Buyer's Guide to Small, Compact Inkjet Printers

Whether you want a small, compact inkjet printer for your home office or small business or to take with you on the go, your choices have never been better. Compact inkjet printers fall into two categories: all-in-one scanner/copier/printers and small-footprint portable printers designed to accompany your laptop wherever it goes. While models are constantly being updated, this buyer's guide will give you an idea of the things to look for before buying.

All-in-one printers

All-in-one inkjet printers include scanner, copier and printer functionality, often with fax capabilities. Newer models will also include memory card slots for printing images directly from camera or phone memory cards without a computer. Wireless models allow you to print images from a computer or laptop that is not connected by a cable to the printer, and some can even print from your phone without you having to remove the memory card.

The average letter-size, all-in-one, inkjet printer will have a footprint that's about the size of a tabloid newspaper (with the paper tray closed). It may need twice that space with the paper tray fully open, so check carefully the dimensions of the space you have available. For example, the Kodak ESP C110 measures 16.5 by 12.3 by 6.8 inches with the paper tray closed but expands to a depth of 23.5 inches with the paper tray and feeder open. Remember, though, a wireless model needn't be situated near the computer.

Portable printers

With a portable printer, it's not so much the size as the weight that needs to be taken into account. The Canon BJC-85 Portable Printer measures just 2.3 by 11.8 by 6.2 inches and weighs in at an impressive 3.1 pounds, while the Brother Pocket Jet 6 is barely more than 10 inches long and 1 pound in weight. While these smaller printers sacrifice print quality, topping out at around 300 dpi (dots per minute) and 6 ppm (pages per minute), slightly larger desktop versions like the Canon i80 Mobile Printer bridge the gap between all-in-one and portable models. With faster print speeds and 600 dpi printing, yet still weighing in at 4 pounds and measuring 12.4 by 6.9 by 2 inches, they are light enough to be portable, yet provide quality printing that should be adequate for most needs.

Printing costs

Besides the footprint and weight of the printer and its speed and print quality, you should consider one other major factor when buying an inkjet printer: the cost of replacement inks. Always check the price of replacement cartridges before you buy low-end printers. The ink that goes in them often seems to cost as much as the machines themselves!

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