Inkjet printers are incredibly versatile. Besides text documents, many can also print photos – some can even make museum-quality prints – as well as labels for optical discs or iron-on graphics for shirts. Multifunction (all-in-one or MFP) variants add scan, copy, and fax, making them ideal for small office/home office environments. Even if you don’t print often, these MFPs can be used for scanning documents to PDF or saving them to the cloud. And while inkjet printers aren’t known for speed, some newer models can rival laser printers in both speed and quality. Here are our current favorites.
Canon’s Maxify MB5420
Why should you buy this: Office machine that makes excellent prints.
Who’s it for: Small offices that want to share a printer.
How much will it cost: $260
Why we picked the Canon’s Maxify MB5420:
Inkjet printers offer many advantages, but traditionally speed hasn’t been one of them. Not anymore: The newest printers designed for the small office/home office are capable of making fast, quality prints, and one terrific option is Canon’s Maxify MB5420.
The MB5420 is large, but it’s designed to support a multi-person office – up to nine employees, according to Canon. The company claims a page print speed of 24 images per minute for black and white or 15.5 for color. In our tests, we achieved 22.2 and 10, respectively, which we find to be in-line with Canon’s rated speed. The printer also supports one-pass duplex printing, and ink cartridges have high yields.
More importantly, the prints are excellent, particularly with color. Although it isn’t a photo printer, the MB5420 could handle the task when we printed on photo paper.
Canon’s latest printers are well connected, whether it’s Ethernet or Wi-Fi. The MB5420 also supports wireless protocols like Apple AirPrint, and can print from cloud-based services like Dropbox or Google Cloud Print.
As a multifunction device, the MB5420 has an automatic document feeder for scanning documents, although its only weakness is slow copying. We also love the two built-in paper trays, and a touchscreen that’s easy to use.
Don’t look at the MB5420 solely as an office product. If you have a household that prints often, the MB5420 is suitable for that environment too. But if it’s overkill for your needs, check out the Maxify MB5120.
The best office inkjet printer
HP PageWide Pro 577dw
Why should you buy this: It’s one of the fastest – if not the fastest – inkjet printer.
Who’s it for: Extremely impatient office workers.
How much will it cost: $740
Why we picked the PageWide Pro 577dw:
If speed is what you’re after, then your search ends with HP’s PageWide technology. Technically, the 577dw is not an inkjet printer in the traditional sense, but it shares certain traits like ink and quality. The big difference is that unlike an inkjet printer, which has a print head that travels back and forth across a sheet of paper, PageWide uses a stationary print head. This allows the machine to print up to 50 pages per minute in either black or color – HP claims it delivers the fastest speeds and a 40-percent reduction in color printing versus color laser printers. We find the PageWide printers to deliver on stated speed and quaity.
Like an inkjet printer, the 577dw uses a four-color ink tank system that’s easy to replace. HP rates page yield at 13,000 for color and 17,000 for black-and-shite; it also supports for large-capacity (XL) cartridges. Besides Wi-Fi and Ethernet, the machine handles Wi-Fi Direct for peer-to-peer and NFC connections, as well as Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. Security features let you monitor usage as well as ensuring it isn’t breached by unauthorized users. Need more paper storage? The 577dw supports optional paper trays.
The 577dw is a multifunction device (print, scan, copy, fax). If you don’t need the extras, downgrade to a single-function model like the PageWide Pro 552dw, which offers the same printer performance. The 577dw, however, is designed for office use and carries a price to match, so for many users it’s expensive and the speed is probably overkill.
1 sentence description of why product is good (for product card): The speed of the 577dw will leave you ditching the laser printer.
The best budget inkjet printer
Why should you buy this: Budget-minded users looking for a great all-in-one printer.
Who’s it for: Home and home office users looking for a compact multifunction printer.
How much will it cost: $110
Why we picked the MFC-J885DW:
Brother’s J885DW offers a good balance of price, performance, and features. While it isn’t Brother’s newest model, you could pick one up for less than $100 – nearly half the list price of the newer J985DW, but with a lot of similar specs.
The J885DW is compact. While its design is nondescript, the boxy shape won’t take up too much footprint on a desk. Besides a printer that delivers good output and speeds, it also has a scanner and automatic document feeder for scanning and copying purposes; there’s fax capability too. Like all modern printers, the J885DW has plenty of connectivity options.
If you anticipate printing a lot, it may be worth spending a bit more for the newer J9855DW, as that machine uses Brother’s new high-capacity Inkvestment inks. But for home office or general home use, the J885DW is still a good, affordable option.
The best art inkjet printer
Epson SureColor P600
Why should you buy this: Nine ink tanks create the most accurate colors in an image.
Who’s it for: Photo and art enthusiasts who make quality prints for display or sale.
How much will it cost: $758
Why we picked the Surecolor P600:
For photographers, artists, and other creatives who want to print fine art, a photo printer like the SureColor P600. Thanks to the use of nine newly formulated UltraChrome HD inks, the P600 produces color and monochrome prints with excellent color accuracy and saturation – important if you’re selling or displaying your prints.
The P600 supports paper up to 13-inches wide, as well as roll paper. A primary tray holds up to 30 sheets of photo paper (or 120 sheets of plain paper, but you wouldn’t want to use the P600 for everyday prints). Besides USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi, the P600 supports Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and Epson Connect service and Epson iPrint mobile app.
Epson also sells a more affordable version, the SureColor P400, which uses eight ink tanks, and the Surecolor P800, which supports paper up to 17-inches wide. Along with Canon’s Pixma Pro-10, Pixma Pro-1, and Pixma iP8720, the SureColor-series of printers are some of our favorite prosumer art printers.
How we test
To find the best photo printers, in addition to image quality, we factor in criteria such as speed, price, maintenance costs, and any unique features that help them one-up the competition. With their moving parts, we also look at durability.
Our selections are based on our long- and short-term testing; experience with earlier models; familiarity with the companies’ technologies; consultation with industry experts, fellow journalists, and users; online forums; lab results; and other third-party reviews. Our lead printer reviewer has racked up 30 years of experience in testing and reviewing printers. We also look across the board – not just our own experiences – to find consensus on what we think are the best-performing cameras you can currently buy. We also look at list pricing to determine if a product is worth the cost, product availability, and future proofing qualities. We will even recommend printers that aren’t new, provided it’s still for sale, the features are still best-in-class, and it’s supported by the manufacturer.
The printer market, however, evolves constantly, with manufacturers either introducing better models with new features, or basic upgrades. So, you can expect our picks to change – and change quickly. But don’t worry: The models you see here will be with you for some time, and if we anticipate there could be better models in the horizon, we will state that upfront to help you decide whether you should buy now or wait.
Which printer is right for you?
What should you look for in an inkjet printer? That depends on what your needs are. If you want to frame a large print to put on a wall, you may want to consider a single-function, wide-format inkjet printer. If you need a device that can print both photos and documents, a multifunction inkjet printer could be a better fit. If you want to a lot of copies, and do it fast, you may want to invest in a workhorse machine that excels in speed.
Regardless, your options will most likely revolve around your budget and usage. Ask yourself: How often do you print? If it were occasional, draft-quality printing, you’d be well served by a budget model. But you may find other uses that are actually beneficial, such as the scanner in a multifunction unit or the ability to print photos; in this case, it may be worthwhile to invest in a good all-in-one unit with wireless connectivity. If you do print often, a workhorse printer with high-yield cartridges could be a better fit. Keep in mind, however, that ink can go fast depending how much printing you do, especially with color inks.
Inkjet is the technology used in most photo printers, and your options will very likely come from three companies: Canon, Epson, or Hewlett-Packard (HP). But keep in mind that even a budget inkjet model can churn out decent photos. Of course, the better models that use multiple ink tanks will deliver excellent results.
For more on what to look for in a printer, check out our Home Printer Buying Guide