Babble Best Picks:
Today's home printers are multitasking machines, packed with features that let us wirelessly share content; produce lab-quality photos; and even dock and charge other devices, in addition to cranking out the expected homework pages and work presentations. Getting all these features, of course, can eat into a family's budget - so while we considered plenty of world-class, $1000-and-up laser printers, we ultimately settled on the old family standby: the mid-priced color inkjet. Easy to use and equip (every printer here, as well as its replaceable ink cartridges, had to be readily available in stores and online), the inkjet comes in hundreds of variations that fit every category a family could ever want. Here, we give you the eight best.
BEST PC-FREE PRINTER | HP Photosmart eStation C510a
It won't replace your iPad or Samsung Galaxy, but the detachable 7-inch tablet on HP's splurge-priced print/scan/copy "solution" will give you the flexibility to grab - and print - content from any room in the house. Though set up was a bit labor-intensive - the tablet's responsiveness only felt smartphone-worthy after I downloaded updates through its built-in dock - the Zeen, as HP's device is known, soon became my family's favorite diversion. Running a skinned version of Android 2.1 (albeit without Android Market access), the Zeen offers both a superb e-reader and a suite of specially-designed apps ranging from Facebook and Coupons.com to Crayola and Sesame Street kids' activities. Everything the Zeen handles, of course, is printable - although the tablet does let you store up to 32GB worth of content on its expandable MicroSD slot. While wireless printing lagged a bit on my home network, color print quality was stellar, especially on photos. I also love that the printer ships with a reusable tote bag - although considering the dimensions (17.7 x 18 x 9.7 inches), its unclear where you'd ever want to take the thing.
BEST CRAFT PRINTER | Epson Artisan 725 Series All-in-One
This petite all-in-one offers fast print speeds and rich, gorgeous output comparable to what you’ll find in Epson’s professional-quality 810 and 835 series, but at a much smarter price. The only noticeable compromise on the 725 is a much smaller (2.5″) LCD screen; however, thanks to the big, brightly lit buttons on the printer’s retractable control panel, I had no trouble navigating the controls. Easy wireless setup and software installation had me ready to get crafty in minutes, at which point I was overwhelmed by the possibilities. CDs printed beautifully, the kids’ 3-D paper models (all downloaded from Epson’s CreativeZone) and book covers rolled off the assembly line in seconds, and Epson’s archival-quality Claria inks produced hi-res decals, scrapbook pages and photos that I anticipate will outlive me. (Decal paper, incidentally, is not included.) Though it’s sized like a standard letter/A4 printer, the 725 also accommodates legal-sized prints, so iron-on transfers and fabric prints – which generally require that you secure your medium to a heavier surface (Loomtack, for instance) before running it through the inkjet – proved equally seamless. Of course, novice crafter that I am, I had to adjust the printer’s ink settings to a lower resolution to stop some of the bleeding.