Best printers for families, shutterbugs, and telecommuters

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Desktop printers are more affordable and offer more useful functions and features than ever. But that doesn’t mean you should walk into the store and buy any printer that fits your budget or looks cool. Whether you’re buying a printer for the first time or are replacing one, you’ll want a model that suits your printing habits, especially given the obscenely high cost of printer ink.

Before you shop for your next printer, check our buying guide and Ratings of nearly 100 models.

For basic B&W pages, a laser printer is ideal

If you print a ton of B&W documents, consider a laser printer. Sure, monochrome laser printers—which print only in black-and-white—are generally more expensive than inkjets, but their speed and low printing cost per page make them a smart choice. The Brother HL-2270DW ($150) is an inexpensive single-function laser printer. The Canon imageCLASS MF5950dw ($300, shown) is an all-in-one laser model that can automatically print on both sides of a page and even store incoming fax messages if the paper tray is empty.

For high-volume printing, an all-in-one inkjet is the best bet

If you’ve got a small army at home, opt for an all-in-one inkjet printer. As the name implies, these versatile printers can handle a variety of tasks: printing book reports and photos, scanning recipes, and photocopying important documents. Many even accept different sizes of paper, and can easily print photos up to 8x10 inches. Some even have Wi-Fi built in. The Brother DCP-J140W ($90) is an ink miser that’s good for casual use, though it lacks PictBridge, a memory card reader, and other advanced features. The HP Photosmart 7520 ($200) gives outstanding performance, particularly when printing photos, and lets you print directly from your smart phone.

For top-quality photos, an inkjet rules

The cost per page for the Canon Pixma MG5420 ($100) is higher than other printers, but if you want to print out your own high-quality photos, this all-in-one is a smart buy. It can even print directly on inkjet-printable CDs and DVDs that you can share with family and friends. The Epson PictureMate Show PM300 ($300) prints 4x6-inch photos in less than a minute and doesn’t need to be hooked up to a computer. It might inspire you to finally print all those vacation photos on your camera.

For telecommuting, options abound

The aforementioned Canon imageCLASS MF5950dw and the Samsung SCX-3405FW ($200), which provide outstanding overall performance, are wise choices if you have a home office. If you need to print a mix of data-driven reports with striking images, an all-in-one color laser or inkjet printer is a strong option. The all-in-one color laser Samsung CLX-4195FW ($350) and the HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus ($230) print documents quickly. The HP also excels at photo printing and has a duplex feature, cutting down the amount of paper you use.

If work keeps you on the road, the HP Officejet Mobile 150 ($300) might be for you. This all-in-one inkjet delivers excellent text quality and very good color graphics quality. With its Bluetooth capabilities, you can print directly from your smart phone, ideal for when you don’t want to schlep down to your hotel’s business center late at night.

—Kaitlyn Wells

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