All-in-One Inkjet Printers
And the best multifunction machines are...
Group Test Much like the trend for mobile phones to have cameras, inkjet printers with scanners seems to be the norm these days. With all the models on test producing photo quality prints yet costing less than £150, you might think you’re getting something for nothing. Of course, along with the scanner doubling as a colour photocopier – and with some models you get a fax too – it’s all a ruse to get you to use more ink.
Certainly, inkjet printers have become more efficient with their ink consumption over the years, but little has changed regarding the cost of consumables since it was noted that champagne is a good deal cheaper than printer ink. Indeed, the reasons for choosing an inkjet over a colour laser are examined in the Buyer's Guide, as total cost of ownership is something that really to be needs to be weighed up with your intended printing tasks in mind.
Absent from this group test is Samsung, but that’s simply because the company has dropped out of the inkjet market, preferring to focus on producing laser printers instead. As you’ll see, even at this price point there’s some very healthy competition in the inkjet market and plenty of features to choose from.
- Brother MFC-490CW
- Canon Pixma MX350
- Epson Stylus SX610FW
- HP Officejet 6500
- Kodak ESP 7
- Lexmark Intuition S505
Which of these models - if any - will win a Reg Hardware Recommended and Editor's Choice awards? Find out when you review the results of our tests and read our conclusions at the end of the round-up.
But what we really need to know ...
is how they run after a year. Not just fresh out of the box.
The "real life" test would run the printers with non-original cartridges, having left them unattended for a couple of weeks - so the print heads dry out. Since these printers all have wireless connectivity, it would be handy to know just how good the reception was. It would also be helpful to know how easy it is to configure the wifi connection - could my old mum do it, for example?
I appreciate that all this would take time - some weeks and that it would be difficult to persuade the suppliers to let you hang on to them that long (though not as difficult as getting permission to use non-original ink in them, though everybody does this due to the extortionate cost of the manufacturers supplies). However, these are the things that matter to normal people in the real world. Not how quickly it spits out a page of text + diagrams, or a photo, for that matter.
If you like, I'll start you off. I've just "buried" a XXXXXXXX which is the previous model to the XXXXXXX in the survey. It was crap. Unreliable, drank ink like it was lager. The head-clean function consistently failed to do what it said on the box. After going through a complete set of colour cartridges, just trying to un-gum the blue channel, I enquired about getting a replacement print head for this 6 month old printer. The cost of doing this (not covered by warranty - natch) and the cost of 2 way shipping was more than the cost of a whole new printer. Which I now have, but I'm not ever buying another XXXXXX brand product.
Not fully relevant conclusions
In my experience over years with inkjet printers and all-in-ones with various clients - there are other factors which are relevant when buying and using them. For example you might be rating the Epson relatively high because it is fast - but I found inkjet Epson printers in general to be rather weaker machines then Brother and HP. They seem to develop mechanical faults easier - and their print heads just don't last very well. Also, many of the current generation all-in-one Epson's are really clunky and noisy - they just feel really cheaply built inside. Another gripe I have against Epson printers is their cartridge chipping system - which seem to go wrong so many times. Compatible or original cartridges not being recognised correctly or at all, printers of the same model, but with several different generation of cartridge chipsets - so if your printer was manufactured before a certain month, only some chipped cartridges work - while after a certain month - other generation of chips work. And we are talking about the same model here.
On the other hand - the HP might look good when comparing the price of original cartridges - and they are indeed on average sturdier printers then other inkjets. But the fact that the cartridge includes the printhead on their consumer grade inkjets - which makes it impossible to replicate by other companies - is an important factor. It means you will always be limited to original cartridges, or refills - and refills can be problematic - as the printing head can dry out, or the person who used the cartridge before you might have refilled it already several times and the printing head on the cartridge is worn out etc.
All-in-all - I found Brother inkjet printers/all-in-ones the best compromise. They seem to be stronger and last better then both Canon and Epson printers. I have used them at clients for years with compatible (brand new) cartridges without any visible side effects. Their Windows software and driver support is perfectly good. Not so good if you want to use them with Linux. I haven't managed to get any of them working with Linux yet - but there is supposed to be some support. All the current ones that I know of can scan over network - which is nice. And if you buy one of the ones which take cartridges from the LC900 (mostly discontinued), LC1000 or LC1100 series, you can easily find cheap brand new, non-original replacements for very little. The supplier I currently use (available on the internet) charges £2.99 for a full, 4 cartridge set. It will make a huge difference in running costs, specially when printing photos. And yes, you might say that my printer is going to last 3.75 years instead of 4, because I've used non-original ink - but by then, I would have saved enough money on ink to buy another 4 printers - so who's winning and who's loosing here?
And a note on the above comment(s) about HP printing and scanning software. I agree. It seems like the HP department in charge of printer/scanner software is hell bent on destroying the one which actually makes the printers. The printers are quite decent, strong, fairly well performing. On the other hand, the software is bloated, buggy, and worse of all - the updates keep on breaking working installations. So many times I had calls from clients with HP printers or scanners which either have stopped working - or entire functions have disappeared from their software. Just to discover that HP Update has done the deed. I always uninstall HP Update as soon as I install an HP printer or scanner. Then you will be ok.
There you go - that should round up nicely that review.
>>All I will say is II'm heartily siek'o that manufacturer.
I'm with you all so far...
I have several Epson (oops) printers and scanners that run for years!
This week, an Epson CX4800 AIO has finally given up due to heads finally being blocked and after over 50 quid of ink to try and clear it AND using head cleaner cartridges it is still blocked, so it's "going away" after good service for three times the design life of the thing.
Apart from my Windowz PC's, we have a Linux (Ubuntu 8.04) netbook and it has always been a problem getting anything Epson to work properly with it.
Funny that, as a really old HP PSC1200 printer and yesterday, I just plugged it in and CUPS recognised it, auto installed the driver and it just worked!
Just wanted to add
I will echo that comment about Epson noise - I had one client who was given one - obviously it was built down to a price and the noise it made confirmed that. After 10 minutes of using it , he was ready to throw it out of the window!.
With regard to Brother, they appear to be very reliable machines, and reasonably priced - but my clients will not buy them because they look so ugly.
And yes, who needs fax anymore? My fax sytem went about 4 years ago and no-one has complained that they can't fax me or i can't fax them.
More for Canon
I've installed 6 Canon AIOs this last 6 months - all of them MP560. I would say that the wifi connection can be done by anyone who can read instructions and knows what OK is likely to mean (and knows what the WEP/WPA for their router is. Suprisingly many non-techie people don't !)
On macs they can scan and print wirelessly - it seems that some AIOs won't scan wirelessly, but I've not come across a Canon that can't)
My own Canon printers are still gpoing strong after many years. An A3 that is almost 10 years old and a newer (relatively) A4 that spits out full colour photos at an alarming rate.
In my consultancy work I come across all the printer makes and I find more folks throwing out Epsons than any other brand.
Have you noticed that lots of people can't say Epson. They tend to say Epsom.