THE BLOG
09/12/2014 04:40 pm ET Updated Nov 12, 2014

Three Printers That Can Save on Space, Time and Money

We have found ourselves surrounded by printers. Big and small. Fast and slow. Wireless and tethered. But they all have one thing in common: They get the job done with a minimum of effort on our part.

Sitting in front of us are three new models of desktop multifunction printers from Epson, Hewlett-Packard and Sharp, all of which can print, scan, fax and copy documents efficiently and at decent speeds, but there are a few differences.

The new Epson Expression Premium XP-820 Small-in-One Printer ($199.99) Is a small-footprint multifunction device designed to fit into smaller areas, but still deliver everything you would expect from a desktop printer. With this, though come a couple of sacrifices:

There's only one paper tray with a capacity of 100 sheets of paper, which could be a problem if you have large print jobs in your future. But, for most of us, it's more than adequate. Also, those of us with magnifying glasses may notice that the quality of printed text is a bit less than we've come to expect from Epson printers, although the quality of its printed graphics are better than most desktop inkjet printers.

We don't see either of these "problems" as major, especially for the average user on a limited budget.

As with the XP-810, which we reviewed earlier this year, the XP-820 has a ton of features that far outweigh its deficiencies, including:

  • A retractable output paper tray that sits inside the printer until you're ready to print and then glides out of the machine when it detects a print job is pending.
  • It can automatically detect and connect to your wireless network.
  • A large LCD screen so you can select it's various functions
  • It uses five ink cartridges: photo black, black and the usual magenta, cyan and yellow.
  • It offers two-sided printing
  • It has a second paper tray that can handle 30 sheets of 4x6 photo paper and printable CDs and DVDs.
  • You can edit and crop photos without using a PC by inserting a flash drive or memory cards into the printer's USB port, memory-card reader or by using PictBridge
  • There's an app - - - EpsonConnect - - - that lets you print from any mobile device
  • You can scan or share documents and photos on Facebook or use other cloud-based services
  • It boasts a print speed of up to 14 pages per minute (it's a bit slower for photos and graphics using a lot of color).
  • It scans at up to 4800 DPI

The HP OfficeJet Pro 8620 ($299.99) was actually sent to us so we sould review a new service that is, for now, unique to HP: This line of printers monitors how much ink you've used and "orders" replacement cartridges before you run out.

The process is fairly simple.

After setting up the printer, you set up an HP Connected account and sign up for the Instant Ink replacement service. At that point, you'll be asked to select a "plan" that reflects your ink usage and will charge you a monthly fee:

  • $2.99 per month if you print up to 50 pages per month
  • $4.99 per month if you print up to 100 pages
  • $9.99 per month if you print up to 300 pages

The billing cycle begins once you've installed the first set of cartidges into the printer.

Now, when you figure the average printer cartridge costs about $11 (and you need four or five for today's printers), even the $9.99 plan is a pretty good deal for higher-use environments.

Our first set of replacements arrived a few days before we ran out of black ink, saving us from a trip to our neighborhood office supply store.

The printer, itself, was released earlier this year and, truthfully, can fill any need you may have for a multifunction home or office machine.

It's about twice the size of the Epson we tested, but can still fit in moderately tight spaces. It can also link to your smartphone or tablet using near field communications technology (NFC) eliminating having to use the printer's USB port. Among its other key features are:

  • You can easily connect it to your wireless network using the setup software
  • You can print using any mobile device or use HP web apps available on the cloud
  • Like the Epson it only has one paper tray, but this one has a 250-sheet capacity. There's no second tray for smaller paper or CDs
  • It has a 4.3-inch front panel display to access all of its functions
  • The auto document feeder has a capacity of 50 pages and can fax, copy or scan double-sided documents.
  • Ethernet and USB ports to connect to a computer or wired network
  • Print speeds up to 21 pages per minute
  • Image quality up to 1200 by 600 dpi

The Sharp MX-C301W printer ("available for purchase or lease") is the big brother of this trio. This hefty, 70-pound multifunction laser printer does everything the other printers do, but is meant for a larger office environment.

The only problem was probably our fault more than theirs: We weren't able to connect it to our wireless network. This, we're told, could have been due to our having numerous devices (wireless and Ethernet) hogging bandwidth. We were, however, pleased with its performance when we used Ethernet and USB cables.

The first thing we noticed is how fast this printer is. Designed for large print jobs, it hit print speeds of up to 30 pages per minute, which blows away most consumer/SOHO models.

In addition:

  • It has a 300-sheet paper tray that can be boosted to 800 with an optional tray
  • It's smaller than most of the standard "biz-hub" type printers and can easily fit on a small table or desk (we used a living room lamp table)
  • It has a seven-inch touch screen to access all of its functions
  • It can scan documents to email, network folders or USB memory devices
  • It automatically deletes everything in its memory when the lease period ends
  • It can be accessed through an app using any smartphone or mobile device
  • It has a built-in 250 GB hard drive
  • 600x600 dpi printing

The mode you choose, of course, depends on the need of your home or business, but we believe any of these printers are a good fit for almost any environment.

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