Buyer's Guide: 11 Color Inkjet Printers

This is the first in a series of four planned buyer's guides on consumer-oriented printers available for use with computers. This guide covers the most-popular color inkjet printers, with a special emphasis on units suitable for home or SOHO use. Upcoming guides will cover multi-function printers that copy, print and fax (and sometimes scan). We will also look at color and monochrome laser printers as well.

Consumer Printers On The March

The sheer number of offerings in all of these categories forced us to focus our coverage on the best-selling printers from the aforementioned categories. Our favorite source of market information for this kind of activity comes from, which lists over 560 printers among its various offerings, of which more than half (260) fall into the color inkjet category. Thus, as you read the entries in these buyer's guides, don't be afraid to dig into the other products the vendors mentioned offer in the four printer categories we cover.

What's most remarkable about today's printers is the astonishing level of capabilities available at very modest prices. Color inkjet printers typically cover the low-end of the printer market best (while inkjet models in the $500-$1,000 are available, they're seriously outnumbered by those in the under-$200 category). Yet, they still manage to offer respectable page output speeds, resolutions and paper handling capabilities. Many of these printers also do at least a credible job of printing digital photographs as well, where you can get reasonable results if you crank up the resolution and feed them with good-quality color printing paper stock. The table below summarizes representative ranges of values for these various characteristics (all of which are also included in the features matrix that lets you compare all the printers in this guide in a single frame) Compare Prices on Color Inkjet Printers.

Common Value Ranges for Color Inkjet Features and Functions

Item Low High Typical Explanation
PPM.c <10 >30 14-16 Pages per minute rates printer output speed, which is usually lower for color (c) output
PPM.b <20 >40 20-24 Pages per minute rates printer output speed, which is usually higher for black and white (b) output
Resolution.b 300 1200 600 Monochrome resolution normally the same for horizontal and vertical; translates into 300x300, 1200x1200, ...
Resolution.c 1200x1200 5760x1440 4800x1200 Color resolution is typically greater in the horizontal dimension than the vertical one
Colors CMY/RGB CMYb/RGBb 5 or 6 Three primary colors (RGB) or their complements (CMY) are needed to print color, many color inkjets add black (b) to reduce color ink consumption, some include additional colors (best for photos and complex colors)
Paper handling LL LLA4pe+ LLpe* All printers handle legal and letter size paper, high end units add numerous photo and envelope sizes (pe+), mid-range units offer basic photo (3x5, 4x6) and envelope support (pe*)

When you stop to consider that many color inkjet printers cost under $100, and many really capable units are available in the $80-120 price range, the functionality of these always useful and occasionally essential computer peripherals is substantial. In terms of bang for the buck, printers offer more capability for less money than do many other computer peripherals or office equipment in general.

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