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 HOME PHOTO LAB | Canon PIXMA MG6120 Wireless Photo All-in-One
Canon’s photo-lab quality PIXMA line does offer one higher-priced model (the MG8120, but considering the minor sacrifices you make with the MG6120 (namely: lack of 35mm film capability and a half-inch smaller LCD screen), the nearly $100 price difference makes the “best” tag a no-brainer. Incredibly easy to operate thanks to a unique (and gorgeous) lighted touch-control system built into its surface, the MG6120 easily sets up over a network and offers a rich software package that makes printing photos, movies, calendars and albums a breeze. Photos, of course, are what the MG6120 does best, and with its 9600×2400 color resolution and six-ink system (complete with gray cartridge) the MG6120 quickly became my go-to for both color and black-and-white prints. My kids loved Canon’s Creative Park website, on which they found dozens of Halloween projects ranging from greeting cards to 3-D paper crafts. I, on the other hand, loved getting lost in the MG6120′s photo capabilities – including the ability to print both shots from my iPhone (it also works with iPod) and individual frames from high-definition movies. The latter feature, of course, only works if you have a Canon EOS Digital SLR or PowerShot camera, so consider my holiday shopping list updated accordingly.