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 YOUR BUDGET | Canon PIXMA MP280 All-in-One
If money is tight and quality is a must, the MP280 is among the sharpest budget models you’ll find. Like all PIXMA wireless printers, it easily sets up over your home network and includes a great software package that makes it easy to print everything from photos to full-color calendars. If I hadn’t been spoiled by the PIXMA MG6120 during this test, I would’ve been more wowed by the photos – no matter what their maximum resolution, Canon’s ultra-fine print heads do a remarkable job of packing crisp resolution into every ink droplet. I was also impressed that the MP280 includes HD movie print, which lets you grab frames from home videos and convert them into snapshots. Of course, you’ll need a Canon camera to realize this feature, but with the money you save on the printer, you might just have enough left over to make the splurge.