Best printers for the money

September 30, 2010 3:33:26 PM PDT
When you're shopping for a new printer, of course the price is important. But a cheap price doesn't guarantee you'll save money. If you are tempted to buy cheap, it may actually end up costing you more in the long run. That's because if you use a lot of ink, you know it can quickly add up.

Mike Traina sells printer ink cartridges and says his customers often experience sticker shock.

"They're blown away by the cost of the inks," said Traina.

That's why how much you'll end up spending on replacement cartridges is an important consideration. Consumer Reports tests more than 100 printers every year.

"Often, cheaper printers can cost you a lot to run. So a low-purchase price doesn't necessarily mean you're going to save money overall," said Terry Sullivan of Consumer Reports.

Testers print thousands of black-and-white pages, as well as color, to see how many each printer can churn out on one ink cartridge.

They use this information to calculate the cost per page for each machine. Some print pages for as little as a penny, while others cost more than eight cents a page.

Consumer Reports also prints pages of text and graphics to assess clarity and overall quality.

"We look for things like crispness of the lines, the sharpness of the numeric characters, the smoothness of the gray scale," said Dean Gallea of Consumer Reports.

"We also print photos to see how well the printers can represent bright colors and clear definition," said Sullivan.

Testers also assess speed by timing each printer down to the second to see how quickly it gets the job done. The best delivered 13 pages a minute. The worst delivered only three.

In the end, Consumer Reports found a few all-in-one printers that hit the sweet spot. They're inexpensive to purchase and run.

Testers recommend a Dell model V-715-W for $120. You can also use it as a scanner and copier.

If you don't need to make copies or scan documents, Consumer Reports says a good single-function printer is the HP Photosmart D-7560. It costs just $100 and delivers very good text and excellent photo quality.

The Dell is Wi-Fi ready, but for the HP printer, you will have to buy optional hardware to be connected to Wi-Fi.


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