Whether you have $100 or $400 to spend, and whether you want something simple or sophisticated, there's an inkjet multifunction printer for every budget and purpose.
The newest arrivals we've tested illustrate the variety of options now available. Canon's $130 Pixma MP620 offers an impressive number of features and capabilities for the price. Among the highlights are its supersharp text quality, dual 150-sheet input trays, and Wi-Fi and ethernet connectivity.
Epson's $300 Artisan 800 aims high with its classy features, including a large touch-screen control panel and a CD/DVD printing mechanism that emerges from the printer's open front bay like a spaceship from a hangar. You can choose from a wide assortment of photo options directly on the control panel, selecting print layouts (from 1-up to 20-up) or a mix of sizes on one sheet. You can even create greeting cards using a chosen image. Alternatively, you can print an index sheet, from which you select photos and settings by filling in little circles and then feeding the sheet through the Artisan 800's scanner; the machine reads your instructions and prints exactly what you want.
Three other new models we tested didn't make the chart. Lexmark's X4650 costs the same as the Canon Pixma MP620 but offers fewer bells and whistles; its inks are very expensive, as well. Brother's MFC-5890CN boasts higher-end features such as wide-format printing and an automatic document feeder (ADF), but its speed and print quality are mediocre. Brother's MFC-790CW suffered from an agonizingly slow print speed in our tests, a drawback that overshadowed its attractive features, most notably the touch-screen control panel.
Photo-printing features are steadily becoming standard fare on inkjet MFPs. On all but the most bare-bones (or most business-oriented) models, you'll find media slots that take major formats such as CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD Picture Card. For thicker media, some have a dedicated tray--usually a small tray piggybacked onto the main tray (as with the Epson Artisan 800)--or a second input, as with Canon's Pixma MP620. Many offer photo functions that don't require the use of a PC. And color LCDs allow you to view photos and navigate printing options easily.
Canon's Pixma MX700 stays at the top of our chart because it offers everything: speed, strong print quality, a 300-sheet paper capacity, an ADF, separate ink cartridges for better cost control, media-card slots, and even fax capabilities.
In considering any model, keep in mind that paper capacity is critical. Casual home users or students can probably get along with 100 pages or so, as Epson's Stylus NX400 offers. A home office or small office should seek a capacity of 200-plus sheets, as found on Canon's Pixma MX700 (our Best Buy pick) and Pixma MP620, or HP's OfficeJet J6480 All-in-One.
Research ink yields too. If you don't print much, a lower-capacity cartridge (200 pages or so) might be acceptable even though it costs more per page; otherwise, seek a model with high-capacity cartridges to save money. HP's Photosmart C5280 (in fourth place on our chart) offers both kinds, and the cost difference is significant. As for other features, an ADF is essential if you scan longer documents; but if you can't remember the last time you sent a fax, resist the urge to get that feature "just in case." Even with a multifunction printer, it's possible to have too many functions.
Read Our Inkjet MFP Reviews