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New all-in-one printers go beyond USB to offer many connection options

Consumer Reports News: February 01, 2013 03:08 PM

All-in-one printers can print, fax, and scan. And now, many new all-in-ones can also connect to the printing source in more ways than just using USB cables. We've just updated our printer Ratings, and some of the new models exemplify this trend.

Although the most common connection method for printers and computers is via a USB cable, you can set up these new printers via a network connection, using either Ethernet (a wired solution) or your home's Wi-Fi network. Some of our newly tested printers, such as the Canon MG6320 and the Epson Expression Premium XP-800, give you the option to use either Ethernet or Wi-Fi.

Many all-in-ones also let you print directly from some smart phones and tablets. For example, to print to a Canon printer, you'd download Canon's free Mobile Printing app to your smart device and configure it to "see" your Canon printer, and then print your photos, documents, and other items right from your device. In addition, some printers use Apple's AirPrint feature, which is built into many Apple devices, or Google's Cloud Print service, both of which allow wireless printing from smart devices without the need for special apps. And some even let you send an e-mail containing what's to be printed directly to your printer.

If you like to print photos, many all-in-ones provide two methods of bypassing your computer and going straight to the printer. The first is called PictBridge technology. It lets you connect a USB cable (the one that comes with your camera) from your point-and-shoot or advanced camera to the printer. In this type of connection, you control the printer via the camera's menu.

The second is by removing your camera's memory card and inserting it into a built-in card slot on your all-in-one. You then print from your card, controlling what you print via the printer's LCD panel. All printers that include memory-card slots are compatible with the Secure Digital (SD, SDHC or SDXC) memory card format, but if you want to print from an older format, such as CompactFlash (CF) cards, make sure there's a slot for that type of card built into your printer. Four of our newly tested models have PictBridge connections, and six include built-in memory card readers.

To see how these and other models did in our tests, check our buying guide and Ratings for printers.

Terry Sullivan

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