Best Cheap All-in-One Printers
Published on By Michael Sweet
Epson Expression Home XP-430 Review
From $60 Best
The Epson Expression Home XP-430 prints good-looking photos and documents, provides several wireless connection options, and even has a memory card slot.
Pros: The Epson Expression Home XP-430 (starting at $60; available on Amazon) is a versatile printer that stands out for its compact footprint, convenient connectivity, and consistent print quality. Weighing in at only 9 pounds, the XP-430 measures just 15.4 x 11.8 x 5.7 inches when all trays are closed. A CNET expert says the size makes it a great pick for students and others working in tight spaces. This reviewer was also impressed with the low upfront price and the relatively low cost of ink cartridges. The XP-430 prints black-and-white documents at a respectable 8.5 pages per minute, according to CNET tests, though other types of print jobs are a little slow. The quality of the output is very respectable: Text is sharp and clean, the reviewer says, and color graphics and photos also look very good. Consumer reviews on Amazon echo this positive feedback. They verify that the Expression Home XP-430 is easy to connect to a wireless network and works well with Android and Apple devices. Users also like that it has a memory card reader.
Cons: The CNET reviewer laments the lack of a USB port for flash drives and an automatic document feeder -- which users agree can make scanning several individual pages tedious -- but these absences are not unusual for an MFP in this price range. However, the printer also lacks automatic double-sided printing, which is a pretty common feature even among the cheap competition. Some users also complain that the printer takes a while to complete jobs, and several note that it uses a lot of ink, which means cartridges must be frequently replaced. Several reviewers note that, while the ability to change individual ink cartridges is a plus, the Expression Home XP-430 will not print at all -- even in black-and-white mode -- if any of the color cartridges is empty. The need to use proprietary ink cartridges is also a point of contention.
Features: The Epson Expression Home XP-430 has a maximum resolution of 5760 x 1440 dots per inch Epson says the printer prints black-and-white documents at 9 pages per minute and color at 4.5 pages per minute. It uses four ink cartridges (one black and three color). The paper sizes it supports are, for the most part, pretty typical, although it does list a maximum paper size of 8.5 x 44 inches, and the array of paper types it can load includes Epson iron-on transfer paper and presentation paper. The scanner's top hardware resolution is 2400 dots per inch, with 48-bit color. The copier can print up to 99 copies without using a PC.
The memory card slot on the Expression Home XP-430 allows users to print photos directly, PC-free, and make basic photo and document edits via the control panel. Computers can connect via a standard USB printer cable or Wi-Fi, and mobile devices can be used with Wi-Fi Direct. Epson has a variety of apps available for the printer, which works with Apple's AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, as well. It supports several operating systems, including Windows XP and newer and Mac OS X beginning with version 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard). The Expression Home XP-430 has an easy-to-read 2.7-inch LCD.
Takeaway: The Epson Expression Home XP-430 is a solid all-in-one that produces nice-looking documents and photos. It has a host of wireless connection options and a slew of apps. It lacks a few more basic features that users would like to have, such as auto-duplexing and an automatic document feeder, but for the low price, many are satisfied with the trade-offs.
Canon Pixma MG5720 Review
From $69 Best
For consumers who want great-looking photos, graphics and documents, and want them quickly, the Canon Pixma MG5720 is among the best printers in the bargain range.
Pros: Reviewers praise the Canon Pixma MG5720 (starting at $69; available on Amazon) as one of the best deals around for budget shoppers who want a printer that can produce excellent photos quickly and generally excels at everything it does. PCMag named it an Editors' Choice in 2015 and ranked it near the top of its list of the best all-in-one printers of 2016. The PCMag reviewer says the Pixma MG5720 produces documents of all kinds fairly quickly, but he was especially impressed with the printer's ability to make 4 x 6-inch photo prints in only 54 seconds, decidedly faster than average. The quality of these photos is impressive, as well. They're vibrant, with accurate color and sharp detail. A reviewer from Computer Shopper claims this is the best photo output you can get unless you're willing to spend a lot more. Text and color graphics also look better than those produced by competing MFPs and are worthy of professional documents.
Cons: Amid the praise for fast photo-printing speed, the Computer Shopper expert gripes that that printing documents on the Pixma MG5720 can be more than a little slow, and there's no automatic document feeder to facilitate faster scanning. Also, while this wireless printer has a variety of wireless connectivity options, there's no memory card slot or support for USB flash drives for direct printing that way.
Features: According to Canon's specs, the Pixma MG5720 can produce black-and-white pages at 12.6 images per minute and color at 9 images per minute. Its top color resolution is 4800 x 1200 dots per inch, and black-and-white documents max out at at 600 x 600 dots per inch. The printer supports typical paper sizes such as 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10, letter, legal, and #10 envelopes. The printer is capable of automatic duplexing and borderless printing. Likewise, the copier can produce two-sided and borderless copies. It also has a fade restoration feature. The Canon Pixma MG5720 works with most Windows systems (Windows XP and later) as well as Macs beginning with OS X 10.7.5 (Lion). Canon has its own app for the printer, and users can print via Google Cloud Print or Apple's AirPrint, using a variety of Apple and Android mobile devices. Like most Canon printers, this model supports wireless PictBridge, for direct printing from Wi-Fi-equipped Canon cameras.
The Canon Pixma MG5720 includes basic photo-editing features such as red-eye fix and cropping, so users can make simple changes to photos directly on the printer. The scanner's optical resolution is 1200 x 2400 dots per inch. It includes an auto-scan mode and has a 48-bit color depth. The 2.5-inch LCD is about average size for printers in this price range. The printer uses five separate ink tanks, so ink colors can be replaced individually as necessary. It has a 100-sheet input tray, typical for printers in this price range. The printer measures 18 x 14.6 x 5.9 inches and weighs 13.8 pounds.
Takeaway: The Canon Pixma MG5720 is an excellent all-around printer that consistently and speedily produces superior-looking photos. Other printing tasks may take longer, but the graphics and documents produced may be worth the wait for consumers looking primarily for a great photo printer that can also do light work in a home office.
HP OfficeJet 4650 Review
From $68 Good
The HP OfficeJet 4650 is equipped with an automatic document feeder for faster scanning and copying, and the output quality is excellent. Print speeds, however, are pretty slow.
Pros: A Computer Shopper reviewer says one of the best features of the HP OfficeJet 4650 (starting at $68; available on Amazon) is its 35-page automatic document feeder. The ADF is a huge time saver for scanning multiple pages at a time. The apps built into the printer offer some interesting options, including the ability to print games, coloring books, templates, calendars, and fax covers directly from the printer's LCD menu. The quality of the printouts is very good, says the reviewer, with sharp text and graphics and photos showing bright, vibrant color. Copies and scans are also high quality. Users like the low price of the HP OfficeJet 4650 and how easy it is to set up, according to reviews on Amazon. They also appreciate that they can print from the web and mobile devices.
Cons: On the downside, there's no getting around the fact that the HP OfficeJet 4650 takes its time to create those nice-looking documents and photos. HP lists the print speed at top/laser quality at 9.5 pages per minute in black and 6.8 pages per minute in color. But the Computer Shopper expert timed its output for business documents at only 1.4 pages per minute on average. Shoppers reviewing the printer Amazon also complain about how long it takes to print and copy documents, although most agree the print quality is excellent, and copies and scans look "crystal clear." There are a few reports of the printer disconnecting from users' Wi-Fi networks, but that's not unusual with any wireless printer. Finally, this printer takes tri-color ink cartridges, which means the entire cartridge must be replaced when just one color runs out. A PCMag reviewer points to HP's Instant Ink program as a potential money saver.
Features: The HP OfficeJet 4650 includes a fax machine in addition to its other features. The fax machine has memory for 99 pages and 99 speed dial numbers. The maximum resolution is 1200 x 1200 dots per inch for black and white and 4800 x 1200 dots per inch for color. The paper tray has a 100-page input, and the output tray holds 25 sheets. This all-in-one also has a 35-page automatic document feeder, and supports auto duplexing. The scanner's top resolution is 1200 x 1200 pixels per inch, and it has 24-bit color depth.
The OfficeJet 4650 supports Wi-Fi connections and works with Apple's AirPrint and Wi-Fi Direct compatible devices. It also has a USB port. The printer works with versions of Windows from XP on and Mac OS X beginning with version 10.8 (Mountain Lion). It has a 2.2-inch monochrome LCD.
Takeaway: It's unfortunate that the HP OfficeJet 4650 runs on the slow side, but its template printing and fax capability are desirable add-ons. The 35-page ADF is also a great feature for users who have to scan large documents at once. Consumers who need quick output will probably want to find another option, but for some shoppers, the high print quality and convenient features redeem this printer's pokiness.
Canon Pixma MG6820 Review
From $80 Good
The Canon Pixma MG6820 is very similar to the cheaper MG5720. For about $10 more, users get a slightly larger touchscreen and a memory card slot.
Pros: The Canon Pixma MG6820 (starting at $80; available on Amazon) is very similar to our top choice, the lower-priced Canon Pixma MG5720 (starting at $69), but the Pixma MG6820 includes a memory card slot and has a larger 3-inch touchscreen, compared with the 2.5-inch LCD on the MG5720, which is not a touchscreen. Like other printers in this line, the Canon Pixma MG6820 excels at printing photos. A PCMag reviewer says the color is outstanding, and photos print very quickly. Best Buy shoppers are likewise happy with the photos from this printer and appreciate that they can print pictures directly from a smartphone. In reviews on Amazon, many home users also praise the quality of printed documents, and several claim that even in cost-saving "draft" mode, text comes out looking quite good.
Cons: Although PCMag's reviewer appreciates the touchscreen and memory card slot, he says they're not necessarily enough to justify the price difference between the MG6820 and the MG5720. After all, the Pixma MG6820 still doesn't include an automatic document feeder, fax capability, a USB port for flash drives, or an Ethernet port -- perks one might expect to find on an MFP that's a step or two up the feature scale. Also, while the Pixma MG6820 does print photos quickly, it prints business documents on the slow side, at an average of 2.6 pages per minute under PCMag's testing conditions. Also, according to tests, the print quality of the documents isn't that exceptional -- good enough for most home business needs, such as PowerPoint printouts, but not great at delivering on some full-page graphics or very small print. Finally, while many reviewers consider this printer very easy to use, a few say the setup can be a little tricky, and the touchscreen navigation could be improved.
Features: Canon claims that the Pixma MG6820 can print black-and-white documents at up to 15 images per minute and color documents at 9.7 images per minute. Its highest resolution is 4800 x 1200 dots per inch for color and 600 x 600 dots per inch for black and white. The printer handles typical paper sizes such as 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10, letter, legal, and #10 envelopes. It's equipped with automatic duplexing and can produce borderless prints. The copier also supports two-sided copy, borderless copy, and fade restoration. The scanner's optical resolution is 1200 x 2400 dots per inch, and it includes an auto-scan feature. It has a 48-bit color depth. The MG6820 uses five separate ink tanks, so colors can be replaced individually as needed.
This Canon model supports Apple's AirPrint and Google Cloud Print and also includes wireless PictBridge support. The printer works with most Windows systems (XP and up), as well as Macs beginning with OS X 10.7.5 (Lion). Mobile support includes Apple iOS, Android, Windows RT, and even Amazon Fire devices. When using the memory card slot, users can do basic photo editing, such as red-eye correction, directly on the 3-inch touchscreen.
Takeaway: The Canon Pixma MG6820 is a solid printer that promises great photos, but it has only a couple more features than the cheaper Pixma MG5720. The larger display and touchscreen don't seem to add much value, but for those who often print from memory cards, the upgrade may be worth it. For most users, however, the MG5720 probably remains the better option.
Brother MFC-J485DW Review
From $60 Think Twice
The Brother MFC-J485DW has many nice features but is torturously slow. Its automatic document feeder, auto duplexing, and built-in fax aren't enough to make up for that.
Pros: Consumers reviewing the Brother MFC-J485DW on Walmart.com say they like how easy it is to connect this printer to a Wi-Fi network, and they're also fans of its auto-duplexing, fax machine, and mobile apps. They appreciate that it works well with Chromebooks, and even the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system, and uses separate ink tanks for different colors. Consumers posting reviews on Best Buy's website give the Brother MFC-J485DW (starting at $60; available on Amazon) positive marks for easy setup, as well. Moreover, they're very happy with the low cost of the printer and its replacement inks. These reviewers say photos have vivid color, and copies printed from this all-in-one look very good. The 20-sheet automatic document feeder is also a boon and makes larger copying and scanning jobs much more convenient.
Cons: The Brother MFC-J485DW has a low price and some nice features, but users pan it for ridiculously slow print speeds. On the Best Buy website, speed is voted an overwhelming negative despite a decent rating overall, and there's even one report of the printer taking nearly an hour to produce a 10-page PowerPoint document. Copying is an equally slow process, according to these reviewers. Aside from sluggishness, many users complain of frequent jams, particularly when printing double-sided pages. For those who had issues with connectivity, Brother's online support was often deemed fairly unhelpful, and several users say they finally just gave up on the machine.
Features: The Brother MFC-J485DW uses a four-tank ink system. According to the manufacturer, the maximum print speed is 12 pages per minute for black-and-white documents and 6 pages per minute for color. The maximum resolution is 6000 x 1200 dots per inch, and the printer can make borderless prints. The copier can use the 20-sheet automatic document feeder and produce copies at up to 6 pages per minute. The 30-bit scanner has an optical resolution of 2400 x 1200 dots per inch and can scan from email, memory cards, or a USB flash drive. The fax machine has a 200-page memory. The input tray holds 100 sheets, and the output tray holds 50 sheets. The MFC-J485DW supports automatic duplexing and can load a variety of common paper sizes.
The Brother MFC-J485DW has several connection options, including USB, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi Direct. Users can print through Apple's AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, and PictBridge is also supported. Brother provides a variety of proprietary apps for the MFC-J485DW, as well. It measures 15.7 x 13.4 x 6.8 inches and weighs 16.8 pounds. The 1.8-inch display is on the small side.
Takeaway: The Brother MFC-J485DW offers a nice collection of features for a nice price, including a 20-sheet ADF, automatic duplexing, a built-in fax, and support for USB flash drives. However, its oh-so-slow printing is a sore spot for many users and may be a deal breaker for potential buyers.
HP Envy 5540 Review
From $72 Think Twice
The HP Envy 5540 is pretty slow at printing documents, but photos print quickly and the output quality is respectable. Reviewers say it guzzles ink, however, and there are better choices that cost less.
Pros: The HP Envy 5540 (starting at $72; available on Amazon) is a solid all-in-one printer with some nice features and a wide range of connectivity options. An expert from PCMag likes that the Envy 5540 has automatic duplexing and a 125-sheet input tray, which is larger than just about any other model in this price range, plus another 15-sheet photo tray. Photos print fast with the Envy 5540 compared with similar printers. The PCMag reviewer reports that the machine produced a 4 x 6 photo in only 53 seconds. The output quality was judged about average or a little better across the board.
Cons: In terms of its performance and output speeds, the HP Envy 5540 wavers between fast and slow depending on the task. In contrast to its speed with photos, the printer produces business documents rather slowly, PCMag says, at only about 2.1 pages per minute. Many users agree with this assessment, according to reviews on Amazon. We found many complaints about the Envy 5540 taking way too long to print documents, and even longer to copy and scan. Add to this several complaints about general "touchiness" with the machine, a frequent need to reset paper selections or reboot entirely, and more than a few reports of faulty units. Perhaps the biggest gripe, however, is that the Envy 5540 appears to be an ink guzzler. Top Ten Reviews notes that the ink for this printer can be expensive, and it uses a single tri-color ink cartridge, instead of separate tanks for each color. A consumer who posted a review on Amazon is among more than a few users who are put off by what they consider HP's "hard sell" tactics, such as pop-ups warning of low ink levels and pushing for enrollment in the company's Instant Ink refill program.
Features: The HP Envy 5540 has a maximum black-and-white resolution of 1200 x 1200 dots per inch and maximum color resolution of 4800 x 1200 dots per inch. HP says the printer's top speed is 12 pages per minute for black-and-white documents and 8 pages per minute for color. It supports automatic duplexing but does not include an automatic document feeder. It can work with an array of media types, including card stock, iron-on transfers, and transparencies. The scanner has an optical resolution of 1200 dots per inch, and 24-bit color depth.
Users can connect to the Envy 5540 via USB, Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi Direct. This printer supports Apple's AirPrint but does not list support for Google Cloud Print in its specifications. It's compatible with Windows operating systems from Windows XP and Mac OS X Mountain onward. The 2.2-inch display is touch-enabled.
Takeaway: The HP Envy 5540 has some strong points, such as fast photo printing and good output quality, but it's slower than most MFPs when it comes to printing business documents. The single tri-color ink tank is also off-putting, because it wastes ink and can run up costs. The HP Envy 5540 is a decent printer but may not be worth the price.
For frugal consumers, there is an obvious appeal to buying a multifunction printer: It can save on the cost of numerous visits to a copy center or separate machines that would otherwise crowd a home office. The best cheap all-in-one printers can copy, scan, and in some cases fax, as well as print, without costing much more than a stand-alone printer. We've researched the latest models and longstanding favorites, sorting through expert reviews and hundreds of user comments to determine which budget printers stack up to the demands of both everyday home use and small businesses with modest needs. With starting prices under $100, all our picks are inkjets, not laser printers, but they're all compact enough to sit on a desk or small table. They provide a range of connectivity options and features that appeal to consumers looking for high-quality text and photo printing, ease of use, and convenience in addition to a low price tag.
Choosing a Cheap All-in-One Printer
When shopping for a cheap all-in-one printer, assess your needs before making a selection. Some machines excel at printing text while others handle photos especially well. Any multifunction printer should be able to print to an array of common paper sizes, such as letter and legal, but many machines also print more unusual options such as A4, B5, and A6. Most users don't need a built-in fax or automatic document feeder, but you can find an all-in-one with those options at a competitive price. And no longer does a cheap printer have to plug into a computer. Today's models have wireless connection options and support for mobile devices.
Our research identified several cheap multifunction printers that meet users' expectations for value and performance. At the thrifty end of the market, printer heavyweights Brother, Canon, HP, and Epson hold dominant positions. We particularly favor two models that consistently produce excellent photo prints, the Canon Pixma MG5720 (starting at $69) and the Epson Expression Home XP-430 (starting at $60), which also has a wide selection of connection options. The Canon Pixma MG6820 (starting at $80) and HP OfficeJet 4650 (starting at $68) are two other good budget options.
The Brother MFC-J485DW (starting at $60) has a nice set of features at a low price, but its painfully slow performance turns off many buyers. The HP Envy 5540 (starting at $72) prints photos quickly, but its slow document printing and need for frequent ink replacement make this printer a less desirable option.
Of course, even the best cheap multifunction printers are not perfect in every dimension. At a budget price, you have to accept some weaknesses in performance or a lack of certain features. Low-cost all-in-one printers are generally slower than pricier models, especially when printing photos, and color document printing may not reach professional quality. High-end multifunction printers generally boast more built-in memory and much larger paper capacity. Bearing brand names such as Ricoh, Xerox, and Samsung, these upscale machines are designed for business use and deliver far more in the way of features and performance than a family, student, or home-office user would need.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
Multifunction Printer Reviews: What We Considered
In researching our picks, we favored multifunction printer reviews from sources such as CNET, PC Mag, and PC World, who put the machines through a variety of tests. These reviewers are experts at determining the quality of the output. Because they're familiar with so many models, they know what kind of performance and features to expect from a budget machine. We also read through reviews from consumers to get their firsthand perspectives on printers they've purchased. This sort of commentary became invaluable when evaluating a model like the Brother MFC-J485DW, which is widely available on shelves at Best Buy yet garners little expert feedback. It was primarily through the extensive commentary of scores of owners that we discovered that this printer, although pretty impressive on paper, provides users much less -- particularly in terms of convenience -- than they bargained for.
Text and Photo Printing.Although all-in-one printers can copy, scan, and sometimes fax, it's clear from multifunction printer reviews that most users rely on them more for printing text documents and photos than for any other purpose. That being the case, for both users and experts, print quality is the defining characteristic of a good budget multifunction printer, or MFP, as they're often called. A device that meets the mark produces sharp text that's easy to read, regardless of font size, as well as photos that are bright and crisp, with accurate color.
To get color printing at a budget price, inkjet MFPs are the only option, and while they lack some of the precision of laser printers for small text, they generally perform quite well when printing dark, clear text in standard sizes. The expert reviews we consulted had few complaints in this regard, and some reviewers were quite impressed with the text output from the inexpensive printers we recommend. The two Canon Pixma models, the MG5720 and MG6820, are said to produce client-ready documents that would satisfy most home business owners. Even printers that failed to impress us in other ways do well on this front. For example, Top Ten Reviews included the HP Envy 5540 in a comparison test and found that the print quality of business documents is well above average for cheap MFPs, with text that's very sharp and readable, even when using small fonts, and color graphics that are second to none. Unfortunately, the HP Envy 5540 is slow to print those documents.
Photos printed by the models we researched generally look pretty good as well, with lively colors and vivid detail. To get the best results, make sure the brand of photo paper you use matches the brand of printer you have, experts say. Printer manufacturers design their inks and papers to maximize quality when used together. For photo quality, the Canon printers again top the list. A Computer Shopper reviewer calls the Canon Pixma MG5720's photo quality truly impressive, with vibrant, accurate colors, and sharp detail -- the best among MFPs in this price range.
Surprisingly, the Canon Pixmas don't have the highest print resolution (measured in dpi, or dots per inch) among our top picks. That honor goes to the Epson Expression Home XP-430, which touts a pretty robust 5760 x 1440 dpi, as opposed to the Canons' 4800 x 1200 dpi. It just goes to show that high resolution shouldn't be a deciding factor in the purchase of an all-in-one printer. Experts say the dot size, shape, and placement play a role in how sharp a printout looks, and companies perform tests based on their own standards, so it's very difficult to determine whether you're comparing apples to apples when looking at printer resolution from two different manufacturers. Also, the type of ink and paper used can affect how text and images appear on the final page.
Copying and Scanning.As with printing, copying and scanning quality seems to be consistent across the best budget all-in-ones, although experts focus less attention on these two functions. The quality and speed of copies and scans should be on par with the print output. Text should be defined and dark, and colors should be true and rich. Scanners with higher bit numbers are generally able to "see" more color nuances and capture images with less noise. Consumers reviewing the Epson Expression Home XP-430 on Amazon were impressed with the quality of the scans coming from its 48-bit hardware, although the lack of an automatic document feeder (see below) can make the process of scanning multiple pages a bit tedious. Many consumers posting reviews on Amazon. also admire the scans from the 24-bit HP OfficeJet 4650, which they say are "crystal clear."
Speed.While the quality of both documents and photos earns praise from experts and consumers for almost every printer we reviewed, the speed of some printers was often panned. One metric that printer manufacturers like to fudge is the number of pages per minute, or ppm, a printer can spit out. Specs usually display the ppm for printing text at the lowest quality setting (draft quality), using only black ink. It's not uncommon to find cheap all-in-one printers that claim print speeds of 24 ppm or more. But for higher quality settings or color, the speed plunges to about 10 to 12 ppm for text and 3 to 4 ppm for graphics, or perhaps even slower.
In reviews on Best Buy.com, shoppers complain about how slowly the Brother J485DW prints documents, as do several consumers who posted reviews on the Brother website. More than one user claims that the printer takes as long as two minutes to put out a single sheet of black text. The HP OfficeJet 4650 is also relatively slow. Computer Shopper testers found that it averages only 1.4 ppm for business documents including graphics. However, the exceptional quality of those documents may very well be worth the wait.
According to PC Mag tests, the Canon Pixma MG6820 is one of the faster printers around when it comes to photo printing, taking only 52 seconds to serve up a great-looking 4 x 6-inch shot. Its speed when printing documents is a little bit slow, at 2.6 ppm, but certainly acceptable for most light home usage. (The Canon Pixma MG5720 prints a 4 x 6-inch photo in 54 seconds and averages the same speed as the MG6820 for documents.)
Interestingly, manufacturers including Canon have begun listing printer speeds in images per second, or ipm, as opposed to ppm. This metric, like ppm, is approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and many say ipm provides a more accurate standard for comparison across brands. It's based on the number of pages of a specific set of documents, containing both text and graphics, a printer can produce (at an ISO-defined default speed) in one minute.
Connectivity.It used to be rare to find a wireless multifunction printer for less than $100. Now all the models we researched boast wireless capabilities and support for mobile devices such as smartphones. If your household has more than one computer, wireless enables everyone to use the printer at once from anywhere in the home. Connecting to a home network was a serious hassle in the past, but these days, reviewers say it's pretty easy to connect a wireless all-in-one to a Wi-Fi network. You can still connect most multifunction printers to a PC by plugging in a USB cord. (The printers on our list are compatible with Windows operating systems going back to XP and recent versions of Mac OS X. Be sure to check the printer specs if you have an older computer. For newer operating systems, companies typically release updated drivers for download.)
A wireless printer should, ideally, provide a number of options for remote printing from mobile devices as well as computers. All the models we recommend are compatible with AirPrint, which lets users print directly from an Apple device without installing any printer software. Most also support Google Cloud Print. Many all-in-one manufacturers have additional apps available for printing documents from a smartphone or tablet. Examples are the Epson Connect app and Brother's iPrint & Scan.
Wi-Fi Direct lets users wirelessly connect directly to the printer with a smartphone or other mobile device without having to rely on a home network. All the printers we reviewed except the Canon models support Wi-Fi Direct in addition to normal Wi-Fi connectivity. (Canon has its own version of Wi-Fi Direct and can pair with enabled devices.) An all-in-one with a memory card reader lets users insert a camera card into the machine and print photos without the help of a computer. It's a convenient feature that we don't consider essential or necessarily worth extra money. Consumers who do a lot of photo printing can look to the Canon Pixma MG6820 to print directly from a memory card.
For consumers who want an affordable all-in-one with even more connectivity options, the slightly pricier Brother MFC-J885DW (starting at $100) is equipped with near field communication. Users with NFC-compatible mobile devices can simply bring them within inches of the printer to connect automatically. The Brother MFC-J885DW is also the only model featured here that has an Ethernet port, which is no longer common.
Color Ink Cartridges.Frugal shoppers will no doubt be concerned about the cost of printer ink. How much you spend on ink depends in large part on the type of printing and copying you do but also on the ink system. Some all-in-one printers, the HP Envy 5540 among them, have only two ink cartridges: one for black and one for color. If you run out of one color within that color cartridge, you have to replace the whole thing, even if there's still plenty of the other colors left. All-in-ones with multiple color cartridges are more cost-effective. Most of our picks use a combination of one black cartridge and three color cartridges. For high-quality black-and-white photos, the Canon Pixma printers add an additional black cartridge to the standard four.
Another way to save on ink costs is to buy "high-yield" cartridges. These often have more than twice as much ink as regular cartridges and cost less in the long run. For example, a standard black ink cartridge for the HP OfficeJet 4650 costs $16 from a source such as Office Depot and has a maximum yield of 190 pages. A high-yield ink cartridge for the same printer has a maximum yield of 480 pages but costs only $32, a savings of $8 over the equivalent of two and a half standard cartridges. Some other brands require bulk buys of at least two of the larger cartridges to make the savings significant, however. All our picks have high-yield ink cartridges available.
Automatic Paper Handling.A printer with automatic duplexing can print on both sides of a page to help save on paper costs. With the exception of the Epson Expression Home XP-430, the models we recommend support automatic double-sided printing.
Other automatic paper-handling features may make a difference to some consumers, particularly business users dealing with higher volume. Most cheap multifunction printers have a flatbed scanner where you open the lid and lay flat a single page you want to copy or scan, be it a document, photo, book or magazine page, or what have you. But some all-in-ones have automatic document feeders that churn through multiple pages without the user's intervention. So-called ADFs aren't particularly common in budget models, but two all-in-ones that include this convenience are the HP OfficeJet 4650 and Brother MFC-J485DW.
Display.Many budget MFPs now feature an LCD menu screen, not just buttons and flashing lights. Some even have a touchscreen. The 3-inch touchscreen on the Canon Pixma MG6820 is the largest among the printers we reviewed. The smallest is the 1.8-inch display on the Brother MFC-J485DW, which is also not a touchscreen. Some models let you print included templates straight from the LCD. The HP OfficeJet 4650 prints coloring books, calendars, fax cover sheets, and more. This is a feature that many users find appealing, but experts point out that it's in the best interest of the manufacturers to create more opportunities for printing and, in turn, more ink purchases. Some, such as the Epson Expression Home XP-430 and the Canon Pixma models, put the LCD to better use by allowing simple photo or document edits to be made directly on the screen.
Size.Printers typically aren't small machines, but some manufacturers make an effort to make MFPs as compact and lightweight as they can. Printers usually weigh between 10 and 14 pounds, but the Epson Expression Home XP-430 -- marketed as a Small-in-One -- weighs only 9 pounds and measures a mere 15.4 x 11.8 x 5.7 inches. The dimensions of the Brother MFC-J485DW aren't much larger, but it weighs a much heftier 16.8 pounds.
Additional Products We Considered
Brother MFC-J870DW Review
The strength of this printer is its features, according to Brother MFC-J870DW reviews, and not necessarily the quality of its text output or its speed. In testing by PC World, the Brother MFC-J870DW (starting at $100, Amazon) proved a little slow, with plain text printing at about 7.9 pages per minute and a color photo requiring almost two full minutes to print at "best" quality. The text output from this machine is about average for an all-in-one -- that is, it's not bad, but it could be sharper. The reviewer notes that color graphics printed from this machine look a little yellowish. Having said that, the Brother MFC-J870DW has just about every feature you could want in a home or small-office multifunction printer, including automatic double-sided or "duplex" printing, a memory card slot, an Ethernet port, and a touchscreen that impressed the PC World reviewer.
An expert at Digital Trends appreciates how easy it is to use the controls on the Brother MFC-J870DW. The 2.7-inch tilting touchscreen LCD is uncommon and useful, he says. Another unusual feature of this machine is its support for NFC, or near-field communication. With this option, users can wirelessly connect an NFC-capable smartphone directly to the printer. Additional connection options include Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and USB. This reviewer observes that, while documents printed on Brother-brand paper look fine, graphics printed on plain paper look dull. Photos printed from this all-in-one have excellent color accuracy and saturation.
The Brother MFC-J870DW uses a four-cartridge ink system. In draft mode, it prints at a maximum of 33 pages per minute in black and white and 27 ppm in color, according to the manufacturer. The maximum print resolution is 6,000 x 1,200 dots per inch. The copier takes advantage of a 20-page automatic document feeder and can also make stand-alone copies, so users don't have to go through a PC to make copies. This all-in-one can scan directly to an email, memory card, or USB flash drive. The included fax machine has a 200-page memory and prints at a rate of seven seconds per page. The Brother MFC-J870DW supports just about every paper type you can imagine, including letter, legal, A4, and most common photo sizes.
The Brother MFC-J870DW is pricier than the typical budget all-in-one, but it's loaded with features, including many not found on cheaper models. Its output quality is generally acceptable and photos look quite good. Although the printer is not especially fast, experts say it's quick enough.
HP Photosmart 7520 Review
The HP Photosmart 7520 (starting at $125, Amazon) is a bit pricier than a typical budget printer. It's designed to fall somewhere between a home printer and a small-business/home-office printer. In an HP Photosmart 7520 review at PC Mag, an expert praises the printer's overall features and abilities, which include a fax machine. A large, 4.33-inch touchscreen makes the interface easy to use. PC Mag tested the printer's speed at 3.7 pages per minute when printing business documents and only 1 minute, 7 seconds when printing a 4 x 6 photo, which the reviewer considers fast. The text quality is excellent, according to this HP Photosmart 7520 review, and photos look better than prints from a drugstore. The printer can also scan to and print from memory cards, another nice feature.
A CNET expert who reviewed this printer was impressed with the large color touchscreen. An automatic document feeder is another plus, although it holds only 25 sheets, which isn't enough for heavy workloads. This reviewer found that copies and scans show crisp, dark text, but copies of photos appear just a little blurry. In CNET's testing, text printed with the HP Photosmart 7520 appeared dark and sharp, and the color in photos was quite accurate.
In draft mode, the HP Photosmart 7520 can print up to 34 pages per minute of black text and 33 ppm in color, according to the specs, and up to 99 pages in one job. The maximum print resolution in color is 9,600 x 2,400 dots per inch. The HP Photosmart 7520 has five inkwells, including one black ink cartridge just for photos. The printer supports remote printing through Apple AirPrint and HP's ePrint. It can also use SD and MS Duo memory cards. The 125-sheet input tray is a little larger than that of most budget printers, and the machine includes a 20-sheet photo-paper input tray, along with the 25-sheet automatic document feeder. The HP Photosmart 7520 has an auto-duplexing feature for printing on both sides of the paper and prints standard sizes as well as more unusual paper sizes. Unlike many cheap all-in-one printers, this model includes a fax machine. The fax processes four pages per second and can store up to 101 pages and up to 99 fax numbers in its memory. Users can connect to the HP Photosmart 7520 using a USB port or a Wi-Fi connection, although this machine lacks an Ethernet port.
The HP Photosmart 7520 is a fine home printer with enough chops to double as an office printer. The lack of an Ethernet port is a bit disappointing at this price, but the other features and overall performance and output make up for that.
Epson Expression Home XP-410 Review
This printer is small but still manages to pack in some nice features, according to an Epson Expression Home XP-410 review from Digital Trends. The printer uses pigment-based inks, which are touted as fade- and smudge-resistant. The reviewer was impressed with the print quality overall and the dead-accurate color when printing graphics, but only when using Epson's own premium paper. Using regular, non-Epson paper produces mediocre prints, with colors that tend to look dark and muddy. Scans and copies display very accurate colors and look sharp, according to this review. Scans are faster than average, but color copying is slower than average. As for print speed, this expert measured the text output at 13 pages per minute in draft mode -- a decent rate.
A PC Mag expert admires the quality of printed text from the Epson Expression Home XP-410 (starting at $70, Amazon), which is very sharp and dark. The reviewer also likes the printer's small size. It's lighter than most all-in-one printers, at a mere 9 pounds (most machines are in the 17-pound range). Another bonus is the ability to print from and scan to memory cards, a convenience that's not especially common in cheap all-in-ones. The PC Mag reviewer says this printer's photo quality is on par with prints that you'd get at a local drugstore.
The Epson Expression Home XP-410 uses four pigment-based ink cartridges and has a maximum print resolution of 5,760 x 1,440 dots per inch. You can use the copier directly, with no need for a PC, to print up to 99 copies of standard letterhead. The Epson Expression Home XP-410 can use common paper sizes as well as A4 and 16:9 paper. The input tray has a 100-sheet capacity. The Expression Home XP-410 is Wi-Fi-enabled but doesn't have an Ethernet connection. Epson offers a free app for remote printing from a mobile device and also supports Apple's AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. The printer has a 2.5-inch touchscreen LCD.
If you're looking for a good all-in-one that doesn't take up a lot of space, the Epson Expression Home XP-410 could be it. Just make sure you stick with Epson-branded paper; otherwise the results may be less than spectacular.
Brother MFC-J885DW Review
Pros: The Brother Work Smart Series MFC-J885DW (starting at $100; available on Amazon) has more base features than any other printer we looked at, which certainly appeals to reviewers but is also reflected in its higher price. Top Ten Reviews reports that the printer was pretty fast in testing, producing black-and-white documents at 10 pages per minute and color graphics at 9 pages per minute. A 4 x 6 photo took just over a minute to print, which is just a little slow, but the color is quite good -- not the very best around but better than many top competitors. Likewise, the output from scans and copies is better than average. The MFC-J885DW supports SD and Memory Stick cards and has an Ethernet connection in addition to Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct. This MFP even boasts NFC touch-to-print technology for use with compatible smartphones and tablets. The fax machine is a nice extra for those who need it.
Cons: While a Digital Trends reviewer says the Brother MFC-J885DW prints fast, copying was painfully slow in the site's testing, requiring a whopping 8 minutes to copy just five pages of an Excel spreadsheet. Also, while it can print double-sided sheets, it's not capable of duplexing from the automatic document feeder, so pages printed on both sides must be scanned manually.
Features: The Brother MFC-J885DW uses four ink tanks. Brother rates its speed at 12 pages per minute for black-and-white documents and 10 pages per minute for color. Its maximum resolution is 6000 x 1200 dots per inch, and it supports borderless printing. The 20-sheet automatic document feeder is helpful for those who need to scan multiple pages at a time. The 30-bit scanner's maximum optical resolution is 2400 x 1200 dots per inch, and users can scan from memory cards, flash drives, or even email. The fax machine can send files directly from a computer -- no need to print them out -- and has a memory of up to 200 pages. The input paper tray holds up to 100 pages and the output tray holds 50. The printer supports automatic duplexing. Naturally, the MFC-J885DW supports standard paper sizes such as letter, legal, 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 5 x 8, and A4 to A6.
Users can connect to the printer via USB, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Ethernet, or even NFC. The printer also supports Apple's AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. Brother's iPrint & Scan app is available for iPhone and Android users. The MFC-J885DW has a 2.7-inch touchscreen display. It measures 15.7 x 13.4 x 6.8 inches and weighs 16.8 pounds.
Takeaway: The Brother MFC-J885DW may be worth a little extra money for users who need an affordable, versatile, full-featured MFP that includes a fax machine. The diverse connection and printing options, including the latest NFC technology, make it easy to print from a variety of devices. The printer is generally fast (except when copying), and its output across the board is better than average.