Consider supply costs. High ink- or toner-cartridge costs can make a bargain-priced printer a bad deal in the long run. Also, consider our maintenance ink usage rating, which reflects the extra ink used by an inkjet printer to maintain its print heads during light, intermittent use. Shop around for the best cartridge prices, but be wary of off-brands. We have found that brand-name ink cartridges have better print quality and fade-resistance, and that per-page costs are often comparable.
Also consider whether an inkjet has a separate cartridge for each ink color. Some have only one cartridge for all colors and a separate black cartridge for text. Depending on your photos, separate color cartridges might be more economical.
Another way to save money is by using plain paper for works in progress and saving the good stuff for final results. Glossy photo paper costs about 25 cents to $1 a sheet. We got the best results using the recommended brand of paper. You may be tempted to buy a cheaper brand, but lower-grade or incompatible paper can reduce photo quality.
Do you want to print photos without a computer? Printing images directly from your printer saves you an extra step and a little time. Features such as a memory-card reader, PictBridge support, or a wireless interface are convenient. Without the computer, though, you lose the ability to tweak image characteristics such as size, color, and brightness. Your editing options are very limited from a printer's LCD screen.
Before you buy, consider these additional tips to help you save money over the life of the printer.