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Cheap Multifunction Printers Buying Guide

Our research identified several cheap multifunction printers that meet users' expectations for value and performance. Top picks include the Epson Stylus NX430 (starting at $55) because of its simplicity and the overall quality of print output, and the Brother MFC-J430w (starting at $60) because of its rich feature set (including built-in fax and auto document feeder), ease of use, and proficient text printing.

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We found another inexpensive printer in the Canon Pixma MG5320 (starting at $100), with its large paper input capacity, rich color photo prints, and fast and high-quality text printing. The HP PhotoSmart 5510 e-All-in-One (starting at $80) wins a spot for its speed and colorful photo prints and sharp text output. It's also easy to set up and use, with a touch-screen interface. We also found two budget multifunction printers that don't rise to the occasion: the HP Deskjet 3050A (starting at $70) delivers subpar print quality, according to reviewers, and the Kodak ESP C310 (starting at $76) suffers from frequent paper jams and an insatiable thirst for ink, say many users.

A compelling as our picks may be, even the best cheap multifunction printers are not perfect in every dimension. At budget prices you have to accept some weaknesses in performance, in part because of the inkjet technology. Lower-priced all-in-one printers are generally slower than pricier models, especially when printing photos, and color document printing doesn't reach professional-quality levels. Higher-end multifunction printers generally boast higher black-print resolution, more built-in memory, and much larger paper capacity. Bearing brand names like Ricoh, Xerox, and Samsung, these upscale machines are designed for business use and deliver far more in the way of features and performance than a family, student, or home office user would need. At the thrifty end of the market, printer heavyweights such as Brother, Canon, HP, Epson, and Kodak hold dominant positions.

When shopping for the best cheap multifunction printer, assess your needs before making your selection. Some machines excel at printing text while others handle photos especially well. Most users won't need a built-in fax or automatic document feeder, but you can find an all-in-one with those options at competitive prices. Finally, any printer you buy should have wireless capabilities so you can connect it to every PC in your home.

by Michael Sweet (Google+ Profile)

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