AirPrint's real boon is that you don't need any extra drivers installed to print any more - you simply set up your printer on the same Wi-Fi network as your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch and use the print feature now available in many iOS apps such as Photos and Mail.
Your device will automatically detect the printer on your network, and connect to it to print your photos and documents. So we've gathered together a good spread of AirPrint printers for your perusal.
Brother DCP-J525W - £77
Canon MG8250 - £256
Epson PX730WD - £126
HP Envy 110 - £199
HP Photosmart 7510 - £129
Test one: Features
All of our printers are designed with photo printing in mind, but can also scan documents as well as copy. They all have 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity too, so you can print wirelessly from your computer as well as using the AirPrint feature to print from your iOS device.
As you'll hear (or read), print quality varied largely in line with the number of ink tanks on the printer, although the five-tank HP Photosmart 7510 e-All-in-One competed well with the six-tank Epson Stylus Photo PX730WD.
Both of the HP printers have true touchscreens, as does the cheapest printer on test - the Brother DCP-J525W. The Brother's two-inch touchscreen display is a little basic, but functional.
HP has tried to add a bit of iOS magic to its printers with the machines' screens; the touch is of a decent quality, but it's nowhere near as good as on your Apple device. The Canon Pixma MG8250 and the Epson printer still have screens, but they use touch controls on the printer itself.
The HP Photosmart 7510 has the most comprehensive feature set for dealing with scanning documents, with an automatic document feeder (ADF), which means scanning or copying multi-page documents is a breeze. It's great for a home office.
If you want to spend less and you're doing document printing mostly, the Brother DCP-J525W is a great deal. Although the consumables are expensive, print speeds are absolutely fantastic.
What the HP Envy 110 All-in-One or Brother printer can't do, however, is duplex printing for double-sided documents. The other three can handle this increasingly common feature with ease.
The Canon printer can scan negatives - great for those with old analogue photos to turn digital - and what's more, it's the only printer here to have a rear paper feeder, which is especially useful for juggling plain paper and photo paper. It's just a shame it's so expensive - £256 is a lot to pay for a printer, especially when there are some great options available for over £100 less.
The mid-priced Epson Stylus Photo PX730WD and HP Photosmart 7510 also have the ability to handle two types of paper at the same time, since they include a smaller photo paper tray. However, the Brother and HP Envy 110 are the most limited for paper options, with only a single tray for paper. Even during our photo paper and plain paper testing, this became an issue. While both can be used for photo printing, there are far better options available.
At least the Brother has a low price on its side, meaning that the most disappointing printer on test for features is undoubtedly the HP Envy 110. It's quick and has snazzy specifications including a large 3.5-inch touchscreen, but the quality of the prints produced are poor for a printer set at such a haughty price point.
Test two: Print quality and value
Two printers lag behind in terms of photo print quality - the Brother lacks vibrancy and definition, and the HP Envy 110's tri-colour cartridge system gave duller colours than the rest, yet costs a huge amount more.
The Canon wins for quality, but has the most expensive cartridges, costing £10 more than the Epson's full set. It's a toss-up between the HP Photosmart and Epson for quality and cost. You pay more for the HP up front, but the cartridges are cheaper, and quality is great with both.
If you need out-and-out photo quality at any price, the Canon is the one for you. If you want to print multi-page documents, the Brother is ideal. But the HP Photosmart is a better all-rounder.
Test three: Setup and AirPrint
Unlike many of Apple's other attempts at networking features, this works seamlessly in our experience - even if you've previously had a bad time with Wi-Fi printing, you shouldn't here.
AirPrint is a premium feature, so hasn't yet made it into cheaper printers - mainly because they don't have Wi-Fi. Thankfully, the tech is streamlined, so AirPrint is fantastically easy to use.
We didn't have problems with getting it to work on any of our five printers with an iOS 5 iPhone 4 and original iPad, even though we've previously had problems over our home network with other Apple technologies such as iTunes Home Sharing. By the way, you'll need iOS 4.2 or later to use AirPrint.
AirPrint had no problems identifying multiple printers and let us select the one we wanted. AirPrint also warned us if a printer was low on ink or out of paper using a notification on the screen.
One thing we found problematic was paper size, and there's no set rule for how each printer manufacturer deals with this, it seems. What's more, there's no way on your device to control this (although your regional settings will dictate whether a print job will be sent as A4 or Letter size).
The HP models printed full size on whatever paper we put in the printer. A4 gave us an A4 print and 4×6-inch photo paper gave us the appropriate print for that paper size. However, Epson says that, while Mail and Safari support A4, photos will only print on 4×6-inch photo paper. This was borne out by our experiments - we couldn't get the Epson printer to print photos on A4 - it kept trying to find paper in the 4×6 tray.
The Canon and Brother printers would print on A4, but upscaled. So, if you want the option of printing photos on A4, you need one of the HPs. If you have an HP printer and need better paper control, HP suggests using the HP ePrint app instead.
And the winner is… HP Photosmart 7510 £129
An impressive feature set, reasonably priced cartridges and high-quality printing
While the Canon Pixma MG8250 is our top choice for print quality, it was ultimately let down by its high price. You get superb prints for your money, but it's a lot of money. Plus there's the nigh-on £50 cost of ink replacements.
The Epson PX730WD and HP Photosmart 7510 produce similar results and are close to the Canon, if you whack up the settings to best quality and use HP photo paper. But there are several reasons the Photosmart comes out on top.
The first is the crisp 4.3-inch touchscreen. This sets the Photosmart's controls apart from the other printers here - although it's nowhere near the quality of an Apple touchscreen, it must be said. The icon-driven interface makes it easy to use, and you can tilt the screen to a comfortable angle.
HP's mini-apps aren't really a massive value-adder, but they are interesting. Being able to access your Facebook photos will appeal to some, while eFax adds an online fax function. The printer is quick, and the ADF is excellent for scanning, archiving and faxing multi-page documents. But it lacks a second A4 tray (only the Canon had this here), direct CD/DVD disc printing and a USB stick reader.
You also sadly can't plug in a digital camera using the PictBridge standard, although it does play wonderfully with your iOS devices. Since the HP printers in our test conform to the ePrint standard, you can also print documents by emailing them to the printer.
The Photosmart 7510 makes for a terrific print companion that can deal with high quality photo printing and document handling. It's also great value for money - unlike the Envy 110. The Envy just costs too much, which is why we'd go for the Brother over it, too.
If money were no object, we'd love to have the Canon Pixma MG8250, but the cost of consumables would eventually wear us down. HP surprised us with its sensible attitude to ink pricing, and it's one of the key reasons the Photosmart won - especially over the Epson and Brother models, which have expensive consumables. There's no reason AirPrint should strain your wallet!
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