Great Printers for the Price

To keep costs down, printer manufacturers will cut a few corners. And when a printer skimps on features you can live without anyway, you may find yourself a heck of a deal.

Saving money is a good thing. If you need a new printer and youre on a tight budget, its surely one of the key issues that you care about. The trick is in knowing how to save money while still getting a reasonably capable printer.

This roundup gathers an assortment of printers—including both stand-alone and all-in one (AIO) choices as well as both ink jets and lasers. They dont all qualify as inexpensive in absolute terms. (The Canon Pixma Pro9000, for example, sells for $499.99 direct.) Nor is each one necessarily the best in its category (even though the Pro9000, at least, is good enough to have earned an Editors Choice for low-cost prosumer photo printer). But each is cheap for its category and delivers enough bang for the buck to qualify as a bargain.

Low prices almost always go hand in hand with cutting some corners. The difference between a printer thats disappointing and one thats impressive for its price lies in which corners the manufacturer chose to cut. With the Canon Pixma iP1800, for example, Canon kept prices down in part by leaving out the automatic alignment feature youll find in most ink jet printers and opting for manual alignment instead. This is a bit of a pain, since you have to realign the head every time you change a cartridge. But its a lot better choice than compromising on speed or output quality.

Similarly, the Dell Color Laser Printer 1320c offers limited paper handling, with a default 250-sheet paper tray and no options. That wont be a problem in most cases, however, because 250 sheets is enough capacity for a typical personal printer or for a small office with light-duty printing needs.

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