Without question, the printer is the most despised product in any home or office. Too many morning routines have gone from coffee and meetings to paper jam fixes and emergency ink cartridge purchases.
We’ve had enough.
We gathered specifications, features, and expert reviews for over 700 printers in order to pick three safe bets in three categories: home, small business, and photo. Yes, we’d all love to pretend printers never existed: but for now, we’re stuck with the damn things. We might as well make the best of it.
The best home printers are like great NFL kickers: consistent, low-drama, and reliable in the clutch. Even if the occasional attempt comes out looking a little wobbly, it’s the end result that’s important.
Epson Expression Home XP-410 – The Old Stand-By
The XP-410 is the ideal pick for customers who only print 10-15 times per year—a product with surprisingly high print-quality for such a low price. Granted, none of its specifications are particularly impressive (and the cartridges aren’t cheap), but like your dad’s 20-year-old pick-up, it’ll get the job done, and done well, even if it’s covered in cobwebs for half the year.
Canon Pixma MX922 – The Jack-of-All-Trades
Powerful enough to serve a home office but compact enough to slide into a file cabinet, the MX922 is a home printer designed to do a little of everything. It’s a bit slow (at 15 pages per minute, half the average) but given its price, print-quality, and jack-of-all-trades capabilities, it’s worth a serious look.
Brother MFC-J4610DW – The Household Prodigy
Technically marketed as a small business choice, the MFC-J4610DW is a sneakily good pick for your house. It’s got almost all the capabilities of an efficient company printer at a price point friendly to consumers (though its copying speed is a tad slow). Snap it up today as a family device, then turn it into your office printer once you finally start that homemade ice cream business you’ve always dreamed about.
When you bought your first home printer, you correctly tuned out the Best Buy sales rep as he prattled on about auto-duplexing, monthly page counts, and low-vs-high speed print settings. Well wake up, Gutenberg: this stuff actually matters for small businesses.
HP Officejet Pro 276dw MFP – The Start-Up
With a sub-$400 price tag, you might expect the 276dw to come with a catch, but HP’s popular Officejet proves to be a feisty little printer, particularly with scanning (an above-average 4,800 vertical dots per inch) and faxing (a respectable 4 seconds per page). That said, if you have some serious, high-volume printing needs, consider a more expensive option.
OKI MC362w – The IPO
Like a regular-sized Quiznos sandwich or grande Starbucks coffee, the MC362w is medium-priced, medium-featured, and above all, safe. Nothing about this $500 all-in-one printer will surprise you—either good or bad. But in the world of scanning, copying, and photo-printing, that’s high praise.
HP LaserJet Pro MFP M521dn – The Fortune 500
It’s a pricey pick, but it boasts impressive stats in both speed (42 pages per minute) and max monthly duty (75,000 pages). If your small business tends to go through paper like beach balls at a One Direction concert, snap this printer up now.
Unlike basic text printing—where speed, collation, and duplexing are critical—photo printing is all about quality, making 3/4 of a standard office printer’s capabilities irrelevant. Here are three solid printers designed specifically for producing quality photos, rather than reams of black-and-white text.
Canon Pixma MG5420 – Mr. Finger Paint
For the real penny-pincher, the MG5420 is a good photo-oriented, bargain bin fall-back, capable of printing a decent shot from Senior Prom next to that eight-page English final. Dig up a little loose change from the couch, then order one for you and one for your date.
Canon Pixma iP8720 – The Art Major
The iP8720 is the MG5420 with a better smile, five years more work experience, and a Master’s degree from a modest state university. You wouldn’t guess it at a glance, but the iP8720 prints a fine-looking image, likely worth the extra $100-$200 above its cheaper, simpler brother.
Epson Stylus Pro 3880 – Picasso
Experts say the 3880 produces great quality for the money, particularly for the aspiring novice photographer looking to turn pro. If you’re selling your images for money, this is a good place to start. If all you do is post beach pics of your kid on the family fridge, save your money.
This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.
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