Why Use a Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer?
The top performers in our review are the HP Officejet Pro 8740 All-in-One, the Gold Award winner; the Canon Pixma MG7720, the Silver Award winner; and the Brother Business Smart Plus MFC-J5520DW, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing an all-in-one printer to meet your needs, along with detail on how we evaluated and ranked the 10 best wireless inkjet printers.
No matter how many electronic devices we have, documents are still a necessary part of life. Whether you’re printing off a hardcopy, scanning something for a digital record or faxing a document, a printer with all-in-one functionality is an essential tool. Top-rated wireless printers have mobile compatibility for your smartphone or tablet, connectivity that plays nicely with Wi-Fi or wired networks, and a variety of built-in features that once required a specialized device. Pair all of this capability with inkjet technology for affordable printing and refills, and you’ve got a multifunction device that covers all of your document needs.
Printers aren’t stuck with one or two functions any more, as once exotic functions like color printing, photo printing, scan and copy capability, and mobile connectivity have gone mainstream and can be found in the top all-in-one printers. At this point, finding a printer without these functions takes some real hunting, and multifunction designs are the name of the game as printing becomes less prevalent. But not all printers have the same capabilities, and quality differs from one model to another.
The best all-in-one printers print high-quality documents and photos, have easy-to-use functions, and are easy to connect to. Aside from price, you also want to pay close attention to each printer’s list of features, since specific functions like fax capability and compatibility with certain mobile devices varies from one model to the next. Some are built with businesses in mind, with extra-durable designs and high-capacity inks, while printers for the home often have sleeker, more compact designs and more media features. For more information about these devices, check out our articles on inkjet printers.
Inkjet or Laser Printer?
Do you want an inkjet printer or a laser printer? If you’re just printing documents, both get the job done, but each option has its advantages. With differences in up-front expense, overall printing costs and distinct feature sets, the most cost-effective solution depends on your specific circumstances.
Inkjet printers have low entry prices but tend to be more expensive to operate overtime, thanks to pricey ink cartridges. Even the most affordable ink is expensive in high volumes, but inkjets do tend to be more affordable if you only print occasionally. Laser printers are more expensive up front, but powder-based toner cartridges are cheaper on a per-page basis, making them less expensive to operate over time, provided you print at a higher volume. If you’re printing a few hundred pages a day, you may be better served with a laser printer. If you’re in that sweet spot of low to moderate print volumes, printing a few, or even a few hundred, pages per week, then an inkjet has a better balance of purchase price and operating expenses.
Inkjets are also far superior in printing color documents and photos. The most affordable laser printers are monochrome, which is perfect for running off reams of black and white text, but even color-capable laser printers have trouble matching an inkjet’s ability to blend colors and produce high-quality images. For the home or business user that wants to print more than just documents, inkjet printing is the way to go, and all-in-one models also have useful built-in features like scanners, copiers and fax machines.
Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printers: How We Tested, What We Found
Printers aren’t simple machines, and finding the best one can be confusing. Between the many connectivity features, built-in functions, and the complexity of physically producing documents and media, printers are some of the most difficult pieces of office equipment on the market to purchase with confidence.
In our search for the best wireless all-in-one inkjets, we found some of the top models on the market today and tested their many functions. We combed through dozens of products, sifting through specifications to find models that come with all of the right features that go beyond printing, including scan and copy capability, wireless networking, and mobile compatibility. In today’s world of laptops, tablets and phones, it’s more important than ever for manufacturers to make it simple to connect to a printer.
We also looked at price, but we didn’t just consider the retail price of the printer. Many printers sell for low prices but make up the lost profits through expensive ink replacements. For our evaluation, we focused on models that cost above $100, since those that cost less usually work out to be more expensive over time. Ink costs money for either type of printer, but the bargain-priced models’ cost of ownership tends to tip the scale too much for our liking.
Using all of this research, we selected 10 of the best wireless printers on the market, which were either loaned to us by manufacturers or purchased independently for our review. Manufacturers and retailers had no input on our testing, and our results were not shared with any manufacturer prior to publication. We tested by printing both documents and photos, using generic plain printer paper for all document printing tests and a common name-brand glossy photo paper for all photo prints. Since new printers usually come with sample-size starter ink cartridges, we also procured full-capacity ink cartridges for each printer to guarantee our testing conformed to normal use.
After testing, we evaluated printer quality in five areas: output quality, printing speed, cost of ink, paper handling and versatility.
Output Quality: Putting Ink on the Page
When you hit the print button, you expect your printed document to be readable, clean and error free. No matter what type of project you’re printing, print quality is a key concern, and no amount of fancy features can make up for shoddy prints.
To test this essential functionality, we ran each printer through a battery of printing tests, running through nearly 80 pages of documents. We printed both text and images in black and white and color, across a variety of file types. We then examined every page of these print samples, evaluating text clarity and color blending and watching for errors like ink spotting, streaking and printhead misalignment. We also printed photos, using high-resolution images to test image reproduction and color quality.
Nearly every printer we tested printed documents with what we consider acceptable quality – clear and readable text, minimal inking errors, and reasonable quality for both text and graphics. That said, a few printers had better-than-average quality, earning A grades thanks to sharper text at smaller sizes, with errors only detectable under high magnification. If you want better than good enough, these are the models to consider.
Testing scan and copy quality is a slightly different process. To test these features, we captured scans of high-resolution test images and examined the results side by side with the originals to spot issues like blurred details, muddied colors or other scanning errors. Copy tests were similar – physical copies were compared under high magnification to gauge not only the quality of the image captured, but also the reproduction of the image in print.
Speed: Printing With Less Patience
Ideally, a printer should not only produce high-quality documents and photos, but also print them rapidly. The reality, however, is that fast printing generally comes at the expense of high quality, so you want to consider which is your highest priority: quality or speed. In our own rankings, we tried to find a balance between the two, though we did place more emphasis on quality.
As we printed our dozens of test documents, we also timed each one, clocking every document from the time the print command was issued to the moment the last page dropped. By using the same documents and settings across all of our test units, we compared speeds using a pages-per-minute rating. Since not all print jobs are the same, this test was used for black-and-white documents and color documents at both default and high-speed settings. Photo print speeds were also tested – we timed a batch of 4 x 6 photos as they printed and found an average print time per photo.
Operating Costs: Ink Expenses Add Up
All else being equal, you want a printer that is affordable over its life. Even reasonably priced ink refills are notoriously expensive, but it’s not without reason. Printer ink has to meet an array of demands, including having consistent flow and color and fast drying times, all while working in systems that distribute ink through nanometer-scale printheads. The cartridges themselves often have the printhead built in, making every ink refill an effective replacement for the most functional part of the device.
Gauging actual ink usage and costs is impossible, since it varies from one user to the next, but we calculated the average cost per page of each manufacturer’s replacement cartridges. The lower the cost per page, the more affordable the printer is in its day-to-day operation. Using exacting industry standards, manufacturers measure the page yield for each cartridge, which we then used to calculate the cost of a single printed page. Based entirely on retail pricing and manufacturer reported page yields, we found that the units we tested have an average cost of 15 cents per page.
Looking to save a buck on printing costs? You will frequently see refilled cartridges and third-party replacements sold for much less than the manufacturers offer, but they have their problems. Sub-par inks can damage the delicate printheads, shortening the life of the printer and even voiding the warranty. Refills also create lower-quality prints, since the cartridge wears out from repeated use. By all means, look for deals on ink, but don’t get too greedy or it may cost you more in the long run.
Knockoff cartridges and third-party refills aren’t the only way to reduce the cost of printer ink. Nearly all of the printers we reviewed have options for high-capacity ink cartridges, and while they may sell for more per cartridge, the increased print yield drops the cost per page well below that 15-cent average. HP goes a step further on its printers, like the HP Officejet Pro 8740 All-in-One and the HP Envy 5540 All-in-One, offering subscription inks at a steep discount. Epson takes a different approach for the Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank, replacing the cartridge entirely with ink reservoirs that you refill by hand from less-expensive bottles. Both options can drop the price per page drastically, even to the single digits.
Operating Costs: Built to Last
Another point to consider is just how much use a printer is designed to provide. Every printer has a monthly duty cycle, or the maximum number of pages it’s designed to print in a month. Home printers are generally rated at up to 1,000 pages per month, while business printers can run as high as 30,000 pages per month. A higher duty cycle rating is a good indicator of durability, but it’s important to know your own needs, since more robust business-grade printers often cost much more than regular units for the home.
Similarly important is the monthly recommended usage. While the duty cycle is the maximum a printer can print per month before breaking down, the recommended usage is the ideal level of printing to reduce wear and tear while keeping everything humming along nicely.
Paper Handling: More Printing, Less Shuffling
Beyond print quality and durability, you also want your printing to be convenient. You can reduce irritations like frequent “out of paper” messages by having a large paper tray. The standard for most printers is a 100-page tray, but the best printers not only have higher-capacity trays, they also frequently have a second tray as well.
Automatic duplexing is another convenient feature, which lets you print on both sides of a page without having to manually flip the paper. It’s one of several features that aren’t always included, such as options for photo printing, automatic document feeding and printing on other media. When in doubt, check a model for the features you most expect to use.
Versatility: Create & Connect
Versatile printers do a lot more than merely print, thanks to wireless all-in-one functionality. Built-in features let you scan, copy and fax from one machine, while simple networking options and wireless printing let you do more without hassle.
Mobile devices have different connectivity requirements than desktop and laptop computers, and the specifics vary by operating system and model – be sure to confirm that the printer you want works with your smartphone or tablet. For iPhones and iPads, you need a printer that supports Apple’s AirPrint, while Google Cloud Print is used for Android devices and Google Chromebooks. Even if these major protocols aren’t supported, most wireless printers are still compatible through specialized apps like Mopria’s industry-standard wireless print solution or proprietary apps that fill the same role.
With so many features varying from one printer to the next, you need to watch for the specifics you want. The all-in-one label applies to many printers with built-in copying and scanning, but fax isn’t always included. If you want to print files off of a USB flash drive or an SD card, you need to confirm the printer has the necessary slots. If you print a lot of pictures, you want to make sure your camera can connect to your printer without first offloading files to a PC.
What Else Is Important in Choosing a Wireless Inkjet Printer?
We’ve covered the main concerns, but there are other details you want to keep in mind when shopping for a wireless all-in-one printer. Does it support photo printing? What’s the scan and copy quality like? Is there easy access to support services? These may not be everyone’s focus when buying an all-in-one printer, but all are significant concerns if they speak to what you need.
Our print quality scores put most of the focus on document printing, but many printers actually do better with photos than they do with basic documents. If you want a printer that prints high-quality photos, look at any of our reviews that have an A or B rating for photo print quality. These printers stood out in our testing with near-professional-quality photo prints that had sharp detail and good color reproduction.
If you’re looking to digitize documents to move toward a paperless office, scan and copy quality is paramount. Whether you’re duplicating pages from a book or doing some digital scrapbooking, printers with top-rated scanning do the job quickly, without losing any important details.
Nothing renders a printer useless like an unexplained technical problem. If you need maximum uptime from your all-in-one printer, you want to focus on models that offer both a generous warranty and several avenues for help and support. Contacting a knowledgeable support tech should be easy, whether it’s by live chat, email, social media or over the phone. Even if you prefer to work through problems yourself, you want the manufacturer to offer plenty of automated support tools like online manuals, FAQs and troubleshooting guides.
You may not care about all of these, but they’re worth considering as you make your buying decision. Whatever your specific use case is, we’re here to help you find not only the best wireless printer on the market but the best wireless printer for you.
Best Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printers: Our Verdict & Recommendations
Our top pick is the HP Officejet Pro 8740 e-All-in-One, the Gold Award winner. This wireless multifunction printer is designed for offices large and small, with great print speeds and consistently high document quality. It’s also durable, has reasonable ink prices, comes with an array of connectivity options and prints decent-quality photos. It earns top marks as not only the best all-in-one printer for small business, but also as the best wireless inkjet printer in our review.
The Silver Award winner is the Canon Pixma MG7720, which has the best mix of high-quality document printing and great looking photo prints of any model we reviewed. On top of that, it also has easy networking and connectivity for mobile devices.
The Brother Business Smart Plus MFC-J5520DW wins our Bronze Award, with document printing that’s fast and reliable and with several mobile printing options. It also boasts easy connections for both storage and cameras, and it uses Brother’s impressively convenient no-fuss ink cartridges to take the headache out of replacing ink.
Also worth noting are the Canon Pixma MG6821 and the Epson Expression Premium XP-830 Small-in-One, two wireless all-in-one printers that print top-quality photos. If you want great looking photo prints to hang on the wall or add to a cherished scrapbook, these are some of the best options on the market.
For the frugally minded, the Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank cannot be ignored, thanks to its impressively low cost of printing. It sacrifices some print quality to achieve its penny-per-page price, but by trading expensive ink cartridges for refillable ink reservoirs, it’s the cheapest option for ink of any printer we’ve reviewed. The printer comes with enough ink to print thousands of pages, and the savings are unbeatable.