Best Printers for Back-to-School Families

You know as well as I do that back-to-school season is underway (and I don’t even have kids). Besides colored pencils and spiral notebooks, every family needs a good versatile printer these days, one that can handle tasks like scanning images for book reports, churning out pages of text for last-minute homework assignments, and—a millennial favorite—printing documents from a smartphone when someone else in your home is hogging the PC.

Here are four printers that scored well in our testing. For more options, subscribers are welcome to check out our Ratings as well.

Canon Pixma MG6820

If you're hoping for above-average performance at a nice price, the Canon MG6820 is a winner. It delivers color photos and double-sided pages of text, has a memory card for transporting documents, and supports wireless connectivity, which means you can print files from your computer or your smartphone.

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According to our tests, though, it can cost you more than 5 cents per page to operate, which quickly adds up. So families with more than one student may be better off in the long run springing for a pricier, more-ink-efficient option.

Canon Maxify MB2020

For roughly $90, you get a lot of printer with the Canon Maxify MB2020, and I'm not just talking about the somewhat intrusive size. In addition to quick, legible pages of text, it delivers color photos at a quality good enough to appeal to a budding Avedon. It also supports printing from an iOS or Android device, in case your young scholar decides to write a book report on his iPhone.

The Canon Maxify will likely please mom and dad, too, with business-class features such as fax machine functionality and auto-duplexing for printing and scanning double-sided documents.

And, at only 2.9 cents per page to operate, this option may well save your family money in the long run—money that could come in handy for, say, tuition payments.

Dell E514dw

If you're looking to crank out page after page of text—book reports, term papers, and college application essays—this black-and-white laser printer will make you look really smart. It may cost a little more than the competition up front, but it can push out 15 pages per minute at the low price of 2.9 cents per page, which makes it a better buy in the long run.

Beyond that, though, it's a pretty barebones machine. It does have the auto-duplex function and smartphone compatibility, but it's not going to inspire flights of fancy from the creative young minds in the Crayola crowd.

Epson Workforce Pro WF-4630

Epson’s $200 Workforce Pro WF-4630 excels where it counts: printing text quickly and cheaply. It can pump out nearly 16 pages per minute—at under two cents per page. It's also very good at handling color graphics.

Work-friendly features include a touchscreen LCD display, fax machine functionality, and a document feeder for scanning and copying. As for network printing, you get your option of WiFi or Ethernet. You can even print items emailed from the Internet.

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