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 FOR THE HOME OFFICE | Brother Professional Series MFC-6490CW
Holy big, Batman. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, Brother’s MFC-6490CW will remind you of those behemoths that used to sit at the end of your cubicle row. But the wide-format printer – which scans, copies and prints at sizes up to 11×17 inches – has big features to match its formidable size. During the day, it’ll be your chief marketing officer, able to knock out full-color posters and presentations at high volume, thanks to two paper-input trays that give you a total of 400 available sheets. The MFC-6490CW handles photo paper, but I quickly discovered that high-resolution photos aren’t this printer’s forte. Text, graphs and illustrations, however, came out crisp and colorful, and homework (in my son’s case, an 11×17 clip-art collage) printed seamlessly on heavyweight paper. The MFC-6490CW also features a large, robust control panel -though, due to its tiny LCD screen, the steps to wireless setup were a bit hard to follow. Once the printer was up and running, however, prints, faxes and print sharing (I used it on two printers, with two different operating systems) were a breeze.