Printers have a propensity to gulp expensive ink, displaying low-ink alerts like a drunk holding up an empty glass to a bartender. If you’re going to support this habit, it’s nice not to have to spend too much on the printer itself. Choose carefully to avoid the slowest, thirstiest models and get the highest possible quality for $100 or less.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable all-in-one printers. These models can scan and copy as well as print, delivering more for the money than a basic inkjet.
- The Epson Stylus NX430 (starting at $70) prints crisp text and high-quality photos with realistic color, according to expert reviewers. It has a compact 15.4” x 12” x 5.7” footprint for those tight on space. (Where to buy)
- The Brother MFC-J430w (starting at $60) boasts an automatic document feeder that can scan or copy more than one page at a time. It also functions as a fax machine -- you know, in case you conduct business with anyone in the 20th century. Experts applaud this printer’s speed and say text is its strong suit. (Where to buy)
- The Canon Pixma MG5320 (starting at $100) features a high-resolution scanner and wins praise for photo printing even on faster settings, perhaps no surprise from a company known for cameras. This printer can handle more paper than any other model on our list. (Where to buy)
- The HP PhotoSmart 5510 e-All-in-One (starting at $80) promptly produces sharp text and vivid photos, according to reviews. Consumers find it easy to set up and use, and the touch-screen interface is unusual at this price. (Where to buy)
These are all inkjet printers, as opposed to laser printers with higher capacities and faster print speeds. Be wary of manufacturers’ advertised speeds. A number like 30 pages per minute may be accurate, but it’s almost certainly measured using only black ink on the draft quality setting. You can expect about five or 10 pages of high quality color printing per minute from an inkjet model.
Most low-cost multifunction printers have flatbed designs that require you to flip open the lid and lay flat whatever you want to copy or scan. These machines can accommodate everything from a driver’s license to a book but process only one page at a time. The Brother MFC-J430w also features an auto document feeder to make quick work of multipage jobs. If you plan to scan photos, note the maximum scan resolution, measured in dots per inch. The Canon Pixma MG5320 has one of the highest among budget printers: 2,400 x 4,800 dpi.
Wi-Fi capability, once uncommon at this price point, has become a must-have feature. All the printers on our list can connect wirelessly to any computer in your home or office. This is easy to set up, reviewers say, but if you prefer to use a cable, our picks have USB 2.0 interfaces as well. That option can come in handy if you run into any issues with your router.
The printers on this list all have efficient designs that earn the government’s Energy Star designation. Just don’t forget to recycle those ink cartridges.
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