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How We Tested
  • 16 Models Considered
  • 5 Models Tested
  • 68 Hours Spent
  • 8 Experts Interviewed
  • 142 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for the Best Inkjet Printers

    Are you looking for a new inkjet printer? With hundreds of models vying for your cash — many of them with an appealing low price — it’s hard to know which printer to choose.

    At BestReviews, we want to help you sort through these tough purchasing decisions. You can count on us to point you in the right direction every time you’re faced with a choice between products. We interview experts, study consumer data, and test products in our labs in order to identify the top five contenders in any given category. And we never accept free samples from manufacturers, as our goal is to provide honest, unbiased product reviews you can trust.

    After many hours of research, we identified the top five inkjet printers available to consumers. Each delivers an unrivaled combination of features, performance, and price. You can read about our favorite inkjet printers in the product matrix, above.

    For an in-depth look at the important criteria that guided our research, please read the full review that follows.

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    How Inkjet Printers Work

    Inkjet printers fire tiny amounts of liquid ink onto paper. Some machines heat the ink and shoot it through a nozzle; others use a piezoelectric crystal to push the ink through at high velocity.

    Colored inkjet printers fire several different inks onto the same spot. The total number of inks used by an inkjet varies from 4 to 12, with 4 being the most common.

    Even the cheapest inkjet printers can deliver impressive results. But the images created by high-end models can be downright spectacular, with literally millions of different colors.

    Inkjet or Laser

    Which is better, an inkjet printer or a laser printer? Consumers frequently ask this question.

    The answer depends on what you plan to create with your printer. If you want the sharpest text and finest lines possible, you should probably opt for a laser printer. The microscopic particles of toner used by a laser printer produce more detail than even the best inkjet printer.

    But the exceptional precision of a laser printer can actually be drawback at times. This is most obvious with images — photographs in particular.

    • With a laser printer, there’s a certain “graininess” to art and photos, no matter how fine the dots are.

    • With an inkjet printer, the ink is still wet when it hits the paper, and the dots blur slightly. That might sound like a negative, but when it comes to art and photos, it isn’t. The blur gives the impression of continuously changing tones, so visuals exude more vibrant colors and greater depth.
    EXPERT TIP

    If you’re creating lots of reports and technical documents, a laser printer is a good choice. But for most home-base consumers, an inkjet printer is a more practical option


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Considerations

    What should you take into consideration when selecting an inkjet printer? Below are some of the factors we looked at when evaluating our top five choices.

    Considerations

    Connectivity Options

    Every inkjet printer worth its price tag will print from your desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone — and many do. Some also have SD card slots. An SD card slot enables you to do things like print photos straight from your camera.

    Considerations

    Multiple Functions

    In addition to printing, many inkjet printers offer the added convenience of scanning and copying. Some machines don't offer faxing capabilities, but that’s not something many people need anymore.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some inkjet printers offer the ability to send faxes. Whether you need this service or not depends on your situation.

    Considerations

    Print Speed

    Print speed varies among inkjet models. Whether speed matters to you or not depends on the amount of printing you do.

    If you print large quantities, then waiting for a slow machine to spit out individual sheets could be frustrating.

    Some entry-level products put out only four or five pages per minute (ppm) in color and nine or ten ppm in black & white. That said, spending a bit more doesn’t always guarantee faster speed.

    Printers with more than four inks — and printers with higher resolutions — can slow things down.

    EXPERT TIP

    In terms of speed, an inkjet printer that can manage up to 20 ppm (color) and 24 ppm (black & white) is impressive by any standard.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    Considerations

    Print Quality

    Even cheap inkjet printers do a surprisingly good job with text, graphics, and photos. If you want an inkjet with maximum print quality, here are two things to look for:

       •    Higher print resolution

       •    More inks

    An inkjet with a high print resolution is likely to capture the fine details that other printers miss.
    Considerations

    Paper Tray

    If you only print a few sheets at a time, a low-cost inkjet printer with a small paper tray would probably suit you just fine. But if you print in bulk, you’d likely appreciate a paper tray with a greater capacity. Price and paper tray size don’t always go in hand, though. In the course of our research, we found mid-priced inkjet printers with excellent paper tray capacities of 250+.

    Considerations

    Auto-Feed Duplexing

    If productivity matters to you, consider a printer with auto-feed duplexing. This feature allows you to create multi-page documents quickly. Without it, you’d have to print/scan/copy one side and then manually flip the pages over in order to print on the other side.

    EXPERT TIP

    An inkjet printer with a high number of inks is likely to create more colors, and thus more variation in tone, than some other printers.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    Considerations

    Paper Size

    Some inkjet printers can only handle standard paper sizes. If you need to print on multiple paper sizes for business purposes or other reasons, check the specs before investing in a printer. Some business-focused printers can accommodate a wide variety of paper sizes, including cards and envelopes.

    Considerations

    Copying and Scanning

    If you need to copy or scan only occasionally, doing one sheet at a time isn’t too onerous. But in a small business environment, this one-sheet-at-a-time approach could bog you down. An inkjet printer with a duplex copying and/or scanning facility could prove advantageous. However, machines with these capabilities tend to cost more than entry-level models.

    Scanning resolution varies from one inkjet printer to the next. Although a resolution of 600 x 600 dpi and above would suit most owners, the best inkjet printers on the market have a resolution of at least 1,200 x 2,400 dpi.

    Price

    Although you could buy an inkjet inkjet printer for as little as $30, we recommend spending just a little more. Right now, the market offers plenty of highly rated printers with a wealth of features for about $50.

    As good as those $50 inkjet printers are, however, we want consumers to realize that the models in this price bracket are generally designed for low-volume use at home. Stepping up to something that could handle the printing needs of a large family and/or small office would probably cost about $100. In this price range, you can find great all-rounders with features like automatic duplexing, auto-feed for copying, scanning, and faxing.

    Moving a bit higher on the pricing scale, you’ll find big, impressive machines that can handle everything you demand of them. Happily, you can find a machine of this caliber for under $200.

    Professionals who seek a specialist photographic color inkjet printer could easily spend several thousand dollars on a good machine. That’s a lot of money, but the visual results are truly spectacular.

    EXPERT TIP

    Most inkjet printers offer an ink-saving mode. This mode may be called “Draft” or “Low-Resolution.” If you’re watching your ink expenditures, a print option like this could save you money.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    • If you're struggling to decide between two similar printers, we recommend that you opt for the printer with higher performance standards. You'll never be disappointed with extra abilities or capacity, but you might grow frustrated with a printer that doesn’t do quite enough.

    • For high-quality prints, use paper that is specifically designed for an inkjet printer. This applies to photos in particular. The best printer paper is that which hails from the same manufacturer as your printer. The reason: this paper is designed to work with your printer’s ink chemistry.

    • If you print lots of photos, consider a machine with “borderless” printing. But pay attention to the paper sizes it can accommodate. Some printers that advertise borderless prints can only print to smaller sheets.

    • If your printed pages come out with white lines across them, it’s time to clean the printer nozzles.

    • Refer to your printer's manual for instructions on cleaning and maintenance.

    • A piezoelectric crystal is a green energy source that generates electricity under pressure. This technology is frequently used in electric cigarette lighters. It’s found in some inkjet printers, too.

    • A resolution of 2,400 x 4,800 is an excellent prospect, but a printer of this type creates noticeably larger files that print slowly. If image detail is a high priority for you, though, it’s probably worth it.

    • Some inkjet printers are Energy Star compliant. These models consume less energy, thereby saving you money.

    • Some inkjet printers are surprisingly large. If your workspace is tight, check its dimensions before you make a purchase — and don't forget to allow room for the paper delivery tray if it folds down.

    • When looking at scanners, check the “optical” resolution; it's what the printer actually “sees.” Interpolated resolution is done with software, but if the original scan isn't good, interpolation has its limits.
    Some printers take two cartridges: one black and one color. Others take individual cartridges for each ink. The theory is that it's cheaper to replace a single color, but buyer beware: some printers won't work at all if one color is empty.

    FAQ

    Q. Can I really rely on the ppm stats given by the printer manufacturer? For example, if the box says it prints 24 pages per minute, is that guaranteed?

    A. Manufacturer print speeds are useful for comparison, but they’re not necessarily accurate in the real world. The number of pages your printer can put out per minute depends, in large part, on the content of the page. Text prints much faster than a full-page photograph, for example.

    Q. I’ve seen printer specs that quote dpi and others that quote ppi. What are these terms referring to?

    A. Both dpi (dots per inch) and ppi (pixels per inch) figures reflect the printer’s resolution quality. The higher the number, the better the quality. However, dpi and ppi are not quite the same. A full explanation is too complex to go into here, but the takeaway is this: when comparing products, you should only compare dpi to dpi and ppi to ppi.

    Q. I’ve seen some ink cartridge refills for sale that are much cheaper than the manufacturer’s ink cartridges. Is this a wise buy?

    A. The problem with ink cartridge refills is that you never know for sure what you’re buying until you’ve spent your money. The ink quality might be fine, but it might not be fine. What’s more, if you were to use a remanufactured ink cartridge and something went wrong with the printer, you could invalidate your warranty.

    Skip the print store and use your inkjet printer at home to make high quality photos.
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    2 DIY Projects With Your Inkjet Printer

    DIY Project

    Printing on Burlap

    Materials you will need: burlap, cardstock, ruler, X-Acto knife, computer, inkjet printer

    1. Measure out your piece of burlap to 8.5" by 11". Use the X-Acto knife to cut it.
    2. Repeat with the card stock.
    3. Use the masking tape to affix the burlap to the card stock.
    4. Make sure your printer settings are set to Heavy Duty.
    5. Gently feed the burlap/card stock through the printer.

    Use this DIY to make customized burlap bags, wall decor and more!

    DIY Project

    Temporary Tattoos

    Materials you will need: tattoo paper, credit card, scissors, computer, inkjet printer

    1. Design your tattoos on your computer.
    2. Print them onto the tattoo paper.
    3. Lay the adhesive sheet on top and use a credit card to smooth.
    4. Cut out the tattoo with scissors.
    5. Place the tattoo on your arm and gently rub with a wet paper towel for 30 seconds.
    6. Slowly peel the tattoo off.
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