Current trends: Wi-Fi, touchscreen interfaces and double-sided printing
Wi-Fi technology is now a stable and widespread feature in printers. Most of the initial compatibility issues have been ironed out. You can therefore print remotely and wirelessly with the greatest of ease. However, Wi-Fi is still only really found in mid-range or high-end models.
The next big trend is double-sided printing. It's not an option found only on professional printers, as home users too can save paper by printing double-sided. The downside, though, is that duplex printing is much slower and often louder, because the motor has to flip the page over.
Finally, touchscreen interfaces are beginning to sweep away the sea of buttons that control the advanced functions on high-end printers. They make them easier to use—you don't need to hunt out the right button, as the default option is highlighted right in the centre of the screen.
The most recent printers produce better-quality documents, create less noise and work more quickly than their predecessors. In practice, speeds have doubled over the past two or three years. Running costs are also falling, and manufacturers often provide a choice of standard cartridges (cheaper to buy but more expensive overall) or XL cartridges (more economical; you sometimes print twice as many pages for a lower price).
So, if you have a printer that's beginning to show its age and with pricey cartridges, then—without wanting to encourage over-consumption—we do think it's a good idea to consider upgrading. Not only will you save money on cartridges (you can check the cost per page in our reviews), but you'll also often get a free set with the printer. That can already represent a big saving compared to buying a complete set of cartridges for an out-of-date printer. And don't give your old printer away—it won't make a very good present—recycle it instead.
One last thing: in the past, we used to compare printers with a fixed print head with those that included a disposable print head in the same unit as the cartridge. Lexmark and HP used to favour the latter system, but they've now joined Canon, Epson and Brother in using the former approach. That has brought running costs down, but with two unwanted side effects:
1: these printers can run unnecessary cleaning cycles, which can waste 10-20% of the total ink in a cartridge; and
2: if you don't print anything for a long time—often a few months, but a couple of weeks can be enough—the ink can dry up and block the print head. You can run a cleaning cycle to try and get rid of the dried up ink, but it isn't always possible.
This three-in-one printer is stylish, has plenty of functions, works relatively quietly and doesn't use too much power. Canon makes some great all-rounders, with multifunction models like this Pixma MG5350 that are good at printing both office documents and photos—that's pretty rare! However, the cost of printing per page is a little on the high side.
Best of the rest
Experts and Pros
HP Officejet Pro X576dw
The HP Officejet Pro X576dw is an affordable, economical and well-designed printer offering record-breaking print speeds. It merges comfort, speed and print quality with low cost per page. We highly recommend it!
HP Photosmart 5515
This web-connected printer is packed with functions. With its easy-to-use design, onboard apps for improved print services and low cost per page, the Photosmart 5515 is well worth a look. Note, however, that print quality could be better, which is why it's not a five-star model.
Epson Stylus SX440W
Rather then being revolutionary, this Epson printer is a classic model that does the job. The main plus point here is the competitive cost of printing per page. Print quality is decent enough, even if the drops a little on the large side. This printer is similar to the Stylus SX420W, a bulkier model with no touchscreen.
Great for Photos
Canon Pixma MG6350
The Pixma MG6350 is stylish, pleasant-to-use, multipurpose machine that's great for photo printing. It's also Canon's first printer to be entirely touch-controlled, a feature we've been keen to see for a while now.
A3, Wi-Fi, Duplex Printer
This A3 printer wasn't far from a five-star score. It has loads of functions, an excellent design and print costs are very low. While the scanner and copier aren't amazing, photo print quality is really very good. All in all, it's a good trade-off between print costs, functionality and performance.