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What’s The Best All-In-One Printer For Your Dollar?

Inkjet or laser? Two-sided printing? Wi-Fi? What makes the perfect printer? The Wirecutter investigates.

What’s The Best All-In-One Printer For Your Dollar?
Epson WorkForce WF-3620 [Photos: courtesy of Wirecutter]

Personal inkjet printers are a money pit, and you should think twice about buying one. But if you work from home or have kids in school, a color printer, scanner, copier, and fax machine bundled into one desktop package might actually make your life easier. After nearly 100 hours of research and testing with help from a print expert, we determined that the $120 Epson WorkForce WF-3620 is the best you can do right now.

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How We Decided

If you print less than once per week, don’t buy a color all-in-one. Inkjet models waste ink on cleaning cycles when they sit around too long between uses (and at up to $9,600 per gallon, every squandered drop is painful). Color laser printers don’t waste toner, but the cost of a multifunction machine is awfully steep, and if you only print occasionally, it’ll take years before you see any savings compared to an inkjet.

With that in mind, we looked at 110 all-in-ones, and a midrange inkjet is as good as it gets for a home or home office. For around $150, you can expect an automatic document feeder, two-sided printing and scanning, Wi-Fi connectivity, and native support for mobile standards like AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. Pay more, and you mostly get features that only matter in offices, like extra paper trays and speedier output. Pay less up front, and you’ll spend a lot more on ink in the long run.

Our Pick

The Epson WorkForce WF-3620 ($120) is a jack of all trades, able to handle the typical printing, scanning, copying, and faxing jobs that most people do from their homes and home offices, and works with both Mac and PC. It’s built to handle a few hundred pages of letter-sized copy paper per month, but it’s versatile enough to venture into photo printing, envelopes, and many other stocks, sizes, and use cases.
The paper handling features are faster, smoother, and more versatile than they ought to be for the price, so printing term papers and scanning tax documents is no sweat. Print expert Dean Turpin of shootdigital studios in Manhattan helped us evaluate the print quality, and found that it’s a big step up from previous generations of affordable all-in-one printers, too. Unless you’re a serious graphic designer or photographer, the WF-3620 is as good a printer as you’ll need.

As long as you print at least once per week, and up to 250 pages per month, it’s a solid investment.

Little Flaws (not dealbreakers)

This is still an inkjet printer, so you’ll wince every time you shell out for fresh ink. With the XL cartridges, a black-and-white page costs about 3.2 cents and a color page is 11.4 cents. That’s average for the category, and as long as you print somewhere between 25 and 250 pages per month, it’s worth the cost of ownership.

The color-balancing booth where test prints were evaluated.

The Runner Up

The Epson WorkForce WF-3640 is a sister model to our main pick. The only difference is an extra paper tray, which is useful if you alternate between, say, letter paper and photo paper. It usually costs $20 more than the WF-3620, but sometimes it’s actually cheaper. Follow your wallet on this one.

For Heavier Workloads

If your small office has a more diverse or higher-volume workload than the Epson is meant to handle, check out the Brother MFC-J6920DW. It’s better at handling non-letter-sized media, like stacks of envelopes, and can print, copy, and scan sheets as large as 11″x17″ (ledger size), even in the document feeder.

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Brother MFC-J6920DW

It costs about $100 more than any of the other all-in-ones we tested, but the ink is so cheap that if you print more than 300 pages per month, it pays for itself in about a year. On the downside, it’s huge, and the print and scan quality aren’t particularly good.

In Closing

If you already have a printer that works for you, keep it. But if you’re in the market for a new one, the Epson WorkForce WF-3620 is the best one we’ve found. Any printer is going to make you mad at least some of the time, but this Epson is one of the few that’s worth the frustration.