There's never been a better time to buy a multifunction printer. Quality is high, prices are low and even laser printers - once the preserve of the business user - are affordable enough to use in the home.
As feature sets and print engines improve, multifunction devices are becoming less specialist too. Sure, you can still choose between (for example) an HP Officejet and Photosmart model, but although the Photosmart produces better pictures and the Officejet is faster, the difference is far less pronounced than it once was; you can get decent photos from an Officejet, and the Photosmart is far from slow.
In this group test, we take a look at six multifunction printers - that is, devices that can print documents and photographs from your computer, have a built-in flatbed scanner for capturing images, and can make direct photocopies from the scanner without using your Mac at all.
We set three criteria which the printers on test must all meet. They must cost less than $350 (£200), using the best current online price rather than the RRP, they must offer color printing and they must be wireless. Two of the devices on test are laser printers, the other four are inkjets. We've also got a good mix of printers designed just for home users and those aimed more for small-office use.
All the printers we chose are A4 format. Printers that can output on an A3-sized page are becoming more popular, largely due to them falling in price, but they're still a niche product. A3 printing is a feature most users can live without, especially if space is at a premium - A3 printers tend to be much bulkier and heavier than standard A4 models.
We're covering two printers from Canon, and one each from Brother, HP, Xerox and Epson. Kodak has discontinued its inkjet printer range and doesn't feature here, even though you can still buy Kodak printers and the company continues to support its existing models with inks and paper.
Test one: Design and build
How do the two combine in one device?
Printers aren't known for their devastating good looks, but they've gotten better in the last few years. If you're after something that won't appear out of place in your studio, the Canon MG6350 and Epson printers are worth a look. Both have made improvements over previous models in their series, and both do on-disc printing too, as does the other Canon, the MX925.
The office-orientated printers are by necessity more austere and functional, but the Brother and HP models are well-built and look good.
All the printers except the Canon MG6350 and the Epson have Automatic Document Feeders (ADF) atop the scanner. We like the way the Canon printers open automatically when they start a job too. You don't have to get off your seat and open them, or risk having your print-outs crumple inside.
The Xerox was disappointing, with a flimsy build (the output catcher came off in our hands as we extended it), a small paper tray and a confusing user interface. It's the only printer to lack a color screen.
Test two: Print quality
What's it like for photos, text and images?
Full marks for the Canon PIXMA MX925 here. It put in a sterling performance across the board. Its text output is everything you'd expect from an office printer, and is as good as anything we've seen from an inkjet. Its photo reproduction was great too, with vivid, consistent colors and very good detail. Its duplex output was excellent, and a fast plain paper photo print was good, though a tad bleached.
Its stablemate, the MG6350, was equally strong in most areas but showed signs of banding in plain-paper default-quality prints. Being laser printers, the Brother and Xerox models are great at text printing, but not so good at pictures.