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Printer and Scanner Best Buys 2011

What to Buy the Returning, or New, Student


Ah, the dog days of summer! Barbeques, hot days, cool pools, and nothing to worry about...except possibly the growing dread that school will start again in the not-too-distant future. Well, it's never to early to start planning your back-to-school purchases. But where to start the hunt for a new printer or scanner? No worries--I've put together a list of Printer and Scanner Back-to-School Best Buys to help the shopping process go a bit more smoothly. And check back now and then for more, as I'm expecting a new crop of printers and scanners for testing soon!

1. Best Buy: All-in-One Printer

Photo courtesy Epson

It's been at the top of the Best All-in-Ones forever now, and the Epson Artisan 810 is still one of the best. It's a bit expensive, but for the price, it really delivers a tremendous amount of 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. This wireless printer is truly a best buy.

2. Best Buy: Wireless Printer (Inkjet)

Photo courtesy HP

If you are satisfied with monochrome, rather than color, prints, Brother's MFC-7840W is a great choice. It's a very good quality and fast monochrome printer that's right for either a home or small office. The automatic document feeder is a nice extra, and while it's not the cheapest printer around, it's certainly well worth the money.

3. Best Buy: Photo Printer

Photo courtesy Canon
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 Bluetooth and battery options would make it even better. As of this printing, the CP790 is about $170, so it's slightly outside of our price range, but if you want a printer that comes in a big green bucket--and who wouldn't?--this is the one for you.

4. Best Buy: Monochrome Laser Printer

HP LaserJet Pro 1606dn Laser Printer
Photo courtesy HP
Reasonably priced for a high-quality monochrome laser printer, the HP LaserJet Pro 1606dn laser printer was exceedingly fast and print quality superb. The printer is part of HP's "Plug and Print" line of laser printers--that means no more installing drivers from a CD. That, along with the built-in networking and automatic duplexer, helps make this a good choice for small businesses.

5. Best Buy: Color Laser Printer

Brother HL-3070CW Color Digital Printer
Photo courtesy Brother
Brother's HL-3070CW digital printer 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.

6. Best Buy: Portable Document Scanner

Doxie Portable Scanner
Photo courtesy Doxie
Doxie is a portable scanner that's great for scanning documents; it works pretty well scanning photographs as well. It was easy to set up and it's quite easy to use (one touch of a button is really the only choice offered). There's little to guide paper as it's being loaded, so there's a risk of a scan being slightly askew, but the quick pace of this portable scanner more than makes up for any minor issues. It's more versatile than the Pandigital Photolink Photo Scanner since it's really made for documents (but still works great with photos), though it is more expensive.

7. Best Buy: Photo Scanner

Epson V500 Photo Scanner
Photo courtesy Epson
The Epson V500 Photo Scanner gives great value for under $200. It comes with great bundled software (including Adobe Photoshop Elements) and holders for slides and negatives. The holders feel a bit flimsy and the automatic document feeder is extra, but otherwise this did a great job of digitizing some old negatives and photographs, and helping me get them looking new again. With a little more paper documentation, this Epson photo scanner would be even better, but it's still a great deal.

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