Printers possess a near-magical ability to convert intangible bits from a computer into photos and documents that you hold or store without further mechanical assistance. The scanner in a multi-function printer (MFP) does the opposite by taking analog photos or documents and digitizing them into a form only accessible electronically. Wireless printers and MFPs started cutting the physical link with the computer as Wi-Fi networks became commonplace in the home and office. Now, with the explosion of other types of wireless devices including phones, tablets and even smart TVs with built-in cameras and browsers, the idea of tethering a cable even temporarily to a printer seems as appealing as towing a corded phone around. Wi-Fi was meant for walking. That mobile device in your pocket won’t tolerate being attached to a printer or scanner when bits can fly through the air with the greatest of ease.
Welcome to the generation of wireless printers and the golden age of the mobile app. Whether you lean iOS or Android, the major printer manufacturers all offer free apps to download into your mobile device so you can print nearly anything you see from your touch screen. Conversely, anything that can be scanned can be transferred wirelessly to your mobile device. So, whether you’ve just taken a picture with your mobile device, received a picture by email, downloaded an image from a sharing site, or simply want to print out a Web page, a hard copy is as close as your nearest wireless MFP. Want to transport a mug shot, magazine hair style, real estate photo, train schedule or recipe from paper to cyberspace? No problem. Put it face down and feed it into the MFP’s scanner and get a precisely aligned, crisp digital image that you’d be hard-pressed to duplicate by casually pointing a phone camera.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one printer, scanner, copier and fax machine with an aptitude for outputting high-quality color photographs, Canon, Epson and HP each offer inkjet models that do the job. All the models covered in this roundup can be handcuffed to a computer by USB cable for sure, but where’s the flexibility in that? In the mobile world, all these models are Wi-Fi-enabled and compatible with a free app from each printer manufacturer that’s downloadable into your handheld device from the iTunes App Store or Google Play.
If you’re using a Canon printer, Easy-PhotoPrint (Canon iEPP) is a free application that allows you to print your photos easily from your Apple or Android device to a compatible PIXMA multifunction printer through a local wireless network. You’ll also be able to use the PIXMA’s scanner to transfer images wirelessly into your handheld device with the option of saving them as a JPEG or PDF. The app automatically finds printers on a wireless network when launching the Canon iEPP. Compatible models include the PIXMA MG5320 Photo All-In-One Inkjet, MG6220 Photo All-In-One Inkjet and MG8220 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-In-One. Each of these printers can hand you a borderless 4 x 6-inch color photo with a resolution up to 9600 x 2400 pixels approximately 20 seconds after you send it from your smartphone. Documents such as Web pages can be printed much faster, albeit at lower resolutions. So, for instance, you can pump out 12.5 images per minute (ipm) in black or 9.3 ipm in color.
Physical connectivity alternatives to Wi-Fi include Ethernet, USB, PictBridge jacks and slots for a variety of memory cards including Secure Digital and Compact Flash. USB, Ethernet and PictBridge cables are not included. Incidentally, if you prefer wireless linkage without a Wi-Fi network, several of the printers including the MG8220 accept Canon’s BU-30 Bluetooth Adapter. So, if you have a Bluetooth-capable smartphone or tablet or dedicated camera such as the Ricoh G700SE, you’ll be able to dispatch photos wirelessly to the printer even without Wi-Fi.
At 10 seconds to print a 4 x 6-inch color photo, the Epson Artisan 730 All-In-One Printer and Artisan 837 All-In-One Printer are twice as fast as the Canon PIXMAs above, though at 5760 x 1440 dpi, the photo resolution is less than half that of the Canon models. When not printing photos, the Artisans can pump out black or color 8.5 x 11-inch sheets at 9.1 pages per minute (ppm). Unlike the 730, the 837 offers a maximum printable area of 8.5- x 14-inches. Both Artisans are adept at automatic two-sided printing. (Just when you thought the page was done, the printer pulls the paper back in to do the other side.)
The Epson iPrint app, designed for iPhones and iPads as well as Android devices, lets you print to nearby Epson wireless printers including the Artisan 730 and 837, among others. You can print photos, Web pages and files including Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents as well as PDF files. You’ll also be able to scan from your Epson all-in-one and save the files to your mobile device, then send them via email or save them to an online destination. You can print your photos, documents, PDFs and Web pages. You can scan, save and share your files. Epson iPrint supports online file services such as Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs.
Each Artisan contains a 2.5-inch touch screen for previewing and editing photos before printing. The 837 additionally has an automatic document feeder for multipage scanning, faxing or copying. Both can print directly on CDs and DVDs for decorating a photo disc with a signature image, for example. Aside from Wi-Fi, both printers sport Ethernet, USB and PictBridge inputs and can accept CF, Memory Stick, xD and SDXC cards, among others.
Using the HP Printer Control app or HP ePrint Home & Biz app available for both iOS and Android devices, you can wirelessly print to a variety of HP printers including the HP Photosmart 6510 e-All-in-One Printer and HP Photosmart 7510 e-All-In-One Printer. The Control app enables auto printer discovery and setup, printer status notification, ink/toner status and cartridge identification. Using your handheld screen, you’ll be able to do an interactive scan in which you can preview, crop and scan images and documents wirelessly from the e-All-In-One printer to your mobile device. If you’re using the copying feature in the printer, the app enables interactive copy control for cropping or resizing documents, reports or images before making the copy. You’ll also be able to scan to email using your default email application. Alternatively, you can use the camera in your mobile device as a scanner from the HP app. And whether you’re scanning or shooting, you’ll be able to direct the image to social sharing sites like Facebook from within the app. If your printer has a photo tray, such as the 5 x 7-inch one incorporated in both the 6510 and 7510, it will be automatically selected for photo printing. Otherwise, the default will be the main tray. That’s a lot of control from the touch screen in the palm of your hand.
Of course, HP’s Photosmart printers are highly capable absent app control. Both can be operated from a built-in color touch screen (3.45 inches for the 6510 and 4.33 inches for the 7510). The printers feature automatic duplex printing and the ability to print directly from an SD or Memory Stick Duo card. Both use thermal inkjet technology, but the 6510 prints from four cartridges; and the 7510 from five—the fifth being dedicated to photo printing. The latter can output a 4 x 6-inch photo in as little as 16 seconds. If you’re printing 8.5 x 11-inch documents, the 6510 can print high-quality color at up to 7.5 ppm and laser-comparable black at up to 11 ppm. For draft-quality color or black, the rate goes up to 22 ppm. The 7510 delivers color documents at speeds ranging from 9 ppm (best quality) to 33 ppm (draft quality) and black documents from 13.5 to 33 ppm. The 6510 has a monthly duty cycle of 1,000 pages; the 7510, 1,250 pages.
Though color inkjets are photo-friendly, a monochrome laser printer with copying and scanning capabilities may better serve your general office needs. In terms of consumables, monochrome printing is always less costly than color. For example, take the Brother MFC-7860DW All-In-One B/W Laser Printer with Wireless Networking & Duplex. The printer, copier, scanner and fax machine is capable of pumping out 27 pages per minute with a top resolution of 2400 x 600 dpi. It supports duplex printing, a maximum paper size of 8.5 x 14-inches, 250 sheet standard paper capacity and flatbed or automatic document feed copying for up to 35 sheets at a time. Best of all is the amount of usage you’ll be able to get from the printer’s consumables. The included DR400 Drum Unit yields about 12,000 pages and the Starter Toner Cartridge about 700 pages. When you replace the ink with the Brother TN420 Standard Yield Black Toner or TN450 High Yield Toner Black Cartridge, you’ll be good for about another 1,400 or 2,600 letter-size pages of printing, respectively.
The MFC-7860DW supports Ethernet and wireless networking. Wi-Fi enables the Brother iPrint&Scan app for wireless printing (JPEG, PDF, Web page and email) and scanning to your Apple, Android or Windows Phone 7 (JPEG only) mobile device. (Nokia, owners, rejoice.) Other app-compatible Brother printers include the MFC-9560CDW and MFC-9325CW, which are both color printers. The MFC-9560CDW is a laser; the MVC-9325CW, an electro-photographic LED (using a light array rather than a single scanning beam, which helps make the printer design more compact). Both incorporate four toner cartridges (black, cyan, magenta and yellow) plus a drum unit. If you print predominantly in black and shades of gray, you just replace the black cartridge. But you have the flexibility of printing in color as needed.
Brother iPrint&Scan is a free application that enables you to print from and scan to your mobile device whether it’s iOS- or Android-based. So, for example, you can print photos directly from your iPhone camera or documents and Web pages. You can print what you copied to the clipboard. You can even use iTunes File Sharing to send compatible files (PDF, Text, JPEG, PNG, TIFF) to iPrint&Scan for printing at a later time. You can use the scanner in your Brother equipment to scan directly to your iPhone and save scanned images to your photo album or iCloud for iOS, or send them in an email. You can also print scanned images saved to iCloud from this app. No computer or driver is required. The Android and Windows 7 Phone app versions have similar though not identical capabilities.
When your workplace relies on a relatively high amount of printing and copying, you’re in good hands with a multifunction monochrome model. Though faxing has taken a back seat in the age of email, access to a fast printer/copier is still crucial to business. So, for example, the HP LaserJet Pro M1217nfw Multifunction Printer touts a monthly duty cycle of up to 8,000 pages. Saddling one of the inkjets above with that job would have you replacing the ink cartridges at a rate that would have your office manager’s head spinning. But if you insert an HP 85A LaserJet Black Print Cartridge into the M1217nfw (which ships with an introductory, lower-yield cartridge), you can expect an average yield of 1,600 pages.
The M1217nfw prints pages up to 8.5 x 14 inches in size at speeds up to 18 ppm, with the first page out in as little as 8.5 seconds. The best quality is 600 x 600 dpi along with 256 incremental levels of gray. The LaserJet can be connected by Ethernet cable (not included) to your network or to a computer with the supplied USB cable. There’s a phone jack, too, for sending and receiving faxes, but there’s no memory card slot. A two-line monochrome LCD readout above a hard set of real buttons including a numeric pad replaces the touch screen found in most of the HP inkjets here. An auto document feeder holds 35 sheets. The printer is compatible with AirPrint, an Apple technology that lets you print from any AirPrint-enabled application—not just from the printer manufacturer’s app—on an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch to an AirPrint-enabled printer. Most of the printers in this roundup are AirPrint-compatible. See accompanying charts.
Of course, color paints the town compared to shades of gray. HP’s mobile app-compatible color models include an inkjet, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 e-All-In-One, and a laser, the HP LaserJet Pro 100 Color MFP M175nw. You don’t have to approach either model to print, but if you decide to get close to the 8600, you’ll notice a 2.65-inch color touch screen, a 250-sheet input tray, 35-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) and 150-sheet output tray. A 250-sheet input tray is an option. With two USB inputs, an Ethernet jack, fax modem port and slots for a variety of memory cards, wireless is just another way of connecting. The LaserJet Pro 100 MFP is HP’s smallest multi-function color laser. Even so, it weighs 9 pounds more than the OfficeJet. Besides being compatible with the HP ePrint app, both are AirPrint-ready.
All things considered, multi-function printers are shedding their cables as users increasingly learn to scan to the hand—the mobile device in their hand, that is—and print to the air. If you’re concerned that retailers will lose out on profitable cable accessories, not to worry. There are always ink cartridges.