The MultiFunction Printer Showdown

The MultiFunction Printer Showdown

This is a tale of three multifunction printers, pitted against one another for the crown of best affordable multi-functional printer. Which one will triumph? While all three have unique features, each of the offerings from Epson, HP and Lexmark revealed pros and cons. Will it be the Epson with its speedy printing, the HP with its tiny footprint, or the Lexmark with its lighting scanning? We took these three printers through extensive testing to find out which one is the one to "rule them all."

While all three were relatively easy to setup, there was a definite advantage with the touchscreens models, the HP ENVY 100 410a and Lexmark Genesis. The Epson WorkForce 635 was hampered by the many buttons and while the setup process only took an additional few minutes, it felt more complex thanks to trying to match the button to the function. The AirPrint support built into the HP makes it the clear winner in the setup category if you have iOS devices. Once we connected the printer to our network, there was nothing left to do but hit print from our iPads and iPhones. It was easy and something that even our grandmother could get behind.

When it comes to design the diminutive HP has the advantage, at only 4 inches high it is the most small space friendly. The Lexmark is also surprisingly small space friendly with its vertical design which means there are more placement options. The printer can go on a higher shelf since you don't need to lift any lid on the top in order to scan. Since the HP and Lexmark are both touchscreens the front of the printers are clean and are not cluttered with buttons. The Epson looks like the "traditional" multifunction printer with a variety of buttons and does not really add anything new to the design table.

While all three performed well when it came to text black and white printing, the Epson was the fastest. One thing we discovered rather quickly was that they are not all equally prone to paper jams. The HP was the worst when it came to paper being stuck, and the Epson a close second. The vertical design of the Lexmark helps keep the paper in line and we have not once had to unjam this printer. After about 30 pages, the Epson required a head cleaning. Lines were being left in our photos and after cleaning the print heads twice, they were able to go away.

Since we still love displaying images around our home, image print quality was one of the areas we were anxious to compare. The clear winner in this category is the Lexmark. Blacks were black and greys were grey, even with zero color calibration. Using the color calibration tools was fairly easy on the Lexmark and Epson, but the HP was not as simple. While the images from the Lexmark and HP were pretty good for a non-pigment printer, the Epson still delivered tiny white dots in the prints after two print head cleanings. We tried to get the best quality prints out of each printer and were more than a little frustrated that the Epson, in order to stop printing very obvious lines, needed to be told which paper it was using. We did not need to tell the HP or Lexmark what paper we were using for nice looking images, but when we did, the images came out even better.

The other fun thing about the two touchscreen printers is that they have built in apps, with more available for download. While these will not be universally appealing to everyone, we did like accessing our Flickr library and printing photos from the Lexmark and connecting to TripIt and Evernote. For those Sudoku puzzle nuts, printable puzzles are available from the HP and Lexmark. Lexmark has the advantage when it comes to apps, which are all bundled under "Smart Solutions" and many seem to be geared to the Etsy seller, with easy to use postage and other small business tools.

The Lexmark was the clear winner when it came to scanning, and we had fun putting soft objects into the scanner to see how it would react. Instead of the traditional flatbed scanner, Lexmark uses something they call Flash Scan Technology. This technology uses a 10 megapixel imaging sensor, which allows for an Instant Preview of scanned documents on the 4.3" color touch screen. It's fast and a bit fun to use.

Epson Pros:
- wireless connectivity
- inexpensive
- fast printing
- "traditional" feel and use

- poor image print quality
- many buttons
- cumbersome setup
- relatively noisy
- prone to jamming
- required head cleaning after less than 30 pages printed
- no AirPrint

HP Pros:
- wireless connectivity
- small, sleek design
- AirPrint
- decent image print quality
- easy to set up
- built in apps like the Sudoku maker
- touchscreen

- not many print options from the iPad (although this is more likely Apple's fault)
- color calibration is not a strong point
- prone to jamming
- noisy when using glossy photo paper

Lexmark Pros:
- wireless connectivity
- fast scanning
- great image print quality for a non-pigment printer
- easy to set up
- built in apps like TripIt
- vertical design
- quiet
- less prone to jamming
- easy to fairly accurately color calibrate
- touchscreen
- great small business tools

- a bit large
- no AirPrint

The Bottom Line (& Who Should Buy):
If you are looking for a quick and inexpensive printer, the Epson is not a bad choice, however we would not recommend this model if photo quality is an important factor in the decision. We do admit that it is possible that we had a lemon for a WorkForce 635, but since it performed well out of the box and then developed problems around 30 pages we are not quick to label it "defective." It did continue to perform well when it came to text and that is why despite the problems we had with printing images we've given it a Weak Recommend. The HP with its middle price point and built in AirPrint support is a great choice if you own iOS devices and are looking for a printer with a small footprint. With the 410a closed and on the desk it was easy to barely notice it thanks to its clean and simple design. The Lexmark was the printer we were overall the most impressed with. When it came to reliability and image quality the Genesis is a great choice for those who want to print great looking images at home, need fast scanning, and do not want to invest in a separate scanner and pigment printer.

Our Ratings:
Product: Epson WorkForce 635
Price: $149.99
Rating: Weak Recommend*

Product: HP ENVY 100 D410a
Price: $219.99
Rating: Recommend

Product: Lexmark Genesis
Price: $349.99
Rating: Strong Recommend

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.

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