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 WORKHORSE | Lexmark Prevail Pro705 All-in-One
A lot can go wrong with a printer in five years, so I was glad to see that the Lexmark Prevail Pro705 features both a competition-besting half-decade warranty and lifetime phone support. This compact home-office printer, however, offers far more than peace of mind, with perks including simple wireless setup, paper-saving, automatic two-sided printing capability, and superb multitasking features that working families will love. Color photos and images grabbed off the Web printed surprisingly well – even if the printer’s 4800×1200 resolution and four-cartridge ink system are far from photo-lab quality. The retractable control panel – complete with big, well-labeled buttons and a 2.4″ LCD screen that I used to edit images on the fly – was incredibly easy to use. And the sheer volume of color documents the Pro705 handled during my time with it – as well as the relatively low ambient noise made by the printer itself, had me practically feeling guilty for putting the Pro705 through the paces. I’ll have to let you know in five years whether it’s still holding up this well, but if you’re looking for a solid combination of right-brain features with left-brain efficiency, the Lexmark Pro705 aims to please.