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 SMALL WONDER | HP ENVY 100 e-All-in-One
Like the HP Photosmart eStation featured elsewhere in this guide, the HP Envy 100 e-All-in-One comes with its own email address that allows you to print virtually anything from virtually anywhere you find yourself taking photos or grabbing printable content. The Envy 100′s real appeal, however, is aesthetic: Though my family cranked out dozens of high-quality (4800×1200 resolution) color snapshots during our time with the printer, we were just as wowed by the Envy’s petite frame and urbane looks. (From a distance, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a Bose compact stereo system.) You won’t print an excess of school projects or PTA handouts on the Envy 100, due to a modest paper tray that handles just 80 sheets at a time; but for small jobs that call for more than basic inkjet paper, the printer also handles labels, cardstock, iron-on transfers and envelopes. It’s also unique for being the world’s first PVC-free printer, and like the Photosmart eStation, it also ships in a reusable bag that further helps to curb your environmental impact.