The latest desktop printers — called all-in-ones, or AIOs— do a lot more than simply churn out documents and photos. They've combined and consolidated complementary technologies, like a scanner and fax machine, and added intuitive touch-screen controls. These new multifunction devices also provide a host of new services, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, email capability, the ability to print directly from the Web, memory card and USB key slots and the ability to automatically order new ink or toner cartridges.
Because they vary so considerably in size, capabilities, speed and cost, there isn't a one-size-fits-all all-in-one. However, we've selected the best of the best for your specific needs, use and budget. Here are our top picks.
Best All-in-One Printer for Photos - Epson Expression Photo XP850 ($239)
Most all-in-one printers use only two or four ink cartridges. That's fine for text and graphics, but it limits the richness and depth for outputting high-quality photos. Epson's XP850 features six ink cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, green, light cyan and light magenta), as well as variable ink-drop size, for sharper images and smoother color gradations. This multifunction printer (MFP) also has a dedicated 4 x 6-inch photo tray and can output snapshots in just 10 seconds. The XP850 is just as good at printing text and business graphics. The Epson is designed to handle a variety of special media, like thick photo paper, CD/DVD liners and card stock. A 3.5-inch touch screen makes the device easy to operate. Wi-Fi connectivity and memory-card slots round out the package.
Best All-in-One Printer for Home Use - Epson WorkForce WF-3540 ($149)
Epson's WorkForce WF-3540 is a versatile, compact, state-of-the-art AIO with a full suite of features and capabilities. It includes Wi-Fi; duplex printing; memory-card and USB slots; an intuitive, 2.5-inch touch-screen control panel; superfast speed; automatic double-sided scanning and printing; dual paper trays; a rear paper feed; and borderless photo printing capability. This device also features excellent print and scan quality and a per-page cost that's easy on your wallet. With Wi-Fi and simple-to-follow wizards, setup and maintenance are easy and hassle-free. You don't even need to be attached to a computer to scan and copy; navigating through the options and controls is so straightforward, you probably won't ever need to crack the manual.
MORE: Best 3D Printers 2014
Best All-in-One Printer for Small Business - HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus ($198)
HP's Officejet Pro 8600 has everything SOHO (small-office/home-office) users should need: It's fast and reliable, and offers one of the highest duty cycles (number of pages per month) of any desktop SOHO machine. It also has one of the lowest cost-per-page figures of any ink-jet printer. Setup is a breeze, as is navigating around its oversize (4.3-inch) touch screen. Print quality is well above average. And with the ability to load any type of paper in the easily adjustable tray, as well as to add an optional second paper tray, media handling is excellent. The 8600 is on the large side (19.4 x 18.9 x 12.4 inches) but well worth the extra desk space it takes up. Not only were we impressed with its solid construction, but thousands of positive online user reviews attest that it holds up well in the long run.
Best Budget All-in-One Printer - Canon Pixma MG3222 ($59)
Paying a low price for a multifunction printer doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing print quality or doing without important features like Wi-Fi and the ability to print double-sided documents automatically. (The savings are due to a lower duty cycle — the ability to print 1,000 to 2,000 pages per month vs. tens of thousands.) Canon's MG3222 setup is virtually idiot-proof, with paper and ink easily loadable from the front. True, you'll have to make do without an automatic sheet feeder and memory-card slots. What's more, Canon's pricey ink cartridges mean a higher-than-average cost per page. However, print quality for both text and photos is good.
Best Large-Format All-in-One Printer - Brother MFC-J6920W ($234.95)
Brother's MFC-J6920W can scan, copy, fax and print tabloid-size (11 x 17 inch) pages — single- or double-sided. It's one of only a handful of all-in-ones whose automatic document feeder can scan both sides of a page in a single pass. To round out its excellent paper-handling capability, the Brother features two 250-sheet trays that can accommodate almost any paper size, plus a feeder slot for single sheets and heavy media like postcards. It's a fast printer, capable of speeds of up to 35 pages per minute monochrome and 27 ppm color. And by using high-capacity ink cartridges, it's very economical to operate, with an average cost of 1.7 cents per page monochrome and 5.7 cents per color page.
Best Portable All-in-One Printer - HP Officejet 150 ($299)
With its detachable lithium-ion battery generating enough juice to print, scan or copy up to 500 pages, the HP Officejet 150 is perfect for road warriors who want to work anytime, anyplace. At 6.8 pounds, this stylish, semiruggedized AIO portable is heavy but easy to transport because of its compact design. The Officejet 150 easily connects to virtually any Bluetooth or Wi-Fi device, such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop. There are some trade-offs for giving up your extension cord: It's somewhat slow, and paper handling is awkward. You have to feed scans in one at a time, double-sided printing requires manually flipping the page and the paper tray is limited to only 50 sheets. Print quality is very good for a portable printer, but the thermal print head found in such devices doesn't match the contrast and sharpness of the technologies used in desktop printers.
Best All-in-One Printer for High-Volume Printing - Dell 3765dnf ($949)
Dell's all-business 3765dnf color laser printer is big and heavy, more suited for a stand than a desktop corner. But with an incredibly robust duty cycle of 80,000 pages per month, it's fast, reliable and quite inexpensive to operate. This MFP is also quite versatile. For example, the device allows for group collaboration, tracking individual use and printing Postscript formatted files. It also offers built-in security, with the ability to encrypt scans and to require a password and authentication to operate. Besides the usual array of capabilities and connectivity — such as Wi-Fi, network and a fax/phone interfaces — the 3765dnf can print from Google's Cloud Print service as well as from a portable USB hard drive and USB thumb drives.