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Multifunction printers review

Multifunction printers are convenient and versatile, but which are better value - and best for your needs?
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01.Introduction

Person waits eagerly for printer to print

In this report, we take a close look at 60 multifunction printers (also known as 'AIOs', or all-in-ones) – inkjets and lasers, both colour and mono. See Brands and models tested, below. Half of them cost less than $200, but don't let that fool you: the purchase price is a small proportion of the cost of ownership. Printer ink for inkjet printers is one of the most expensive fluids on earth, and the toner used by laser printers is expensive too. That's why we look at the total cost over three years. And for the first time, we've included an assessment of the ink used by inkjet printers in their cleaning cycle. The results may surprise you.

Modern printers are sophisticated pieces of technology and they can produce impressive results, but that comes at a cost. When not in use, inkjet printers can accumulate air in the ink cartridges and dried ink or dust on the print heads. If they've not been used for a while they perform a cleaning cycle before printing, which itself uses ink. For most of the inkjets in this report (except those we tested before we introduced this test) we've measured this excess use over a three-week period of low use, and report on the percentage of excess ink used as a result. You can find details of this testing in How we test.

Laser printers don't have a corresponding cleaning cycle, and our measurements show no significant increase in the amount of toner used when the printer is used infrequently. But there may be other costs associated with lasers that we haven't included in the three-year calculation. Laser printers work by electrically charging a rotating drum, then using a laser to 'write' on the drum by dispelling the charge. Particles of toner with an opposite charge are released and adhere to the drum where the charge has been removed by the laser. They're then transferred to the paper and fixed in place, or fused, by a heated roller. The drum and the fuser unit will need replacing periodically. While a toner cartridge might print hundreds or even thousands of pages before it needs to be replaced, the drum will last much longer (see Compare printers). There's more detail of these costs in the section Costs of ownership.

Choosing between an inkjet printer and a laser printer depends on how you intend to use your printer. Inkjets require no warm-up time and can print glossy pictures on photo paper, but they do use extra ink in the cleaning cycle when they're not used frequently, and paper output can smear when wet, for example, when you use a highlighter. Laser printers, on the other hand, literally need to warm up, can't print on photo paper and generally don't have such vibrant colours, but they can work out cheaper for normal printing.

But the choice of laser or inkjet is only the first decision:

  • Do you really need colour? A monochrome laser will be much cheaper to buy and to run.
  • Do you need the scanning and copying features of a multifunction printer, or is a standard printer – and perhaps a separate low-cost scanner – sufficient?
  • Do you need extra features such as double-sided printing, A3 paper support, photo-printing from memory cards and wireless networking?
  • How important is printing speed and quality of the print-out? Our section on What to look for will help you decide.

For many purposes, printing it yourself may not even be the best option – there are many bureaux and services that can print photos and albums, or even copy colour documents, much more cheaply (see our Guide to going paperless).

You'll find our comparison of all the printers tabulated in Compare printers – there are now more than 70 factors in the table for you to consider – and What to buy tells you which printers did best in our tests.

Brand and models

Inkjet printers

  • Brother DCP-J152W
  • Brother DCP-J4110DW
  • Brother DCP-J552DW
  • Brother DCP-J752DW
  • Brother MFC-J4410DW
  • Brother MFC-J4510DW
  • Brother MFC-J470DW
  • Brother MFC-J4710DW
  • Brother MFC-J650DW
  • Brother MFC-J6520DW
  • Brother MFC-J6720DW
  • Brother MFC-J6920DW
  • Brother MFC-J870DW
  • Canon Pixma MG2560
  • Canon Pixma MG3560
  • Canon Pixma MG5560
  • Canon Pixma MG6460
  • Canon Pixma MG7160
  • Canon Pixma MP230
  • Canon Pixma MX396
  • Canon Pixma MX475
  • Canon Pixma MX536
  • Canon Pixma MX726
  • Canon Pixma MX926
  • Epson Expression Home XP-100
  • Epson Expression Home XP-200
  • Epson Expression Home XP-410
  • Epson Expression Photo XP-950
  • Epson Workforce Pro WF-5690
  • Epson WorkForce WF-2510
  • Epson WorkForce WF-3620
  • Epson WorkForce WF-3640
  • Epson WorkForce WF-7510
  • Epson WorkForce WF-7620
  • HP Deskjet 1510
  • HP Deskjet 2540
  • HP ENVY 4500
  • HP ENVY 5530
  • HP Officejet 2620
  • HP Officejet 4630
  • HP Officejet 7500A Wide Format e-AIO
  • HP Officejet Pro 276dw
  • HP Officejet Pro 8610
  • HP Officejet Pro 8620
  • HP Officejet Pro 8630
  • HP Officejet Pro X476dw

Colour laser printers

  • Brother MFC-L8850CDW
  • DELL C1765nfw
  • DELL C2665dnf
  • HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M476dw
  • HP Colour LaserJet Pro MFP M177FW
  • HP LaserJet Pro 200 color MFP M276nw
  • Samsung Color Xpress C1860FW
  • Samsung SL-C460FW

Mono laser printers

  • Brother DCP-1510
  • DELL B1163w
  • DELL B1165nfw
  • HP LaserJet Pro 400 M425dn
  • Samsung Xpress M2070FW
  • Samsung Xpress M2885FW
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