Printer group test: 9 inkjet all-in-ones tested

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Printer group test: 9 inkjet all-in-ones tested
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We test nine devices, from the simplest printers to versatile multifunction devices that print, scan, copy and fax

Thanks to a surge in popularity, all-in-one devices have made sure inkjet technology’s still going strong. It’s easy to see why: with print speeds and image quality beyond our wildest dreams, and prices as low as a staggering $109, an all-in-one is an incredibly practical purchase. So even though ink costs may be higher, light print users can pay less overall by choosing an inkjet rather than a laser.

Over the coming pages, we look at nine all-in-one inkjets to help you choose your next printer. We’ve evaluated printing, scanning and copying modes, including speed, quality and total cost of ownership. If you’re buying a new inkjet, it makes sense to consider one of these versatile, space-saving units.

Testing an all-in-one is a complicated business, as each one includes a flatbed scanner, enabling it to scan and photocopy as well as print. A device could print quickly, but scan slowly. Or, print quality might be high, but photocopies poorly reproduced. To help you choose, we supplement our printer tests with extensive testing of the scanning and copying abilities of each device. We use a variety of source documents and scanning modes, and measure both speed and quality.

Print tests
We test each printer using the ISO 24712 test document. This consists of five A4 pages: one typical business letter, in which ink covers 5% of the page, followed by three pages of text and colour graphics, and finally a diagnostic page of coloured boxes and bars.

For our speed tests, we print ten greyscale copies of the ISO letter page onto plain copy paper in draft mode. We then print ten copies in standard monochrome, followed by one colour copy of the full five-page document at normal quality. In all cases, we measure the time from the moment the printer picks up the paper until the last page hits the out tray. This allows us to calculate each printer’s average throughput in pages per minute. The standard quality results are shown in the bar chart here.

We also time how long each printer takes to produce a standard borderless 6 x 4in photograph at full photo quality, using the manufacturer’s own high-quality glossy photo paper. You can see the results of this test in the graph to the right, and in the table overleaf.

Finally, we measure how quickly each printer can produce our A4 photomontage, which features a wide variety of colour tones, indoor and outdoor scenes, landscapes and macro shots. This test is also performed with branded glossy paper.

Once we’ve measured printing speed, we assess the quality of the prints. We look for a range of qualities, including the weight and clarity of text and the vibrancy and smoothness of colours and gradients. Each printout is judged by two members of the PC Authority team. Complete quality results for each device, across each test, can be found on p74.

Scan tests
For all-in-ones, we also assess the scanner’s speed and quality. We warm up each scanner, then start by timing how long it takes to execute a full-platen preview. We measure this from the moment we click the Start button to the image appearing in Photoshop.

We then scan an A4 colour text-and-graphics page at 150ppi, followed by an A4 glossy print of a pair of mounted candles, patterned cloth and holly against a green material background. We scan this print at 300ppi, and pay close attention to small details such as the texture of the cloth and petals of the yellow flower, as well as examining colour and white balance accuracy.

Lastly, we perform two scans of a 6 x 4in photo of an outdoor scene with grass, sky, buildings and a car, with a variety of tones and levels of detail. First we scan it at 600ppi, to simulate standard usage. Then we scan it again at 1200ppi, enabling us to see just how accurately the scanner can read fine details.

All of these tests are timed, and the quality of the resulting scan is assessed by two members of the PC Authority team. You can see the full results above.

Copy tests
Manufacturers often claim that devices are capable of a certain number of copies per minute, but this can be misleading. Making multiple copies enables a fast printer to compensate for a slow scanner, but in reality most photocopying tasks involve making one, or a few, copies of a document. For that reason, we judge copiers based on the time taken for the whole scan-print process of just five copies, from the moment we press the button until the moment the last page fully emerges from the device.

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mono print speed
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colour print speed

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6 x 4IN print speed

We start by copying the A4 text-and-graphics document from our scan tests (professionally printed on coated paper). We make five mono copies in both draft and normal quality, followed by another five in colour at standard quality. Finally, we also make one copy of our 6x4in scan test photo, using high quality and borderless settings where available.

Where an all-in-one device is equipped with an automatic document feeder, we also copy a four-page DTP document (which includes the page from our original copy test for comparison) onto plain paper at normal settings in both colour and mono.

All of these tests are timed, and output quality is assessed by two judges. You’ll find complete timing and quality results in the table above.

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This reviewgroup appeared in the November, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

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