The answer is not that simple, in part because you can find great deals both online and offline. Here are some things to think about before you make the decision about where to buy. The best place to start, however, is in the links you'll find at the bottom of the page under the Printer Best Buys links--regularly updated Top Picks of the best photo printers, budget printers, laser printers, and much more.
How Flexible Am I?
If you’ve gotten this far, then there’s a great chance that you know what you’re looking for. Let’s say that you’ve got a small home office and you’ve decided that a multifunction printer (MFP) is right for you. You’ve read the reviews, checked your bank account, and finally decided on a particular model.
Now you start following some of the links I’ve provided and you discover that a very similar model by a different manufacturer is on sale for $50 less than the model you wanted to buy. The specs are the basically the same; after all the research you’ve done, can you go with a different option at the last minute?
The same scenario can arise when you visit your local electronics retailer. When I went to buy my laptop, I had done the research and knew just what I wanted. But when I got to the store, a very similar model from a different company was part of an unadvertised sale that made it hundreds of dollars cheaper than the one I wanted to buy. Because I had done my homework, I knew what specs I wanted and that the cheaper laptop had a great reputation. Guess which one I brought home?
So, unless you’ve got some very specific needs (for example, you’re a professional graphics designer and you need to be able to make prints of a certain size), the printers and scanners we’ve looked at here are all good quality, and you deserve to save some money. That’s why it’s so important to spend some time doing your homework so that you know exactly what you need. When opportunity knocks, you’ll be ready to answer!
Hands-on TestsHowever, an advantage to buying (or at least shopping for) a printer or scanner in a brick-and-mortar shop is that you can see it up close. You can touch it to see how sturdy the product is and whether it has any features that will make it difficult to use. For example, you may have only one place to put a printer, and you notice that the cover lifts the wrong way. Those issues never get better—they become constant irritants.
You can also print some tests when you’re at the shop so you can see how fast the printer works and how good the results are. Those tests will also tell you how loud the printer is (and some can be fairly noisy). That can be a concern if you tend to work late hours at home and don’t want to wake the rest of the family.
Where to Find a Good Deal
If you’re not in a rush to buy, you’ve got a great advantage. You’re going to find a wider range of products online than offline. That's why, when holiday season comes, it's best to start early.
On all the printers and scanners you see reviewed here, you can click on the "Compare Prices" icon to see who's got the best deals online. The PriceGrabber comparisons include all the big-name stores including Amazon.com, J&R, and of course the manufacturers themselves.
Bottom line: Do your homework, check the sales online and off, and if possible go to a store so you can see the printer or scanner up close. Hope you save some money!