Most Popular Inkjet Printers
Epson WorkForce WF-3620 - Reviews, Prices, Specs and Alternatives
Epson WorkForce WF-3620
Print speed measures how many pages a printer can print in one minute—in pages per minute, or PPM. This is a manufacturer reported number, so keep in mind that it’s in their best interest to report the highest number possible and may not be completely accurate in reality. Print speeds don’t typically take into account paper size, the complexity of the document, formatting, color variety, and other conditions that may slow down the print process. PPM is usually an average number and represents the speed for printing unformatted documents with basic black text. Unless stated otherwise, this number likely does not include time for the printer to start up and begin printing either, which can take almost as long as the print job itself. Weigh print speed against time to warm up for a good balance between the two. A few less pages per minute with a quick load time might be a better option than the highest PPM with a 20+ second warm up.
Still, PPM is a good reference point to judge speed of printers, especially if the manufacturer gives you a separate PPM for monochrome and color. If you don’t plan to print a lot of complex color documents with many images and graphics, you’ll print at speeds closer to the manufacturer reported rate.Hide
Resolution, measured in maximum Dots Per Inch or dpi, indicates the relative quality of the print you receive. The more dpi, the sharper the print and the better the quality. Dots per inch quite literally means the number of dots of ink in one square inch of print area. It can be displayed as a single number, such as 600 dpi, or a length/width measurement, such as 600 x 1200 dpi. The difference being that 600 dpi is 600 dots of ink both horizontally and vertically, whereas 600 x 1200 dpi is 600 dots in one direction and 1200 dots in the other.
There are two caveats to your printer’s dpi related to ink. First, you can change the ink setting to a lower dpi when you print for faster jobs that use less ink (higher dpi means more ink per inch). So choose a printer with the maximum dpi available, but know that you can adjust settings. Second, the quality and sharpness of a printed document from a laser printer will naturally be more crisp and clear than an inkjet printer, even if they have the same dpi. This is because inkjet printers use tiny droplets of ink on the page, which can bleed very slightly when soaked into the paper. Laser printers use toner, a powder substance that is bonded to the page and comes out much sharper.
The resolution you need will depend on what you plan to print. 600 dpi is enough for basic printing with some graphics, for personal use and even day-to-day business use. More professional documents and basic photography will be fine at 1200 dpi.Hide
Duty cycle measures the maximum number of pages a device can print per month. It can range from 5,000 pages for low end, personal printers to 100,000 or more for high-tech office printers. If you print more than the duty cycle in one month, you run the very high risk of damaging your printer or having it break on you. The higher the duty cycle, the more durable your printer probably is. Regardless of the number, you should be printing well under your duty cycle; if you aren’t, you’ll cause significant wear and tear much quicker.
It’s important to note that there are no industry standards for measuring duty cycle, so one brand’s calculations may differ greatly from another’s. Use duty cycle as a reference, but not the sole reason you purchase a printer. You should weigh this limit against other specs before making a decision.Hide
Duplex printing refers to the printer’s ability to print on both sides of a sheet of paper, or double-sided. When a printer is auto-duplex capable, it can print double-sided automatically. Manual duplexing requires you to feed the paper back into the printer for it to print on the opposite side. If the printer does not have duplexing (either manual or automatic), you can only print one-sided documents. The advantage of auto-duplex printing is time saved—manually feeding documents back into the printer can be extremely time consuming. Also, note that duplex printing will significantly lower your print speed, so do not expect the printer to print at the reported print speed (in pagers per minute, or PPM) when duplexing.Hide
The automatic document feeder, or ADF, is a tray that automatically feeds paper into the printer usually for scanning, copying, and sometimes faxing (if the printer has the fax feature). Once a job is initiated, the ADF automatically pulls paper one sheet at a time to scan, fax or copy/print. The alternative to an ADF is a flatbed scanner, which is the glass plate usually on top of the printer that scans only one document at a time. An ADF, on the other hand, can scan/copy multiple sheets at a time without the need to manually feed each page or place on the flatbed. There is a limit to the paper capacity of the ADF, usually ranging anywhere from 10 sheets to 200 sheets.
Document feeders can be single-sided or double-sided/duplex capable. If the ADF supports duplex scanning, it does so in one of two ways: 1) Reverse automatic document feeders, or RADFs, scan one side of a paper, reverse it, and send it back through the printer to scan the other side. 2) Duplexing automatic document feeders, or DADFs, have dual sensors to scan both sides of the paper as it feeds through the printer.Hide
Not all printers can handle all sizes of paper. If you plan to print photos, envelopes, labels, or other variations from the typical 8.5x11" letter paper, you’ll need a printer that has settings to support these paper sizes. Some printers also have multi-purpose print trays or feeders that can be adjusted to accommodate different sized documents. This makes printing non-typical sizes easier and quicker.Hide
- 3.5 in x 5 in
- 4 in x 6 in
- 5 in x 7 in
- 8 in x 10 in
- 8.5 in x 11 in
- 8.5 in x 14 in
Not all printers can handle all types of paper. To print with different paper weights and styles, such as glossy photo paper or thicker card stock, your printer must have settings that support that paper type. Inkjet printers generally have more paper types available, since laser printers print using heat and bend the paper through the feeder—which is more difficult with complex paper types. Inkjet printers are also more commonly used for multimedia paper types, such as photos, posterboard, and business cards.Hide
- Glossy Photo Paper
- Matte Photo Paper
- Plain Paper
- Inkjet Paper
- Recycled Paper
Paper tray capacity indicates the maximum number of sheets of paper that fit in the tray or document feeder. The main tray will likely hold the most paper; the printer may also have one or more backup trays to hold more paper. The capacity for the backup tray(s) will be listed separately from the main tray. The more often you print, or the bigger your documents tend to be, the more you will benefit from a larger paper tray capacity. With that larger tray, you won’t have to reload paper as often. However, if you don’t plan to print often, or if you’re not printing long documents, you’ll have more flexibility in the size of the paper tray.Hide
The four main functions of printers are: printing, scanning, photocopying, and faxing. Either your device will be print only, print/scan/copy, or an all-in-one printer that does printing, scanning, copying, and faxing. Note that scanning and copying almost always come together, since the hardware for these features overlaps significantly. Generally speaking, all-in-one printers are larger, so those with space constraints may find this to be an inconvenience. Additionally, printers with a fax feature are typically more expensive. It would be wise to only consider this feature if you plan to fax often. If not, you’ll be satisfied with a print/scan/copy device.
If the printer comes with scanning capabilities, there are two possible methods to scan documents: on a flatbed scanner or through a feeder. A flatbed scanner is a sheet of glass on top of the scanner and underneath a lid. Items are placed on top of the glass, face down, and a scanning head moves across the document from underneath the glass to capture the document or image. This method is great for scanning odd sized documents, such as driver’s licenses or books, especially because you don’t need to move the document. Flatbed scanners also usually produce higher quality scans.
Feeders operate like paper trays. A document is fed through the printer one page at a time and scanned. While feeders do not have the flexibility to scan anything other than letter-sized paper, it is much more convenient to scan multi-page documents in a feeder than by placing each individual sheet on a flatbed scanner. Some printers will have both a flatbed scanner and a feeder. The right one for you will depend on the types of scan jobs you plan to do.Hide
Do you plan to scan documents, and if so, what do you want to do with your scan? Scan to email allows you to scan a document and email it to yourself or someone else. Scan to image or PDF allows you to scan a document and save it as an image, PDF, or other file type. Optical character recognition, or OCR, is a technology that converts printed characters, through scanned documents or PDFs, into editable and searchable digital text. With OCR software, a scanned document is converted into a word processing file, so you can edit or search for text within the documents. Each of these features can be useful to you, or they could be superfluous, depending on your individual and business needs.Hide
Network printers can be wired or wireless. A printer with a wired network connection uses an Ethernet cord that connects directly to your router. A wireless printer connects to your home or office Wi-Fi network. Any computer also connected to your network can use your printer, whether it’s wired or wireless. You will have to install software, or printer drivers, on the computer before you can print. Also, there is a setup process for the printer to get it on the network. If your printer is not wireless, you’ll need to connect it directly to your computer via USB cable, which is not ideal if you have multiple users that need the printer simultaneously.Hide
Wi-Fi direct allows your Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as your smartphone, computer, or tablet, to connect to your printer without using a wireless router or network. You can connect to your printer directly—hence Wi-Fi direct—and print without the need for wireless internet. This is particularly useful if you do not have a wireless network in your home or office, or if your internet service goes down. In order to use Wi-Fi direct, you will need the printer’s mobile app or software installed. Note that this feature does not provide Wi-Fi for your other devices. It only connects your device to your printer for printing purposes.Hide
Outside of Wi-Fi, there are a number of ways a device can connect to a printer. If the printer is not wireless, you’ll have to connect to your printer via USB cable. Some people prefer using the wired connection because it allows for faster data transfers and quicker printing. Depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi and how strong the signal is, it can take time for the document to send from computer to printer over the network. Using a wired connection eliminates this issue. Other connections you may have are: Ethernet for wired connection to your network; Airprint or Google Cloud Print for quick direct printing over the cloud/internet; USB hard drive or memory card to print directly from storage devices; or PictBridge to print directly from cameras.Hide
You may also be able to print directly from your smartphone or tablet through features like AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, or from a brand-specific mobile app like Brother’s iPrint&Scan app. If you are using an app, you’ll need to download it from the app store and connect to your printer via your mobile device. Once this is complete, you should have the option to print across your devices, for webpages, photos, documents, and more. However, if you plan on using a printer to connect only to a computer, you might not need this feature.Hide
- Google Cloud Print
- Print from USB Flash Drive
- Save to USB Flash Drive
- Scan to Cloud
- Scan to Folder
Bluetooth is an alternative to Wi-Fi as a way to connect your printer to your computer, phone, or other device wirelessly. Some printers have built-in Bluetooth capabilities, though most printers are compatible with Bluetooth adapters if you’d like to add this feature. To print over Bluetooth, you’ll need to “pair” your devices with your printer. Once you’ve done this, the feature basically operates the same as if you were using your Wi-Fi network (with the added benefit of still being able to work if your network goes down).Hide
Printing directly from media, such as a memory card, USB hard drive, slides, or negatives, allows you to skip the middleman and print documents or images without uploading them to a computer first.
From a time-saving perspective, this is a useful feature. However, it may not be necessary if you plan to upload your files to a computer to save, organize or edit before printing them.Hide
- Memory card
- USB stick
If you are an avid photographer using film cameras, being able to print directly from film is advantageous. Also, being able to upload your film photos to a computer keeps a copy of them safer in the long run. However, this is a pretty niche feature that is found on specialized devices only.Hide
If you are creating a CD or DVD, you likely want to create a customized cover for it. Being able to stick a disc in the drive and have a cover directly on it is useful. However this a fairly niche feature that will likely not be found on most modern printers.Hide
Printers with an LCD screen/display give you the option to control some settings directly on the printer, such as a one-touch print, scan, copy, or fax. You may also be able to adjust print quality, preview the print job, and/or view connection settings. Some screens are programmed to offer setup instructions for easy installation. For those who are not particularly tech savvy, this could be helpful.
If photos are one of your main print jobs, you may have a camera that is PictBridge compliant. PictBridge is built-in software that allows you to print directly from your camera. The camera is connected to the printer via USB, enabling direct printing without the need for a computer. To use PictBridge, both the camera and printer need to have this software.Hide
The ink cartridge for an inkjet printer is the component that contains the ink that is deposited onto the page when printing. Different brands, as well as different printers within each brand, will use different ink cartridges that will vary widely in cost. There are a few items to consider when buying a printer as it relates to ink cartridges. First, color inkjet printers can have three types of ink cartridges: an all-in-one cartridge with black, yellow, cyan, and magenta together; a separate black cartridge and tri-color (yellow, cyan, magenta together) cartridge; or individual ink cartridges for black, yellow, cyan, and magenta (as well as additional colors for more advanced inkjet printers). While it may seem like an advantage to only have to purchase one ink cartridge with an all-in-one unit, you’ll end up buying cartridges way more often because you have to replace the entire unit when one color runs out. So, if you run out of black ink, you have to replace the entire ink cartridge, whereas with the individual units, you only have to purchase and replace the black unit. Depending on how much you print, it may be more efficient to invest in a printer that has individual ink cartridges.
Second, always check to see how much ink costs compared to the price of the printer. A $40 printer may seem like a steal, but the ink cartridge may cost as much as the printer and end up being more expensive in the long run. It may be worth it to buy a more expensive printer if the ink is less expensive. Be sure to find the right balance.
Finally, as mentioned previously, each brand (HP, Canon, Brother, etc.) has numerous different ink cartridge models that will vary by printer. Always double check what model your printer uses before purchasing a new cartridge.Hide
An alternative to buying brand new ink cartridges is using an ink refill service, which is much better for the environment. Some brands offer their own ink service, such as Epson Ecotank or HP Instant Ink. Epson Ecotank includes refill bottles in the original printer package, so you can refill your cartridges yourself. HP Instant Ink, on the other hand, automatically sends you new ink when your printer detects low quantities and lets you recycle old cartridges by sending them back to HP.
You may also be able to refill your ink at a local convenience store, electronics store, or some bigger retailers. Only some cartridge models are eligible for refill though, so check that the model compatible with the printer is also available for refill.Hide
If you need to print on-the-go, such as at a tradeshow or while traveling, you’ll need a printer that is considered portable. These smaller, typically battery-powered devices are easy to carry and work virtually anywhere. Many also specialize in photo and brochure/flyer printing for crisp, high quality graphics and images, without the need to connect to an outlet or the internet.Hide
How loud a printer can be is measured in the standard sound unit called decibels, or dB. The higher the dB rating, the louder the machine is. Also, the closer you are to the machine, the louder it will be. The tolerable noise level for you depends on the placement of the machine and how you plan to use it. Printers with a high dB rating may be disruptive in certain environments, such as a small office or quiet home. It may not seem like a big deal, until you’re stuck sitting next to a loud printer all day, constantly interrupting your focus. For reference, normal conversation occurs at about 60 dB. A lawn mower? 90 dB.Hide
For the energy conscious, or those looking to cut down their power bill, the amount of power your printer consumes may be a concern to you. At different stages, such as in standby mode, while actively printing, and sleep mode, the printer will consume different amounts of power, reported in watts. Basic printers designed for home use consume about 3-5 watts in standby and 30-50 watts while printing. Business printers range from 30-50 watts on standby and 300-500 watts while printing.Hide
- 1.6 watts sleep mode
- 18 watts operation mode