Choosing the right inkjet printer is a daunting task with several brands and printing technologies to choose from, each one suited for different needs. Inkjets come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny travel companions to workgroup workhorses; some are geared toward photographers, others are for multitaskers. The brand and model you buy should reflect your printing habits and the features that will ultimately make things easier for you.
To facilitate your online shopping, we've compiled a brand-by-brand rundown of each line from top-tier printer manufacturers, starting with HP's Photosmart printers. From $70 for the basic C4680 All-in-One all the way up to $400 for the Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web, this blog outlines the basic and step-up features on each device in addition to detailed information on compatible ink cartridges.
We'll link to existing CNET reviews where applicable, but don't worry if the one you choose is blank--we'll keep updating this blog as the list populates, so check back often and don't forget that our Printer Buying Guide is a great place to start for expert tips and reviews! We'll organize the HP Photosmart inkjet line into three sections according to retail price:
Shoppers on a budget have plenty of options in the HP Photosmart lineup. You don't get fancy extras like Bluetooth, automatic double-sided printing, or extra paper trays, but HP generously throws in features like wireless connectivity and touch screens on select $100 models. Amateur snapshot photographers will appreciate the compact portability of the HP Photosmart A646, but we should note that most of the printers in this section (with the exception of the HP Photosmart C4780 All-in-One) are limited to two-ink cartridge bays--if you're serious about photo quality, skip this section and invest in a five-inker, something like the $270 HP Photosmart Premium Fax All-in-One.
Models (retail prices listed)
- HP Photosmart C4680 All-in-One ($100)
- HP Photosmart C4780 All-in-One ($130)
- HP Photosmart Plus All-in-One ($150)
- HP Photosmart A646 Compact Photo Printer ($150)
- Print, copy, and scan functionality
- 1.45-inch color LCD on C4680/C4780
- 2.36-inch color touch screen on Photosmart Plus
- Memory Card reader--supports Memory Stick/Duo, SD, MMC, xD
- Ink: 2-ink cartridge bay (HP60) on C4680/C4780
- Ink: 4-ink cartridge bay (HP60)
- Warranty: One year limited warranty
- Connectivity: C4680/C4780 use USB 2.0 only, Photosmart Plus adds built-in 802.11b/g wireless
The next price tier up gives the gift of accessibility that you can read all about in our full review of the HP Photosmart Premium Fax All-in-One. Aside from the added convenience of a fax machine and its 50-sheet auto-document feeder, these printers also offer significant improvements to print speed and output quality. In our benchmark tests, the HP Premium tested faster than three out of the four competitive printers , and we're just as impressed with the output quality--these printers include a photo black cartridge as well, promising darker, thicker lines with no degradation in quality. If the previous category caters mostly to penny pinchers, this level appeals more to photo enthusiasts and do-it-alls.
- HP Photosmart Premium All-in-One ($200)
- HP Photosmart Premium Fax All-in-One ($299)
- HP Photosmart B8550 ($299)
- Photosmart Premium Fax adds fax machine
- Bluetooth, Ethernet
- 50-sheet auto-document feeder (Photosmart Premium Fax only)
- Automatic paper-type sensor (Photosmart B8550 only)
- Ink: 5-ink cartridge bay (HP 564 with photo black)
The Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web is the flagship all-in-one printer in HP's Photosmart series. It boasts the most features including a 4.33-inch TouchSmart screen, 802.11n, Bluetooth, separate trays for photo and plain paper, and direct Web connectivity, but it's far from cheap. There's no denying its snappy print speeds and excellent print quality, but at $400, our recommendation is limited to early adopters, celebutantes with money to burn, and trust-fund babies.
- Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web ($400)
- 4.33-inch touch display
- Print Web content without a host computer
- Separate autosensing 20-sheet photo tray
- Connectivity: 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth