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Multifunction Printers' Performance Review

Although all-in-one printers can copy, scan, sometimes fax, and always print, it's clear from multifunction printer reviews by both users and experts that print quality is far and away the most important attribute. Reviewers rarely comment on the copying ability of these machines, and assessments of scanning and faxing abilities are also scarce.

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Printing ability reviews mostly focus on two aspects: speed and quality. All of our top picks excel at printing text in short order and, for the most part, produce lively, vivid photos. Where they stumble a bit, according to all-in-one printer reviews, is in the color graphics department -- colors may look a little dull and/or show some banding. Multifunction printer reviews also indicate that consumers are often more complimentary and far less focused on minor performance flaws than the experts.

Print Quality Comparison.

Multifunction printers can do many things, but most users rely on them more for printing text documents and photos than for any other purpose. That being the case, print quality is the defining characteristic of a good budget all-in-one printer. A device that meets the mark produces sharp, dark text that's easy to read, regardless of font size, as well as photos that are bright, crisp, and display accurate color.

Based on these criteria, the Epson Stylus NX430 (starting at $55) earns the respect of home users and experts alike. One multifunction printer review on CNET says the Epson Stylus NX430 delivers sharp text even with small fonts, and notes that photo prints show good facial tones and no graininess. An expert all-in-one printer review by PC Mag quibbles about the quality of smaller-size type but considers photo quality better than average, although light on the color, and describes the color on graphics printouts as realistic.

An Editor's Choice award from PC Mag goes to the Brother MFC-J430w (starting at $60) despite some less-than-stellar performance. This multifunction printer review notes that the MFC-J430w produces crisp text that would pass in a business setting although color graphics don't meet important-client standards, and considers photo colors to be slightly oversaturated. An expert from PC World also lauds the clear text output despite a tendency toward gray instead of black, and agrees that color graphics look washed out. Home users' all-in-one printer reviews at Office Depot, meanwhile, are generally pleased with output quality.

In Macworld's comments about the Canon Pixma MG5320 (starting at $100), photo prints win applause for realistic color. Scans of color photos turn out a little dark, the all-in-one printer review continues, while printed text is crisp. Another review of the same printer Digital Trends likewise commends the quality of printed text, which strikes the expert as distinct and very dark. The Canon Pixma MX410 (starting at $73), which missed earning a spot on our list, does a decent job on text and graphics, according to CNET, but only produces mediocre-to-adequate photo prints. Users like the ability to customize color balance on this model, and all-in-one printer reviews on Amazon say text emerges crisp and clear.

Print quality with the HP PhotoSmart 5510 (starting at $80) is more than adequate, conclude experts and consumers. Another all-in-one printer review by PC Mag says photo prints show realistic colors and good saturation and text looks solid. Pocket-lint concurs about the overall quality of photo printouts but considers the images a tad dark. Consumers who posted all-in-one printer reviews at Staples, however, rave about the bright colors on photo prints.

Review continues below

The HP Deskjet 3050A (starting at $70) fails to impress experts, and many users gripe about it as well. Trusted Reviews reports that text print shows blurriness around some characters and color photo prints lack vibrancy, although color graphics display vivid colors, albeit with some banding. The colors in photo prints are inconsistent, asserts an all-in-one printer review by CNET, which also notes that photos don't look bright and alive. In posts on Amazon users write that the color and print quality of the HP Deskjet 3050A aren't bad, but a few complain that scanning produces unimpressive results.

Underwhelming print quality from the Kodak ESP C310 (starting at $76) drags down this low-cost model, according to all-in-one printer reviews. CNET reports that graphics appear blotchy and show banding and photo prints often show a yellowish tint. PC World is similarly critical, noting that text prints out with "feathery" edges. Another Kodak multifunction printer, the HERO 3.1 (starting at $100), features a media card reader and can create and print color images in 3D, but it fares only slightly better than the ESP C310 in multifunction printer reviews. Consumers posting on Staples like the output from the HERO 3.1, especially when tasked with printing photos, but PC Mag demurs, saying photo results are inconsistent -- sometimes color is rich and saturated, sometimes not -- while color graphics are below par; text output, the expert review continues, is OK.

by Michael Sweet (Google+ Profile)

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