With the holiday season approaching, it's sometimes hard to think of the best gift for a family member or friend who loves gadgets. A printer or scanner can be a great idea; they're not expensive and they're the most practical gift you could get. Here are some inexpensive ideas.
The Epson Artisan 810 is at the high end of all-in-one line; but for the price (about $289), it delivers a great value. It prints very quickly and photos in particular come out with startling quality and richness. It's got all the handy bells and whistles you could hope for, from built-in wireless (very easily configured) to automatic duplexing. And the printer's enormous (7.8-inch) and tiltable touchscreen makes it a snap to use. It may be on the expensive side, but I still think this printer is a best buy.
Brother's MFC-255CW is a very good color inkjet printer that gives a great value at under $100. Like some other Brother all-in-ones I've tried, it has slow print speeds across a wireless network, but it scores high points for print quality--especially photos, which come out looking fantastic. If speed is of the essence to you, I'd suggest connecting via USB cable--then you'll get speed, good looks, and a happy bank account.
A quiet, fast, efficient, and cool-looking laser printer from Samsung. While it's networkable via a wired or a wired network, it doesn't offer any other conveniences, such as a copier or scanner, and I had more trouble getting the networking to work than with other networkable printers. It does what it does very well, with extremely sharp prints, but to me it was a triumph of form over substance, and I'd prefer a wireless laser printer that at least provided a copy or scan option. That said, if all you need to do is print in black and white, you won't find a better-looking machine to do it!
Brother's HL-3070CW is a very good deal--for about $250 it can compete easily with color laser printers. (An LED printer uses LEDs rather than a single laser as a light source.) I found it fast, relatively easy to set up (though wireless could've been a tad simpler), and the output (color and black) excellent. Replacement toner isn't cheap (around $70 per cartridge), but the black cartridges are estimated for 2,200 pages and the color ones for about 1,400 pages, so they should last a long time.
Canon photo printers are typically excellent, and the Selphy CP790--the high end of the Selphy line--is no exception. It's also at the high end in terms of price for a photo printer, and worth it. That's not just because the printed photo quality is excellent, or that it's very easy to set up and use, but also because it's the coolest-looking and, perhaps with the exception of the Polaroid PoGo, the most fun, photo printer I've tried.
The HP Officejet J4680 is a decent, and very small, all-in-one printer. Set up for wireless networking was a breeze, and after testing a number of very large printers, I appreciated the relatively small footprint of the J4680. It lacks a versatile LCD screen and with only two print cartridges it may not be first choice for heavy-duty or serious photo printing, but otherwise a handy, useful, and compact office tool.
Well, this scanner may not fit into the 'budget' category, but it's an amazing piece of machinery. It can scan both sides of a document or business card as fast as the paper can move through it, and the quality is unmatched. This is the perfect tool for anyone who needs to digitize an office or home. Want a budget version? Try the ScanSnap S300 which is cheaper and smaller (and can run via USB), but isn't quite as good.
The P-touch PT-1280 is a seriously useful piece of office automation that's compact, versatile, and does way more than it should. You'll want to invest extra in the AC cord if you plan on using it a lot, but otherwise this is an excellent little gadget.