer that can copy and scan
or a smaller printer without the big-page capability.
The Epson WF-7120 carries a one-year warranty. Although it
can print up to 20,000 pages in a month, Epson's recommended print volume is up
to 1,300 pages per month.
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. $180), easily outclasses its rivals in reviews.
"The best mobile single-function inkjet we've come
across," says PCMag's Tony Hoffman. It captures the Editors' Choice prize there,
and it's the top-rated inkjet printer at Consumer Reports, outscoring all
desktop inkjet printers there as well. And owners adore it: The OfficeJet 200
is a longtime customer favorite at every retail website we checked.
Weighing in at under 5 pounds, 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
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 $80).
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). A 4-by-6-inch photo takes 42 seconds in PCMag's test.
Mobile printers drink pricey ink, and the HP is no
exception: It costs just over 6.6 cents per text page and nearly 24.4 cents per
color page in Consumer Reports' testing. 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.
Runner-up Canon Pixma iP110 costs less than the HP -- but that price doesn't include a battery. An AC
adapter is included, but if you want battery operation, you have to buy the
(Est. $100) 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 according
to two separate consumer surveys, and the Pixma iP110 earns mostly high marks
from owners at Amazon, Staples and B&H Photo.