back to article Ten budget inkjet printers

As money continues to be tight, buying a new all-in-one often takes a back seat. However, if an old machine has died, or a son or daughter needs something to print coursework, you may be forced to flex a card. On the up side, you could be surprised at some of the bargains which are available in the inkjet market. You can pick …


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  1. Phil W

    good reviews but...

    Something I consider quite important in a printer is the design of the cartridges/heads. HP present excellent long term value since the heads are replaced with each cartridge so clogs or damage to the nozzles are never fatal, unlike some other brand printers I've owned where the nozzles have failed and made the whole printer useless. It would be nice to know what design these printers use.

    1. Richard Ball


      Keep the nozzles, the others replace them.

      This may well not be the whole story, but it's near enough for a first approximation.

    2. Alan Firminger

      And when I had an Epson I loaded an old ink cartridge with cleaner fluid to clean the bunged up holes.


    3. Tapeador
      Thumb Up

      Re: good reviews but...

      Not only are HP very good in the way you mention (for those printers which do use replaceable cartridge tech), but those cartridges are VERY hackable - I'm on my first bought catridge after the starter cartridge on my £50 HP J4580 all-in-one fax/printer/scanner, 20 refills and two years later.... That's £300-400 of ink cartridge refill which cost me £15. Mind you the scanner motor now makes horrendous, terrifying noises for two minutes on startup, but it's still been a joy financially.

      I would recommend a decent refill kit with a proper 'primer tool', though, and pigment ink for same (not so with the nozzled printers, where dye seems less likely to clog).

    4. 20legend

      Re: good reviews but...

      HP cartridges are by and large going the way of Epson, where only the ink tank is replaced, not the full printhead as it allows for far cheaper replacement consumables.

      I can get a full set of inks for my current HP B110 AIO for less money than than just the replacement black used to cost for my DeskJet 970cxi (never used compatibles/refills as they are ALL crap in the long run compared to new and genuine)

  2. Colin Brett

    Supported OS?

    Any chance future reviews could include a rundown of the supported OS? Windows and Mac are most likely but indicating which items have decent Linux support would be very useful.



    1. Unlimited

      Re: Supported OS?

      I have a slightly older deskjet.


      Ubuntu 10, Vista, Win 7 all work easy


      Ubuntu: Forum searching for magic connection string at first ( dnssd://Deskjet%203050%20J610%20series%20%5B83D65A%5D._pdl-datastream._tcp.local/) but now always works

      Vista: I gave up

      Win 7: Since installing HP drivers connection to wireless router has become unstable

  3. Bronek Kozicki

    Freebie marketing

    It's worth remembering that these printers are cheap only because the inks they use are expensive. More expensive printers are more economical to run, e.g. Epson Workforce (~130GBP cheaper models) gets ~1p per b/w page while colour is ~4p.

  4. Jan 0 Silver badge


    I'm amused by the way that the "Buy from amazon" button for the Kodak ESP 3.2 doesn't lead to the printer.

    Other retailers are available:)

  5. banjomike

    Be wary of Epson printers

    Be aware that Epson printers genuinely have a built-in service life. They will decide by themselves that they have printed X amount of pages and simply stop working saying that the waste ink pads are saturated. They aren't. The official fix is expensive. The unofficial fix still involves spending money to reset the printer

    quote from Epson SX235W manual:

    "If an error message appears indicating the printer’s ink pads are nearing the end of their service life, contact Epson support to replace them. The message will be displayed at regular intervals until the ink pads are replaced. When the printer’s ink pads are saturated, the printer stops and Epson support is required to continue printing."

    For the Epson Stylus Office BX305FW Plus the same info is on page 80 of the manual:

    Since the printer itself decides to do this there is no way to predict when it will happen.

    1. Fuzz

      Re: Be wary of Epson printers

      I think the error occurs after a certain number of pages printed. There is a piece of software you can get to reset the printer but for most people the only solution is to throw the printer and get a new one.

      1. banjomike

        Re: Be wary of Epson printers

        "I think the error occurs after a certain number of pages printed. There is a piece of software you can get to reset the printer but for most people the only solution is to throw the printer and get a new one."

        Not quite. The timing of the error varies according to whether you print borderless images, how often head cleaning takes place, etc. The is obviously a lot of processing going on but it is still all crap. It still GUESSES when the pads are full of ink. Would it be so hard to have a sensor to actually measure the damned thing. The only piece of software that reliably works with the recent Epsons is WICReset. But it still costs money. Dumping the printer is OK if you have a cheapo printer but for a £100+ printer it gets a bit more annoying. I've reset mine twice and fitted an external waste tank and a continuous ink system.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Be wary of Epson printers

        Saturated ink pads? They don't know the meaning of the word!

        About 10 years ago I worked for a company who were too tight to pay for a professional printer but had access to cheap cartridges. So they did all their bulk mailshot printing on domestic HP inkjets.

        Day in day out the beasties would toil. And surprisingly they tolerated it well. That is until the day a couple of them started oozing a black substance.

        As a junior IT droid I was sent to sort out the problem. Poked around, got my fingers covered in black gunk. So I decided to open them up.......

        The waste ink sections were overflowing with solid gunk which had leaked out and was going everywhere. The entire insides of the units were a mess.

        And did the company replace the printer? Not exactly. Muggins here had to clean them all out. It was horrible nasty stuff to deal with as well as it got everywhere.

        I cleaned the printers out and restored them to service where they happily continued their daily workload.

        So when Epson claim their waste ink tank is full they just don't know the meaning of the word full.

        1. banjomike

          Re: Be wary of Epson printers

          "So when Epson claim their waste ink tank is full they just don't know the meaning of the word full."

          Not only don't they know the meaning of it, they don't even LOOK for it properly.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. 20legend

        Re: Be wary of Epson printers

        It's not an error as such but a maintenance warning, which means the device ceases printing and needs to be serviced in order for it not to piss ink everywhere (not usually a cost effective job compared to the value of must home user models, unless you want to buy the parts and get blathered in ink doing it yourself)

        The ink pads in the bottom of the unit that collect the purged ink become saturated and require replacement and the unit to be reset once the factory pre-set page count is reached.

        Brilliant eh?

  6. OrsonX

    prints black when colour out?

    tell me which one does this and my ££ is yours.

    HP can go jump.

    1. Fuzz

      Re: prints black when colour out?

      my HP prints fine in black when the colour is out although it does explain that the quality won't be as good. This is because the printer uses colour ink to print monochrome images.

      1. Tapeador

        Re: prints black when colour out?

        I got this explanation from an HP worker, that printing BLACK TEXT uses colour ink - unless you choose otherwise; but that some copy functions use colour no matter what. Why? Because "it looks better". Having given 6 years of my life to art school I can with some authority assert black is good enough for black, and only a psychotically unhinged pigment fetishist would insist otherwise.

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: prints black when colour out?

          It's actually true, black ink plus a little yellow ink looks blacker than just black ink! Easy to make your own mind up - print a paragraph both ways and compare.

          1. Tapeador

            Re: prints black when colour out?

            I think you're right, I remember doing chromatography at school and black ink always had a good bit of yellow in it - but that's something which can be added to the black cartridge beforehand by the manufacturer, instead of dishonestly quadrupling the cost of printing out black by having it combine with a tri-colour cartridge.

    2. Graham Marsden

      Re: prints black when colour out?

      I use an Epson Photo Stylus D88 with a Chip re-setter.

      I bought it because it was a cheap ink-jet and I've only ever printed in B&W on it, so every time the chip says the colour cartridges are empty, I just re-set them and get on with it. It may knacker the colour heads, but since I don't use them, I don't care.

      (Oh, and buy compatible cartridges too, not the Epson ones where the ink is more expensive than vintage champagne!)

    3. 20legend

      Re: prints black when colour out?

      If your printer won't do black only with empty colour cartridges then it could be that it is 'making' black from the colour inks at least part of the time (i've seen both deskjets and officejets making black from the colour carts when doing just a self-test page with a complete new set of inks fitted) - mucho expensivo!!!

  7. Greg 16


    I know that these printers aren't expected to last too long, but it's reasonably likely that the Kodak printers will outlast the company itself, meaning possible cartridge supply issues (they aren't exactly a massively popular brand of printer)

    Anyway inkjet are for mugs - laser is well worth the extra money and nowadays they're pretty close to the cost of the inkjets.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kodak?

      +1 on inkjet are for mugs.

      Yes InkJet printers were amazing when they came to market compared to the Dot Matrix printers most people had. But they have well and truly had their day now.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Kodak?

        Funny, I'd say cheap laser printers, and most especially cheap colour laser printers, are for mugs.

        My reason for saying this are the high-end HP Officejet K550, 5400 and 8000 printers. I don't yet have enough data to be able to say whether the latest HP Officejet 8100 continues the fine tradition of printing fast, well, for tens of thousands of pages, and at a price per page lower than cheap mono Laser, let alone colour.

        NB the running cost of all printers in this survey. An extra 2p/page on just 5000 pages is a hundred quid. After that many pages you'd automatically have been better off spending more on the printer and less on the ink. (HP OJ Pro 8600 about 120 quid).

  8. richard 7

    You arent mentioning...

    The software for ANY HP product and especially inkjet printers is complete total and utter crap. Common cause of horrific boot times, takes forever to install, puts a ton of un-needed services etc

    Kodak isnt much better

    Oh and Hp, Kodak and especially Lexmark, get used to being shafted for inak as there are no good alternatives.

    1. Thought About IT

      Re: You arent mentioning...

      HP are also ruthless at allowing new versions of Windows to force people to replace their products, by not providing compatible drivers.

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: You arent mentioning...

      That's if you do a full install. (And I don't have experience of the low-end models to know if there's any alternative). for the high-end Officejets, you can choose which bits you install, and I agree it's best to go minimalist.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh the choices

    Color inkjet:

    1 printer $50

    1 set of ink cartridges $50

    print 20 pages

    Sorry, your ink is empty / dried out / got stolen by the goblins at night.

    1 set of ink cartridges $50 ...

    B/W laser printer:

    1 printer $100

    1 cartridge $50

    prints 2,000 pages, no questions asked

    So for the one time a year you absolutely have to print in color, here is a USB stick and a map to the copy shop for you.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Oh the choices

      Ain't that the Truth Brother!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh the choices

      What is this $ you speak of?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only use Epson if... print at least a few sheets every day, otherwise you'll end up with clogged nozzles. They are absolutely appalling for the average home user.

    If you do print a lot then Epson compatible cartridges will save you a fortune over the printer's lifetime, otherwise buy another printer - HP are decent all-in-ones and last for ages.

    tl;dr Epson if you print a lot, otherwise HP.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only use Epson if...

      I stopped using HP printers due to their insistence (at the time) of using tri-colour cartridges which are just f*cking disgraceful. I've never had an issue with the Canon Pixma MPxxx series of printers since I moved to them. They are a bit slower than the Epsons but the A4 photos they print are fantastic. Think it'll be a laser next time though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Only use Epson if...

        I gave up on Canon Pixma when my MP610 stopped printing black. I've since dismantled the beast, cleaned the feed tubes, pads, etc., but it won't print black. Seems like the only fix is a new print head, which costs more than the stupid printer.

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: Only use Epson if...

      With HP, keep the printer in standby even if you won't be using it again for weeks. HPs wakup up to squirt a tiny amount of ink through the nozzles every 24 hours, to make sure that the heads don't block up. It really is a tiny amount of ink - you won't notice unless the printer is left un-used for years.

  11. Richard Lloyd
    Thumb Up

    HP 3050A no longer available?

    I have the HP 3050A (bought for 25 quid from - was as low as 20 quid until its seeming discontinuation), but it seems to be superseded by the very similar HP 3055A now at 54 quid RRP:

    Tesco do some "compatible" XL cartridges for the HP 3050A that I bought in a 3 for 2 offer (so I got 3 black and 3 colour) and worked at just under 9 quid each, which isn't bad at all. For Linux users, HPLIP works great and is pretty well standard on most distros.

  12. Wam

    HP 3050A


  13. Ivan Headache

    HP 5510

    In the last 6 months I've had 2 clients buy the HP 5510, one from JL and the other from PCW.

    In both cases they went back after printing the calibration sheet.

    Why? Because both printers printed the page at an angle . Left and right margins different at the top and bottom of the page. If the printed calibration page was copied, the copy was even more skewed.

    I also have some clients who have bought various Kodak printers (can't remember which models but they have all had WiFi. They print quite well but - and this is a huge but - the noise they make is horrendous and they apear to clack about for ages before anything starts printing. Also, one of them forever forgets its wifi host and the key has to be re-entered almost daily - and that's a real faff.

    My youngest bought an HP AIO (can't remember the model) from Tesco to take to uni. Printer cost about £30.00, Two ink carts - £40.00.

    No wonder she's in debt.

    1. mivecboy

      Re: HP 5510

      The wonky paper feed is a known issue. I bought one and have experienced the same. The answer is to manually line the top of the paper up with the paper tray. Not ideal but it works.

    2. 20legend

      Re: HP 5510

      Yep, common complaint about the 5510 is skewed print - some people have 3 or 4 exchange units to get a good one.

      Some of the HP AIOs don't retain the wi-fi password if the power is disconnected - okay if you are only using a 8 char wifi password, a total fucking nightmare if you are using a 504bit one.......

      Sorry but should have looked at the price of replacement consumables when buying the printer, my HP B110 AIO was 40 quid to buy and a full set of inks (genuine) is sub 20 quid delivered, and occassionally on offer at two set for 30 quid.

  14. zxcvbnm

    When easily refillable canon died I went through this search. Ended up getting a £50 brother as it uses unchipped cartridges easily available as generics for a pound each with no fuss. Its an average plasticy printer but basically works. Even if it clogs and dies after one set of compatibles you are still financially ahead....

  15. LinkOfHyrule

    Brown????? WTF

    If I brought one of those brown ones, i'd have to spend a fortune redecorating my house to look like the 1970s so that it wouldn't look out of place. I think I will give 'em a miss.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brown????? WTF

      Personally I thought they looked pretty stylish - shame that the printers are crap though.

  16. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    They are all shit

    And filled with hidden booby traps

    Epson and canons nozzles block.

    Kodak ink is cheap but rest of print mechanism dies.

    HP expensive ink and insanely bloated and nagging drivers.

    In short expect to be screwed one way or another.

    1. Tapeador

      Re: They are all shit

      Nay, HP also do a pared-down simple driver on their website... just don't install the 'full software suite'.

  17. RonWheeler

    Work of the devil

    Nagging bloated non-standard print drivers filled with bloatware, cheap nasty jamming mechanisms, cartridges that dry up if you don't print for a couple of days, lifespan of 50 pages, horrific pricing for replacement cartridges, endless clean cycles that eat 50 percent of your overpriced cartridge, streaky printing, jams, test pages etc etc

    Only an idiot would get an inkjet.

  18. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Is there such a thing as an on-demand Ink-Jet

    That'll let me print off a few Reports every few Months, with out having to deal with dried-out Cartridges, Clogged Nozzles. Causing me a great deal of lose of Paper, Ink and MORE OVER Time, in fighting with it to actually get the fecking Job done?

    Ahhh yeah that's right Laser Printing, in such instances then Color Laser.

    As for Imaging, there are much better options out there like the Thermal Pixma Printers from Canon?

    IMHO Ink-Jet is just an unending Money Pit. Thus the above Question, I'd welcome such a Printer.

    Fail for the reasons stated above...

  19. pidloop

    hp ink does not last long

    I have had two HP photosmart all-in-ones. With fresh ink they are excellent, but I only print color once or twice a month, and it doesn't take long for the cartridges to gum up or go out of date. Ink is already expensive for these machines and this just makes it a lot worse. I agree with the poster that laser printers are reliable and cheaper to operate if you don't need color often. I also agree HP software is horrible: just a bewildering mess of options.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: hp ink does not last long

      I have exactly the same problem.

      1. Chris_Maresca

        Re: hp ink does not last long

        Just clean the heads. I've done it with both water and rubbing alcohol, using cotton swabs..... Works fine, but run the cleaning sequence before printing or your output might be a bit faded (diluted).

  20. Jess--

    I'm running an oldish Epson DX8400 and used to have terrible problems with compatible cartridges.

    the usual experience was as follows

    1. Yellow cartridge is empty (replace yellow cartridge)

    2. after priming yellow cartridge another one is empty (get fed up replace remaining cartridges)

    3. primes remaining cartridges and prints perfectly until powered off

    4. next power up cartridges are not recognised / refuses to print

    I gave up and installed a continuous ink system, since that day I have never had a problem with it (4 years and counting) despite wild swings in printing demands (anything from 1 page per month to 7000 pages in one day)

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      What's the continuous ink system that solved all your problems and where did you get it?

      Because I'm saddled with an Epson Stylus Colour DX4850, I'd imagine they're fairly similar and I'm at the point of throwing mine out the window.

  21. Dom 3

    if you want a cheap printer...

    I was trying to shift an Epson Stylus on there. No takers.

    1. Dom 3

      Re: if you want a cheap printer...

      Freecycle. I meant to say Freecycle.

  22. DrXym Silver badge

    Epson printers = crap

    My Epson has a habit of outright killing cartridges even when they have plenty of ink in them. It uses chipped cartridges so when they're dead they're dead. I'd recommend people avoid chipped printers and especially Epson printers.

  23. Tim 11

    beware the cheap brother printers

    The last printer I bought was a cheap brother inkjet. I bought it because the printer and the inks were cheap but it periodically cleans itself when not used so it will use up a set of cartridges in 6 months if you leave it on standby even if you don't print a thing. If you don't print very much, the cost per page is v high.

    You could unplug it from the mains when not using it but then it does a full deep clean when you power it back on, so if you do that every week you're no better off.

  24. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Even though I'm an IT geek I've never been able to get it right with printers

    1. Canon... The one I had years ago had rather expensive cartridges, but other than that no problems.

    2. Epson... Insist on spending ink head cleaning every single time you turn them on (solved in the end by just keeping the printer on), refuse to print in black and white if a colour ink cartridge is empty, the last set of unofficial cartridges I used set off some firmware tripwire and now it refuses to work with any kind of unofficial cartridges, nozzles clog up with light use. SSC Service Utility hasn't been updated for a while now. Won't touch another Epson ever.

    3. Lexmark... I know it's cheaper to buy a new printer than buy a full set of original cartridges.

    4. HP... I don't know how they manage it but their drivers weigh in at 100 megs.

    I wish printer reviews would take into account cost of official cartridges, cost of unofficial cartridges, chips, if ink refill is an option, firmware tripwires, and so on and so forth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even though I'm an IT geek I've never been able to get it right with printers

      "refuse to print in black and white"

      call yourself an IT geek, lawl

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Even though I'm an IT geek I've never been able to get it right with printers

        Take it up with the person who wrote the print dialog box...

  25. tfewster

    How hard could it be to summarise this in a table?

    For a comparison, copy/paste the following into a text file, save as a .csv & open in a spreadsheet:

    Budget All-in-ones,Price,Rating,Print Quality,B PPM,C PPM,B p/p,C p/p,ADF,Fax,Cassette,Card Reader,Carts,Connect,Dimensions,Display

    Brother DCP-J125,£65-90,70%,Fair,3.2,,1.6,7.6,N,N,100,Y,,USB,,Colour LCD

    Brother MFC-J430W,£90-108,65%,Poor,7.7,4.8,2.6,7.6,20,Y,100,Y?,,USB WiFi,,Colour LCD

    Canon PIXMA MG2150,£49,65%,Good,6.9,1.7,3.2,7.8,,,,,Tri-Colour,USB,,LED

    Epson SX235W,£50,60%,Poor,3.9,1.1,1.5,10,,,,,,"USB, WiFi",,-

    Epson Stylus Office BX305FW Plus,£90,60%,Fair,3.8,1.3,2.6,9.5,Y,Y,,Y,,,,Mono LCD

    HP Deskjet 3050A,£40,80%,OK,6.4,2.2,4.8,11.8,,,,,,USB WiFi,small?,Mono LCD

    HP Photosmart 5510,£70,90%,Good,9.2,4.6,2.2,6.6,,,,Y,Separate,? WiFi,,Touchscreen

    Kodak ESP 1.2,£69,80%,Good,8.1,3.5,1.6,4.4,,,,Y,Tri-Colour,,,Colour LCD

    Kodak ESP 3.2,£79,75%,Good,8.6,3.7,1.6,4.4,,,,,,,,Colour LCD

    Lexmark Interpret S405,£50-133,70%,OK,6.8,4.1,3.9,11.5,Y,Y,,Y,,? WiFi,large?,LCD

    This is based just on the article (apart from the unmentioned WiFi on the Lexmark, but given away by the "WiFi" logo!). If anyone's interested, I'll do some research & fill in the blanks.

  26. Steve 13
    Thumb Down

    All in ones?

    How does a review with a by line of "all in ones" fail to review the ability to do anything except print?

  27. Ravenger

    I gave up on ink-jets years ago. I don't print huge amounts, and whenever I did the ink-jets heads were clogged or the ink dried up, so I moved to a cheap colour laser printer instead which always prints fine, even if I've not used it for weeks.

    Like ink-jets the cost of the toner is more than a new printer, so I'll just get a new one when the toner runs out eventually.

    The quality isn't good enough for proper photo printing, but I take my photos to the nearest photo printers on the high street for that.

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