The HP OfficeJet Pro 6978 All-in-One Printer ($179.99) offers a wealth of features, including an auto-duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF), which many of its competitors lack. Should you opt for HP’s Instant Ink ink subscription service, it delivers competitive running costs. These perks, along with good output quality for text, graphics, and photos, elevate the OfficeJet Pro 6978 to our new Editors’ Choice midrange all-in-one printer (AIO) for low- to medium-volume printing in small or micro offices and workgroups.
We remember, about four or five years ago, when the first Epson Small-in-One printers appeared on the market. Then as now, their key selling point was, of course, size: You could buy an all-in-one (AIO) machine with a very small footprint that printed, copied, and scanned, and tuck it on the corner of your desk. The Expression Home Small-in-Ones have been a mainstay for many years, like the Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One we reviewed back in 2013, a distant predecessor to the $99.99-MSRP Expression Home XP-440 Small-in-One we are reviewing here today.
The XP-440 is the one on the right; the XP-410 is on the left. Making a few tweaks to a product, up-ticking the name, and releasing it as a new product is common practice among printer makers. Not only does releasing slightly iterated machines with incrementally higher model numbers, year after year, keep the products themselves fresh to an extent (generating new reviews, like this one!), but it also gives us technology journalists something to do. We’re not complaining.
Like the first XP-400 series model, the XP-440 delivers top-notch quality across all of its prime functions. It churns out stellar prints, especially photos, and it scans quite well. This is, however, an entry-level, low-volume AIO printer designed for home and family use. It’s meant for environments that will demand only light usage, and that’s evidenced by its lack of an automatic document feeder (ADF) for sending multipage documents to the scanner without user intervention. That omission is expected in this price range, but it severely limits your scanning capabilities.
Like most other entry-level AIOs of its class, this one, like its predecessors, costs a lot to use, in terms of the per-page price of ink. That’s always a critical issue for us. Historically, we’ve always recommended expensive-to-use machines like this one with the caveat that, because of the running cost, they are practical for only minimal use (say, no more than a few hundred prints or copies per month). Our beef is that the buyers of these entry-level AIOs who actually use their printers day to day end up getting taxed, and heavily, for doing so.
Nowadays, though, with the advent of “supertank” printers like Epson’s own EcoTank models and Canon’s MegaTank AIOs (such as the Epson Expression ET-3600 and Canon Pixma G3200), users have more choices. If you need to print hundreds of pages on your entry-level AIO, you can opt to pay more for the printer itself, with the aim being to pay less for the ink to keep it going. If, on the other hand, you need a printer but will use it little, you can spend less than $100 on a small AIO like the XP-440, in exchange for higher per-page ink costs over its life. If you print only a few pages each month, then the cost of ink is less important. Hence, our perspective on the cost per page typically seen in low-cost entry-level AIOs like this one has changed with the times.
That said, the Epson Expression XP-440’s running costs are, as you’ll see in the Cost Per Page section later on, quite high. Even so, if all you need is to print and make copies on a small scale, the XP-440 is designed to do just that, and it does it quite well.
Here we are a year and a half (or so) after Epson first released its consumer- and small-office-grade EcoTank “supertank” printers in the United States, It’s a product introduction that, if you believe what the Japanese electronics giant tells us, has met with huge success.
While we complained for years about inkjet-printer makers selling ink for exorbitant per-page prices (and like to think that we did our bit to spur change), when EcoTank printers came out, we wondered whether U.S. consumers would recognize the benefit of paying more for the printer up front to save on the ongoing cost of ink. EcoTank printers, like the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank All-in-One, after all, are priced at four or five times more than their non-“supertanker” counterparts.
If what Epson told us about EcoTank printer sales is accurate (and we have no reason to believe that it’s not), consumers indeed have embraced this new way to buy printers. The release of the $279.99 Expression ET-2600 EcoTank All-in-One (today’s review model) and its $20-more-expensive ET-2650 EcoTank sibling marks round two in what we have recently dubbed the “big ink” wars. (Both are upgrades to the Expression ET-2550.) Epson, by expanding the EcoTank product line, has co-signed this pay-more-now-to-pay-less-later approach to selling printers, while Brother, with its INKvestment product line, came onboard a while back. And Canon recently joined the fray with its new MegaTank Pixma G-series machines. It’s clear: This battle of the ink bottle is on.
Instead of using standard ink cartridges, Epson’s EcoTank printers, like Canon’s MegaTank machines, deploy relatively large reservoirs that you fill with ink from bottles. (Brother’s INKvestment products continue to use cartridges.) In either case, the idea is the same: lower running costs, higher initial purchase prices.
Which brings us back to the Expression ET-2600. As mentioned, Epson offers two Expression ET-2600-series models. The difference between them: The Expression ET-2650 comes with a slot for printing from SD cards, and it supports Wi-Fi Direct (a peer-to-peer protocol that allows you to print from and scan to mobile devices without a network). If you need either of these features, spending the additional $20 for the Expression ET-2650 seems like a no-brainer to us.
Aside from rock-bottom running costs, what the Expression ET-2600 and ET-2650 have going for them is excellent print quality; we’ll discuss that in more detail in the Output Quality section later on. In fact, graphics and photo quality are exceptional, with only one caveat: The Expression ET-2600, like its predecessor, can’t print borderless documents or photos. We’ll look at why that’s important, also, later on.
As we’ve said about other EcoTank (and Canon MegaTank) models, don’t let the price fool you. This is above all else a low-volume, entry-level printer priced to save you money on the ongoing per-page price of ink. And from that perspective, it works. It prints well and costs very little to use, and it provides the ability to scan and copy, also on a low-volume basis. If that’s all you need, the Expression ET-2600 should serve you well.
It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed an OKI Data stand-alone (that is, print-only) color printer. The most recent was the wide-format-capable OKI C831n back in March of 2014. Like the subject of our review here today, this was also a laser-class printer.
We call these machines “laser-class” because, though they look and act like laser printers, they use light-emitting-diode (LED) arrays, rather than actual lasers, to etch page images onto the printer drum, which the toner in turn adheres to. It’s a small technical distinction, but we make it because in places, printers like these are referred to by their proper name: LED printers. Today’s review subject, the $789-list OKI C612n, is indeed an LED-based machine.
For a while there, most of the major laser-printer manufacturers—Dell (really Samsung, behind the scenes), HP, OKI, Canon, Brother—deployed LEDs in some of their laser-class machines. Why? Because LED arrays are cheaper to manufacture, and they’re smaller, allowing printer makers to make less-expensive, smaller, and lighter machines. Nowadays, we don’t see as many LED-based printers as we once did, but OKI still deploys them in a significant portion of its product line.
In addition to being less costly and smaller (since they have fewer moving parts), LED arrays can also be more reliable than their laser counterparts. On the other hand, laser-based mechanisms are typically more precise; they have only one light source, so every pixel gets the same amount of illumination, making for a higher degree of consistency. LED arrays have thousands of LEDs, and, as a result, illumination can and does vary among them. In addition, the number of LEDs in an array determines the printer’s resolution, where most laser printers support more than one dots-per-inch setting.
Does this mean that laser output is inherently superior to LED prints? It’s not that simple. Let’s say that it can be, depending on the consistency of the LEDs across the array, and to an extent that can depend on how well it’s built. What we will say is that we’ve seen some LED-array-based printers, such as the OKI C831n mentioned above, that churn out some darn good-looking prints. So, like in so many things in life, the answer to our question is: It depends.
Which brings us back to the OKI C612dn. Currently, OKI offers two C612-series machines: the model we’re reviewing, the OKI C612dn, and the $649-list OKI C612n. The “d” stands for “duplex,” or automatic two-sided printing. In other words, to get auto-duplexing from a C612 model, you’ll have to fork out an additional $140 (or thereabouts, depending on the street prices of the printers that day). Apart from the duplexing distinction, these two printers are essentially the same.
Compared to some laser printers reviewed recently, such as the $999-list Dell Color Smart Printer S5840Cdn and the $800-MSRP HP LaserJet Enterprise M553dn, the OKI C612dn’s output is slightly subpar. And compared to that pricier Dell competitor, the running costs (the per-page cost of toner) is a little high. (For a detailed description of print quality, see the Output Quality section near the end of this review; for running costs, refer to the Cost Per Page section.) On the other hand, another benefit (aside from smaller machines) of LED-based printers is that they use significantly less power than their laser-based counterparts.
That said, whether the OKI C612dn is right for you really depends on what you’re looking for. The truth is that we’d feel much better about recommending this OKI model were its running costs a little lower. If you print thousands of pages each month, a fraction of a cent for each page can make a big difference in the ongoing cost of ownership. Other than that issue, though, the OKI C612dn is a highly capable laser printer with better-than-passable output for most business scenarios.
A remake of the Expression ET-2550, the Epson Expression ET-2650 EcoTank All-in-One Printer ($299.99) is a low-volume inkjet all-in-one printer (AIO) with a feature set that relegates it to light-duty home use. Like Epson’s other “supertank” EcoTank models (and now Canon’s G-series MegaTank printers, including the similarly priced Canon Pixma G3200 Wireless MegaTank All-in-One Printer), the basic principle behind the ET-2650 is that you pay more for the product upfront and much less for the ink to keep it running. The ET-2650 performs better than its predecessor, and like all EcoTank models, running costs are quite low. But like the ET-2550 before it, it lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF), an auto-duplexer, and a few other notable features. You give up a lot to print inexpensively, but if basic is all you need, this upgrade is more attractive than the model it replaces.
The HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130fw ($259.99) is an inexpensive monochrome laser all-in-one printer (AIO) designed for micro- and home-office use. Given its compact size and feature set, it should perform well as a personal AIO, too. It’s significantly smaller and lighter than the Editors’ Choice Canon imageClass MF227dw, but even though both machines are similarly priced, the M130fw comes up short in a few key areas. It supports only manual duplexing, for instance, and has higher-than-average running costs. Even so, the LaserJet Pro M130fw is a solid choice overall for low-volume small and home-based office monochrome output, as well as moderate personal printing, copying, scanning, and faxing.
With its Business Smart series of multifunction printers (MFPs), Brother continues its tradition of offering highly useful business machines that are competitive values, as demonstrated with the wide-format-capable Brother MFC-J6535DW we reviewed recently. (We define “wide-format” here as tabloid printing, to 11×17-inch stock.) That Brother is fast, prints well overall, and, as one of the company’s INKvestment machines, delivers reasonable running costs, especially compared to some tabloid-capable competitors, such as the HP Officejet Pro 7740 Wide-Format All-in-One. (INKvestment models feature high-yield, low-cost ink tanks.) In addition, the MFC-J6535DW not only prints tabloid-size pages, but it can also scan and copy them, as can the Officejet Pro 7740.
Today’s review unit, the $249.99-list Brother MFC-J5830DW, though, cannot do that. It prints tabloid-size pages, but it can only scan, copy, and fax pages up to legal-size, or 8.5×14 inches. Also an INKvestment model, it lists for a little less (about $30) than the larger Brother MFC-J6535DW, but a little more (about $50) than the Officejet Pro 7740. INKvestment printers, along the same rough lines as Epson’s EcoTank and Canon’s MegaTank families of printer, sell for more on the front end, when you purchase them, but keeping them fed with ink costs significantly less, both by the cartridge (in Brother’s case, anyway; the others we mentioned use refillable reservoirs) and on a per-page basis. As we’ll discuss later on, both the MFC-J6535DW and the MFC-J5830DW cost significantly less to use than HP’s Officejet Pro 7740.
On the other hand, the HP model prints better overall, which, depending on what you print, may or may not matter much. Also, if you don’t need a printer that can scan and copy wide-format pages, an advantage of the MFC-J5830DW over the MFC-J6535DW (in addition to price) is that the former is smaller and lighter. That can be important in small offices and workgroups short on space.
A key disadvantage of the MFC-J5830DW, though, is that its automatic document feeder (ADF) can’t scan or copy both sides of two-sided originals without your having to turn them over manually, nor can it print two-sided wide-format documents. The step-up MFC-J6535DW doesn’t have an auto-duplexing scanner, either, but HP’s Officejet Pro 7740 does. We’ll look a little closer at why this feature is important in the section coming up next.
Our bottom line is that the HP Officejet 7740 is more versatile, and it prints graphics and images a little better, but the MFC-J5830DW is much cheaper to use. You should choose the latter (or the MFC-J6535DW, should you need to scan and copy wide-format pages) if you need to print more than a few hundred pages each month, and if you don’t need pristine graphics and images. This is not to say that this Brother model doesn’t print well enough for business applications. It’s really a matter of what features you need and whether running costs outweigh overall print quality. Wherever you land on that spectrum, the Brother MFC-J5830DW is more than adequate for most small-business environments, but we caution you to consider your needs carefully, as the MFC-J6535DW provides better scanning and copying options.
The Canon imageClass D1520 ($324) is a monochrome laser all-in-one printer designed for medium-volume use in a small office or workgroup. It has high standard and optional paper capacities, but it doesn’t print photos and graphics as well as some competing models, including the Editors’ Choice HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw. Unlike its more expensive sibling, the Canon imageClass D1550 , it lacks Wi-Fi Direct and near-field communication (NFC), and both imageClass models’ running costs are too high. Otherwise, its strong feature set makes it a decent choice for environments that print primarily text and require high paper input capacity.
The Canon Pixma TS6020 Wireless Inkjet All-in-One Printer ($149.99) is a relatively low-cost and low-volume photo-centric model designed for home use. Compared with the Editors’ Choice Canon Pixma TS8020, which costs only $30 more, you don’t get SD card and near-field communication (NFC) support, and the TS6020 uses five inks rather than six, which can affect print quality. And the absence of an automatic document feeder (ADF) makes it less attractive for home-based business use. Otherwise, the TS6020 is a decent all-in-one printer for low-volume printing of photos and documents for home, family, and student use.
HP started the present-day ink wars a few years back with its Instant Ink subscription service, which was designed to provide users of specific HP printers with a way to buy modest monthly allotments of ink without going into hock. Epson fired back in a big way with its EcoTank family of all-in-one (AIO) machines (a very different approach, but also a new way of looking at ink), to which Brother, in turn, responded with its INKvestment products. It was just a question of time before inkjet biggie Canon joined the battle, too.
Canon’s MegaTank G-series printers are the first fruits of its own new approach to delivering ink. What started as a simple concept—lower running costs on inkjet printers—has evolved into a whole new way to buy printers. Today’s review unit, Canon’s $269.99-list Pixma G2200 MegaTank All-in-One, is one of the latest to join the race, along with three other G-series models, including the Canon Pixma G4200 Wireless All-in-One we reviewed recently. HP may have started all this, but that company’s Instant Ink service is nothing like what the other three inkjet makers we mentioned above have done. The Brother, Canon, and Epson approaches aren’t subscription-based, but their idea is to sell inkjet printers with much of the profit front-loaded into the price of the printer, rather than selling the machine at a loss and then charging an ongoing premium for the ink.
While their concept is the same, all three companies haven’t approached it in quite the same way. Epson’s EcoTank and Canon’s MegaTank products, for instance, draw their ink from reservoirs that you fill from high-yield bottles, while Brother’s INKvestment machines continue to deploy conventional ink cartridges—high-yield cartridges with low per-page costs, but cartridges just the same—with multiple sets of them bundled with certain models of their printers. In any case, the core idea is consistent: You pay more (sometimes a lot more) for the printers themselves, and less for the ink to keep them running.
Canon’s first round of G-series machines comprises a stand-alone (printer-only, non-AIO) model, the Pixma G1200 MegaTank, and three AIOs: today’s review unit, the Pixma G2200; the Pixma G3200 Wireless MegaTank All-in-One; and the flagship model, the Pixma G4200 Wireless All-in-One…
As we pointed out in our review of the Pixma G4200, even though the G series all use the same print engines and come with the same amount of ink, there’s a huge difference in the feature sets among these four printers. The first two (notice that their names don’t include “Wireless”) don’t have Wi-Fi or support for mobile devices, and the Pixma G4200 is the only one with an automatic document feeder (ADF) for passing multiple-page documents to the scanner. And, of course, the least-expensive, print-only Pixma G1200 doesn’t even have a scanner. Even so, as we’ll dig into in the Output Quality section near the end of this review, text and print quality is exceptional. In addition, the Pixma G2200 and its siblings deliver some of the lowest running costs in not only the inkjet-printer market, but among all consumer and small-business printers we know of. (Only Epson’s comparable EcoTank models are in the same class, in that aspect.)
The Pixma G2200 model, looking past the ink costs, is an interesting model, given how it is fitted out. At a $270 list price, the G2200 is the least-expensive “supertanker”-style AIO we know of (the Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank All-in-One lists for $10 more), but it and its stand-alone sibling, the Pixma G1200, are two of the very few inkjet printers available these days that don’t support networking and printing from mobile devices. The only way to use them is via a single PC over a direct-wired USB connection.
But hey, if that’s all you need, what this and other G-series models have going for them (other than their exceptionally low running costs) is superb print quality on all fronts: text, graphics, and especially photos. In fact, if you print a lot of images, MegaTank (and perhaps Epson EcoTank) printers might be your best choice. That’s not to say that there aren’t any advantages to five- and six-ink photo-centric machines (the Canon Pixma TS9020’s gray ink tank helps churn out superior gray-scale images, for example), but the Pixma G2200’s photo quality for most scenarios is well beyond acceptable. Given the cost of ink between G-series and TS-series Pixmas (Canon’s consumer-grade photo AIO printers), for frequent photo jobs the Pixma G2200 can save you some serious ink bucks.