What's behind our printer Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 110 models in printers to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score is based on speed and quality of print, scan, and copy functions, plus ease of use. The displayed score is out of a total of 100 points.
  • Ink cost/month
    Estimated cost (in dollars) for ink or toner in a month of typical use, based on our tests and how our readers told us they print. For inkjets: 23 text pages, 9 graphics pages, 2.4 large photos, 3.6 small photos, and 3.5 photos on plain paper. For lasers: 62 text pages, 24 graphics pages, 1.7 large photos, 1.9 small photos, and 2.3 photos on plain paper. Photos cost the most, text documents the least, so your results may vary from these figures, but they are useful for comparing models.
  • Maintenance ink use
    Reflects the amount of extra ink used by an inkjet printer to maintain its print heads in our test printing a total of 30 pages of text and color graphics intermittently over a 4-week period, turning the printer OFF between print jobs. "NA" indicates an older model that did not undergo these tests.
  • 4x6 photo cost
    4x6 photo cost per print.
  • 8x10 photo cost
    8x10 photo cost per print.
  • Text cost
    Text cost per print.
  • Photo quality
    This is our assessment of the appearance of each photo. Models with higher scores produce more natural looking photos, with smoother changes in shading and fewer problems with banding.
  • 4x6 photo time
    This score reflects how quickly the model can print one 4x6 photo on photo-quality paper. 1 minute or less is excellent; 1 to 2 minutes is very good; 2 to 4 minutes is good; 4 to 6 minutes is fair; and longer than 6 minutes is poor.
  • 8x10 photo time
    This score reflects how quickly the model can print one 8x10 photo on photo-quality paper. 2 minutes or less is excellent; 2 to 4 minutes is very good; 4 to 6 minutes is good; 6 to 8 minutes is fair; and longer than 8 minutes is poor.
  • Text quality
    This indicates how crisply and clearly a printer produced black text in a variety of faces, sizes, and styles. Models with higher scores produce more uniform type, with sharper edges and smoother curves.
  • Text speed
    This score reflects how quickly the model can print text on five pages of plain, letter-sized pages. 30 seconds or less is excellent; 31 to 60 seconds is very good; 61 to 90 seconds is good; 91 to 120 seconds is fair; and longer than 120 seconds is poor.
  • Graphics quality
    Our assessment of the appearance of color graphics produced by the printer. Black and white lasers were judged on black and white graphics.
  • Convenience
    Measures the ease of carrying out a series of common activities with the printer.
  • Scan quality
    Scan quality is for color photos, graphics, and text scanned at each model's default settings.
  • Copy quality
    Copy quality is for graphics and text.
  • Power saving
    This indicates how well the printer conserves power between uses.
  • Versatility
    Versatility indicates features that increase a printer's utility or capabilities.



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Recommended printers

Recommended printers are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
Inkjet and laser printers have become more affordable and increasingly full featured. Inkjet printers have become the standard for home-computer use. If you're looking for information about printers, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ printer reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our printer buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased Ratings and printer reviews to help you choose the best printer for your needs.

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Printer buying guide

Inkjet printers have become the standard for home-computer use. They can turn out color photos nearly indistinguishable from lab-processed photos, along with stickers, transparencies, T-shirt transfers, and greeting cards. Many produce excellent black-and-white text. With some very good models selling for less than $200, it's no surprise that inkjets account for the vast majority of printers sold for home use.

Laser printers still have their place in home offices. If you print reams of black-and-white text documents, you probably need the quality, speed, and low per-copy cost of a laser printer. Printers use a computer's microprocessor and memory to process data. The latest inkjets and lasers are so fast partly because computers have become more powerful and contain much more memory than before.

Before you start shopping, decide whether to get an inkjet or a laser model, and a plain printer or an all-in-one. You can base your decision on what you'll be printing. This printer guide will help.

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