Multifunction Printers Under $150

Testing Procedures

Our tests of multifunction machines focus on three main areas: quality; printing, scanning, and copying speed; and cost of use. In each area, we noted wide disparities, particularly in terms of speed and cost of use. The latter of these showed that initial purchase price isn't much of a factor, especially on these entry-level/midrange models. Rather, it is the price of the consumables that is of decisive importance, especially paper, which isn't often taken into consideration when assessing printers.

Printing Performance Tests

All timings are from the time the printer driver is activated, and not from the time printing is launched. That way, the time taken for preparing the document for printing, which varies from one computer to another, isn't counted. Here are the performance tests we conducted:

  • Printing time for a 10-page text document in standard and draft mode
  • Printing time for a 13-page document combining text, images and graphics in standard mode in color and grayscale
  • Printing time for an 8½x11 photo and a 4x6 color shot in photo mode at maximum resolution
  • Performance tests for scanning and copying

For this test, we used an 8½x11 color document, and employed several metrics for gauging the performance of the scanner function. Three main measurements were made using the Paint Shop Pro 9 application:

  • Time to preview the 8½x11 document
  • Time to scan the 8½x11 document at 300 dpi and 24 bits
  • Time to scan the 8½x11 document at 600 dpi and 24 bits
  • Time to copy in monochrome in standard quality
  • Time to copy in color in standard quality
  • Cost-of-use tests

The results we give for cost-of-use tests are only a reflection of reality. Since it's impossible to calculate the cost of use exactly - given the multiple uses to which multifunction inkjets can be put - we've opted for a relatively simple approach. Nevertheless, it gives a good idea of the relative cost of use so that you can compare models. We tested the following:

  • The life span of the black cartridge alone, printing 25% black documents
  • The life span of the color and photo cartridges, printing an 8½x11 document containing 25% black, 25% cyan, 25% magenta and 25% yellow.

Cost calculations were then made using prices from a representative e-commerce site using cartridges from the manufacturer - never third-party compatible cartridges. We haven't included the cost of printing heads, because manufacturers' policies differ too much in that area. For example, the printing heads are built into the cartridges with Lexmark, whereas with Canon products they're a separate consumable. As for Epson, they're simply impossible to replace, since the maker claims that the life expectancy of the heads is longer than that of the printer itself.

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