Easiest Home Printer To Use – Fog, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Bigotry, Violence, Fraud, Treachery. According to Dante’s Inferno, these represent the nine circles of hell, but I suggest he missed one: the printers.
Or, more specifically, set up a printer. Anyone who has set up a printer before knows that this can be one of the most tedious, thankless, and time-consuming tasks in the home tech arsenal. The only advantage is that once you do it, you don’t have to stir it again. At least in theory.
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But since the best laptops are now simple enough for children to use, surely wireless printers should be simple too? That’s what I was hoping for when I started testing and reviewing the best printers available today… only to be disappointed. While some companies do a better fist than others, I’m afraid the system is still, for the most part, a pain.
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What’s more surprising is how much the actual print quality varies. Black and white documents are very similar in all models, but everything can be printed in color and the differences are immediately apparent. Not only that, but the speed, size and ease of printing also vary greatly, as does ink usage and therefore operating costs. (Paper, fortunately always a reasonably fixed price, all printers good for at least plain A4!)
Considering all these factors during testing, I printed the same black and white document and a color photo on each printer. Here are my top picks, starting with the best wireless printers…
Since the printer is far from the viewer, I have to say that my expectations were quite low for this: my light gray test model had a “90s computer” feel. However, I was seriously impressed.
Let’s start with the setup. Yes, it was a long time – but one of the best I’ve ever been through. Easy-to-follow instructions are all set up on the wireless printer’s small screen for the first few minutes, telling you how to load ink and paper. Once you’ve done this, it tests itself by printing out its own set-up instructions in an easy-to-use checklist. In total, the whole process took me 25 minutes.
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Like all the other wireless printers here, the MFC-J1300DW is Wi-Fi enabled, but you can connect it to your computer with a traditional USB cable if you choose (or your Wi-Fi needs are dire ). You can print directly from a memory card or USB stick; Perfect for photographers to eliminate the middle man of the computer.
Then comes the actual printing, and boy is it fast. It’s an inkjet printer, so it’s much faster than a laser printer (although the ink costs more.) A full-page document takes eight seconds to print, and a full-color photo takes just 38 seconds.
And the colors are so beautiful. When I printed my test photo (a cute selfie I had on file from reviewing webcams), everything on the page looked the same as it did on the screen.
Unfortunately, the largest size you can print is A4, large paper just won’t fit, but for home office use, I think A4 would work. The printer holds up to 150 pages at a time, which should be enough to ensure you don’t have to go to the shelves to get more paper every time you need to print something.
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As for other features, the printer also works as a fax, scanner and copier. The scanner is great as it allows you to scan images and upload them directly to a cloud service like Dropbox or directly to Facebook. It was a fast and good quality scan so I had no problems there.
There is also a Brother iPrint app that lets you print directly from a mobile phone. I notice that the app is quite ugly, but it works well and is relatively smooth to print.
The price is the elephant in the room. Almost £300 is a lot for the printer, especially when it costs a sixth of the price of the runner-up (see below). However, in the box you get a set of cartridges that Brother says will last you three years. For an ink cartridge, that’s a long, long time, and considering how expensive ink cartridges are, you could save yourself a lot in the long run.
However, Brother is my choice for its speed and true colors.
Best Budget Sublimation Printer: The Epson Ecotank
With a bargain price and a reasonably wide range of features, the Epson Expression Premium XP-5100 is perfectly suited for households that need a wireless printer occasionally, not every day.
The printer is very small and lightweight, so it is perfect to keep in a closet or out of the way. The design is good, although the scanner lid always feels very flimsy – just be careful when lifting and placing it.
Step by step, the setup is a nightmare, but once you get down to it, you’ll find you have a solid little printer here. It only takes six seconds to hit “print” and get a document ready, faster than any printer on this list. That being said, it leaves you fiddling with pulling the caching tray before other brands can automatically or custom print.
You can print from the app, Wi-Fi Direct, email, Facebook, USB, or a cable connected to your computer. Everything is easy to do, and there is even a simple preview screen, which is useful to check your prints if you are doing it on a device without a screen.
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Unfortunately, as you might expect at this price point, there are drawbacks. Image printing… not great. The photos I printed came out washed out like a thin gray mist. It takes over a minute to print a full page image, which again is not ideal. But I don’t think anyone will buy this to print photos to hang on their living room walls.
The scanner also has some issues. On a purely mechanical level, it works well, allowing you to scan documents into your computer, memory device or the cloud. Scans are good for documents and average for photos. However, you need an Epson Connect account to upload anything to the cloud, which is an annoying loophole.
However, since you can do all this for less than the cost of a pair of new trainers, Epson cannot be blamed too much here.
This fiery red print definitely stands out in terms of its looks; It has nice, strong lines and a bold, boxy look going on.
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Personally, on closer inspection I’m not sure it lives up to the first impression. I’m not too keen on shiny plastic, which is only good for picking up fingerprints and getting dirty. Worse, the unit I tested was a bit wobbly. To be fair, it wouldn’t be a problem if it was sitting on your desk, but it detracts from the premium look.
The setup for this is…wrong. It is a Wi-Fi wireless printer that struggles to connect even with a nearby router and does not support certain types of connections (especially 5GHZ networks).
Why is it third on my list? In short, because once set up, it works like a dream. Again, it’s an inkjet printer, so full color prints are nice and done in seconds (although a bit slower than its brother device, it must be said.)
Additional functions such as scanning and saving documents to your computer are really simple. They require no prior knowledge and minimal fiddling with menus. It feels like it was designed with the average Joe in mind, and that suits me just fine.
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Scanning quality for black-and-white documents is exceptional, although it falls below average for color photos.
If you’re willing to deal with the tedious setup process, the Pixma is a solid bet for an all-in-one printer.
There’s a lot to like about the Epson Workforce WF-2860DWF. For starters, it’s great. It is a dingy version of the big wireless printer that is in the corner of every office, but much more simplified and beautiful.
Setup is also manageable, thanks to simple instructions on the device’s touchscreen to guide you through the entire process. Once you have done this, the screen makes it easy to find everything you need, and it is not difficult to sort through the menus to access the functions you are looking for.
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Print quality is good if a little slower. It takes about 14 seconds for a one-page document and less than a minute for a full-page photo. Photo printing is OK. A little gray, but it finally stands up well near my top
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