Last updated: August 5, 2021

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Whether you want to print out your holiday photos or the script for the next lecture: an inkjet printer allows you to quickly produce documents without having to leave your own four walls and rush to the copy shop. In addition to printing, many of these devices offer other useful features (e.g. scanning and copying) that make your daily bureaucratic routine much easier.

In our big inkjet printer test 2021 we want to help you find the perfect inkjet printer for you. We have compared inkjet printers with both piezo and bubble jet technology and listed the corresponding advantages and disadvantages to make your purchase decision as easy as possible.




Summary

  • Inkjet printers are helpful companions for printing texts and photos on your own. Here, the ink is sprayed through the print head onto the paper using different processes, which ensures an even and energy-saving print result.
  • There are two different types of inkjet printers: one with piezo and the other with bubble jet technology. Piezo inkjet printers have an element that is deformed by tension and causes the ink drops to shoot out of the print head under pressure. Bubble jet inkjet printers, on the other hand, heat the ink until a vapour bubble is created, which explosively sprays the ink onto the paper.
  • Inkjet printers are often said to be cheap to buy but expensive to use ink cartridges. The latter can dry out easily, but this can be prevented by regular printing or proper storage when not in use.

The Best Inkjet Printer: Our Choices

Buying and evaluation criteria for inkjet printers

In the following we would like to show you which aspects are important when choosing an inkjet printer, so that you can find the perfect model for you from the extensive range of printers with inkjet technology.

The criteria you can use to compare inkjet printers include:

In the following paragraphs you will find out exactly what each criterion is.

Dimensions and weight

The size and weight of an inkjet printer is particularly important when space is limited or when the printer needs to be moved to another location.

Most inkjet printers weigh between 2 and 6 kg and measure 12-20 cm in height, 35-55 cm in width and 30-45 cm in depth.

However, there are also models that are considerably larger and weigh more.

These are often multifunction devices that can print, scan and copy. They take up more space at the top because the scanning glass is exposed when the lid is opened.

Some inkjet printers are also capable of faxing, which is why they have an additional paper tray or attachment on the top where the document is inserted.

Finally, there are devices that can print different formats and have a particularly expansive paper tray. They also require a larger surface area, which must be taken into account before purchasing.

No matter which model you choose: You usually have to open your inkjet printer to change the cartridges.

Therefore, it should be easily accessible from the top and not blocked by objects, shelves or the like.

Functions

Multifunction inkjet printers are ideal for anyone who wants to digitise or multiply their documents and images without having to visit a copy shop every time.

Unlike conventional inkjet printers, 3-in-1 devices can not only print, but also scan and copy.

These functions can be realised through a built-in scanning glass, which is located between the cover and the interior of the printer.

The scanning or copying process works as follows:

  • Place the document face down on the scanning glass and close the lid.
  • Now you can start the programme using the controls on the printer. If the device is connected to the WLAN and a corresponding driver is installed on your computer, you can also operate it from your PC.
  • Have you not yet selected a reproduction format or a print colour (black and white/colour)? If so, the process will not be automatic and you will have to enter the parameters manually before it starts.

Here is another tip: It is not necessary to connect the inkjet printer to a computer/mobile device for copying, as data is only transferred between the devices during scanning and printing.

If you want to use your inkjet printer professionally (for example, in a home office), there are also 4-in-1 devices that can also fax.

To do this, insert the document into the input tray, select the fax number of the recipient and press "Send".

Alternatively, faxes can also be sent via certain online programmes instead of the telephone line.

The scan function is sufficient for this, with which you can simply create the fax on the computer.

Incidentally, the document is encrypted in both cases, which is particularly advantageous for sensitive data.

Printing method

If you want to save money and resources, you should sooner or later consider the printing process of an inkjet printer.

This does not refer to the technology of the print head (piezo or bubble jet process), which we explain in more detail in the guide section below, but to the way in which the paper is printed.

Basically, you can distinguish between single-sided and double-sided printing, also called duplex printing.

Inkjet printers with a duplex unit feed the paper twice and print on both sides accordingly, which results in a printing quality saving of 50 per cent.

However, you should note that duplex printing is not always automatic. On some models you have to manually flip the paper and make sure the text is on the correct side or in the correct position (not upside down).

In addition, the cost of duplex inkjet printers is usually higher. In addition, the printing process is a little slower because the ink has to dry before the other side can be printed.

However, double-sided printing is a useful feature if you want to save the environment and your wallet in the long run.

The print speed of an inkjet printer depends, among other things, on the type quality of the document and the number of nozzles and nozzle frequency of the print head.

There are also significant differences in print speed between black-and-white and colour printing, as the latter requires multiple colours to be layered to create a coherent overall image.

As a guide, the higher the number and frequency of nozzles, the faster the printing process.

In general, inkjet printers with piezo technology are predestined for colour prints or photos because they achieve a high nozzle frequency (up to 30,000 hertz).

For conventional black-and-white prints, however, a bubble jet inkjet printer is just as suitable and sometimes even faster than the expensive piezo variant.

If you are looking for an inkjet printer with a high print speed, look for the "pages per minute" (ppm) rating.

Average devices can print approx. 15 ppm in black and white and 10 ppm in colour, which is perfectly adequate for occasional use.

If you prefer a faster printer with inkjet technology, you will have to dig deeper into your pocket (around 200-300 euros).

The print quality of an inkjet printer depends on the print resolution and the quality of the paper to be printed on.

Print resolution is expressed in dpi (dots per inch) and indicates how many ink drops or dots per inch can be printed in a row. One inch is roughly equivalent to 2.54 cm.

The advantage of a high print resolution is that colour transitions are reproduced more smoothly and there are fewer gaps between the individual print dots, which significantly improves document authenticity.

High-quality paper can also help ensure that texts and graphics appear as detailed as possible.

Therefore, when buying, you should make sure to choose a suitable variant with a smooth surface. This type of special paper absorbs less ink and ensures a razor-sharp print result.

Incidentally, the standard resolution of an inkjet printer is 600x600 dpi, which is perfectly adequate for normal use.

For photos and graphics, a higher resolution of at least 1200x1200 dpi is advisable so that the colours do not appear "muddy".

Energy consumption

When it comes to energy consumption, we distinguish between three relevant operating states of an inkjet printer:

  1. the print mode
  2. the Ready mode
  3. the Sleep/Standby mode

In print or standby mode, the most power is needed, as the print job is in progress or imminent.

Sleep/standby mode occurs when the inkjet printer is switched on but no print job has been issued for a few minutes. In this state, the machine usually needs to be "woken up" using the controls before you can start a new print job.

Inkjet printers are far superior to laser printers in terms of energy consumption. The latter require more power and time before they are ready for use, as the image drum they contain needs to be electrostatically charged.

The printing process itself is also much more economical with inkjet printers. Most models consume between 10 and 20 watts in print mode, 2 to 6 watts in standby mode and about 1 watt in sleep mode.

By comparison, a laser printer consumes about 2-9 watts in sleep mode alone and about 20 times the power of a comparable model with inkjet technology in print mode.

If you are interested in an energy-saving inkjet printer, a look at the manufacturer's operating data sheet can help you.

Labels such as the "Blue Angel" or "Energy Star" are a good indication that the printer is a low-consumption device.

Connectivity

With a modern inkjet printer there are several ways to transfer your data, with Ethernet (LAN) being only the tip of the iceberg.

Depending on the end device that issues the print jobs, a printer with inkjet technology should be WLAN-capable or at least have several interfaces (e.g. a USB type A socket and an SD card slot).

This way you can connect your inkjet printer to different sources and be more location-independent when it comes to transferring your data.

If you want to print from a smartphone or tablet, a printer model that supports Bluetooth, AirPrint or other software for mobile devices is a good choice.

If you are using a conventional computer, a LAN cable is sufficient. Simply connect it to your inkjet printer and you're ready to go.

However, it is often advisable to install a so-called driver with which you can virtually control your printer. This is especially necessary if you want to transfer your data within the Wi-Fi network.

You should find and download the appropriate programme by entering the model number of your inkjet printer in connection with "driver" or "install driver" in a search engine of your choice.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about inkjet printers answered in detail

In this guide, we will provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about inkjet printers. We have carefully selected the questions and answered them in as much detail as possible so that you know exactly what is important when buying or using an inkjet printer.

What are inkjet printers?

An inkjet printer is a useful device for printing documents, text and photos. Besides inkjet printers, there are many other printers, such as laser printers, thermal printers, label printers and 3D printers.

Most printers differ in terms of their technical design and the way the ink is printed onto the paper or object.

Did you know that the technical foundations for inkjet printing were laid as early as the 1960s?

The first printers were teleprinters of enormous size, which were very error-prone and were used exclusively in the industrial sector. It was not until the mid-1980s that HP launched the first inkjet printer for consumers.

The inkjet printer is the most widespread type of printer among end users because it is comparatively cheap to buy and takes up little space.

Nowadays, an inkjet printer is often a multifunction device. These models can not only print, but also scan documents, make copies and send faxes.

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Inkjet printers are compact in size and a practical addition to homes and home offices. (Image source: Evelyn Geissler / unsplash)

This makes them an ideal companion for users who like to do their paperwork online and don't want to visit a copy shop all the time.

What types of inkjet printers are there and which one is right for you?

There are different types of inkjet printers, which we will explain in more detail here.

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Piezo inkjet printer Very good print quality (especially photos). Durable print head, which is permanently installed in the device. Economical use of ink by selective control of ink drop size Few choices because more expensive to produce. High price compared to models with bubble jet technology. Printhead difficult to repair if faulty.
Bubble Jet inkjet printer Large selection at a fair price. Printhead not permanently installed, so easy to repair by replacing cartridges printhead wears out quickly due to constant temperature changes. Print quality varies greatly (depending on the number of nozzles).

If you would like to find out more about the different inkjet printers, we have summarised the most important information about each type of product for you in the following sections.

Piezo inkjet printers

Piezo inkjet printers

Piezo inkjet printers make use of the eponymous piezo effect.

This effect works in two different ways: In the direct piezo effect, an electrical voltage occurs on a solid when it is elastically deformed.

The inverse piezo effect, on the other hand, states that materials can also be deformed by the application of the electrical voltage itself, i.e. without elastic “external influence”.

Piezo inkjet printers are equipped with an element that triggers an inverse piezo effect. The piezo element deforms the print head for a short time so that pressure is exerted on the ink droplets, which are now sprayed onto the paper at a speed of 10 to 40 m/s. The ink droplets are then sprayed onto the paper.

Inkjet printers with piezo technology can produce images and text with high resolutions because the droplet size is controlled by pulses of different strengths. This ensures very good and targeted application of the ink even with small amounts of ink.

Another advantage is that the print head of a piezo inkjet printer is subject to almost no wear and remains in the printer for the entire life of the device.

This makes it much more durable than a bubble jet inkjet printer, where the print head sooner or later burns out and has to be replaced.

Advantages
  • high-resolution print results
  • long-lasting
  • low consumption
Disadvantages
  • little choice
  • expensive to buy

Nevertheless, the choice of inkjet printers with piezo technology is poorer than that of models with bubble jet technology, which could be due to the fact that only a few manufacturers (such as Epson) still install the piezo elements in their print heads.

Added to this is the higher purchase price, which is presumably due to the print quality or print variety.

Due to the high resolution, the piezo inkjet printer is ideal for image and photo prints in various formats that are not supported by most bubble jet inkjet printers.

Bubble jet inkjet printer

Bubble Jet Inkjet Printer

Bubble jet inkjet printers have a heating element that heats the ink behind the print head nozzle to up to 350 degrees Celsius within a few microseconds. This creates a tiny vapour bubble that explosively presses the ink drops through the print head onto the paper.

After the bubble bursts, a vacuum is created behind the nozzle, causing new ink to flow from the print cartridge. This process takes a little longer than with the piezo method.

The print quality of a bubble jet inkjet printer depends largely on the number of nozzles in the print head. The more nozzles there are, the higher the resolution in dpi (dots per inches, see the buying and evaluation criteria above).

Advantages
  • much choice
  • cheap to buy
  • easy to troubleshoot
Disadvantages
  • Print head very susceptible to wear
  • only conditionally suitable for photos and complex prints

Inkjet printers with bubble jet technology are more affordable than piezo printers and offer a wider choice. In addition, errors can be corrected more quickly because the print head is integrated into the cartridge and is therefore easy to replace.

However, bubble jet inkjet printers are prone to wear and tear due to the constant temperature changes as well as the frequent clogging of the print head. The cartridge must therefore be replaced more frequently than with a model with piezo technology.

Therefore, both types of printers are equal in terms of price, because the follow-up costs have a negative impact on the low purchase price of an inkjet printer with bubble jet technology.

How does an inkjet printer work?

An inkjet printer, as the name suggests, applies ink to a printed material (usually paper). This is done with the help of two different processes:

  1. the Drop on Demand(DOD) mode
  2. the Continous Ink Jet(CIJ) mode

The drop-on-demand process is used in commercial inkjet printers for private households, whereas the continuous ink jet process is only used in the industrial sector.

The printing process of an inkjet printer with CIJ is designed in such a way that the ink droplets are accelerated and moved towards the material to be printed with the help of electrodes. Unused ink is collected by the print head and can then be reused.

Inkjet printers with DOD have a nozzle through which ink is fed and applied to the printed material.

In the consumer sector, a distinction is made between piezo and bubble jet technology. Both processes press the ink through the nozzle onto the paper in a different way.

If you want to know more about the two drop-on-demand processes of an inkjet printer, we have compiled some helpful information for you in the decision section above.

There you can find out what the differences are between these types of inkjet printers and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Who is an inkjet printer for?

Basically, inkjet printers are suitable for anyone who wants to produce images or text on their own and has no special requirements in terms of quantity, format or the like.

However, they are a sensible purchase especially in private households or home offices with a low to moderate print volume.

Due to their space-saving design, inkjet printers are also very popular in homes with limited floor space.

tintenstrahldrucker-test

Around 77 per cent of all households in Germany own a printer. But the devices do not always have to look as bulky as they do here: Many models with inkjet technology are among the most compact of their kind and are real eye-catchers in terms of design. (Image source: Steve Buissinne / Pixabay)

At the same time, you can save yourself the hassle of going to the copy shop, as many inkjet printers combine several functions. You can scan or multiply a document in no time at all, all from the comfort of your own home.

As a frequent printer, however, you should be aware of the costs that an inkjet printer entails. These can be very high if you print several thousand pages a year, as ink cartridges and paper quickly run out with such use.

If you are interested in learning more about the running and purchase costs of an inkjet printer, you can find out more in the next section.

How much do inkjet printers cost?

The price range between inkjet printers can be significant.

For example, you can find a solid model with bubble jet technology for less than €50, but you may have to sacrifice print quality and speed.

Then there are the material costs - for ink cartridges, for example, the price usually varies between 10 and 30 euros.

The decisive factor, however, is the consumption of the device, i.e. how much ink the printer needs per page.

Type price range
Piezo inkjet printer approx. 70-700 euros
Bubble jet inkjet printer approx. 30-250 euros

So it can be worth investing in a more expensive inkjet printer as long as the price-performance ratio is right and the running costs are manageable.

As already mentioned in the decision section, piezo inkjet printers are the right choice here.

Incidentally, many of these models have refillable ink tanks instead of cartridges, which are not only easier to use but also make more sense ecologically and economically.

Nevertheless, most inkjet printers with piezo technology are more expensive to buy than devices with bubble jet technology.

If you only want to print occasionally and have no special requirements in terms of format or resolution, you can't go wrong with an inexpensive model.

What are the alternatives to inkjet printers?

This section gives you a brief overview of the alternatives to inkjet printers.

Type Description
Laser printer A printer with laser technology uses toner powder instead of ink, which is burnt onto the paper. Toner powder has the advantage that it is smudge-proof and does not dry out if the laser printer is left unused for a long time. In addition, the printing process is faster than with many inkjet printers. On the other hand, a laser printer is only suitable for producing text in black and white, as the image quality is not remotely comparable to a model with inkjet technology. The high purchase and energy costs of these devices are also to be criticised, which is why a laser printer is mainly suitable for users who want to print many pages in a short time.
Copyshop Going to a copyshop is still a good printing option for occasional users. Here, the price depends on how many pages are produced (the more, the cheaper) and whether the prints are to be in black and white or colour. A clear disadvantage is that the operators of such shops can set their prices and opening hours individually. In addition, copy shops are rather rare in rural areas, which further limits availability.

Whether an inkjet printer is the right choice depends on your personal printing habits and the amount of space you can devote to it.

If you don't want to spend a lot of money and only want to print text or images occasionally, you will definitely appreciate a compact inkjet printer.

Is the use of inkjet printers harmful to health or the environment?

The answer to this question is a resounding "no".

Of course, it is most environmentally friendly to print as little as possible. Nevertheless, an inkjet printer is ecologically more sensible than a model with laser technology, as it is ready for use immediately and consumes less electricity when printing.

The range and speed of a modern inkjet printer is also comparable to a laser printer, sometimes even better.

You can also consider the following things when buying an inkjet printer:

  • Choose a model with refillable ink tanks. This saves money and unnecessary packaging waste.
  • Use recycled paper with a Blue Angel or FSC label.
  • Replace conventional ink with vegetable-based inks. These should also be free of mineral oil and cobalt. You won't notice a difference in the print result.
  • Use green electricity to power your printer.
  • A duplex inkjet printer can print on both sides and help you use less paper.

As far as the health aspect is concerned, the use of an inkjet printer is also harmless. In contrast to a laser printer, no nanoparticles or pollutants are emitted during the printing process that could cause health problems.

However, you should always allow your printed paper to dry thoroughly so that no ink gets on your fingers or into your body.

How do I clean inkjet printers?

Below are some helpful tips for cleaning your inkjet printer.

First, some tips on cleaning the outside and inside of the printer: To remove dust and dirt from the printer's surfaces, you can use a duster or damp cloth. Avoid harsh household cleaners that could damage the plastic housing.

You do not need to clean the interior itself, as it is adequately protected by the cover. In any case, water must not get into the printer! Otherwise you risk a short circuit and can dispose of your device directly.

The most important and error-prone element of an inkjet printer is the print head. It can quickly become clogged, which is why you should clean it from time to time.

You can find out how to do this in the instructions below.

  1. Preparation: Open your inkjet printer with it switched on and wait until the carriage with the ink cartridges has moved forward. Now switch off the printer and disconnect the network cable. The print head should remain in the same position so you can easily remove the cartridges. Store them upside down in a safe place - this will prevent them from smearing on furniture or the like.
  2. Manual print head cleaning: Flip up the lever on the carriage and remove the print head from its holder. Place it in a container and sprinkle the nozzles with a little water (preferably distilled). Swivel the print head a little until the now discoloured water comes out. Repeat this procedure several times, always making sure that no liquid comes into contact with the circuit board on the back, which can be damaged by contact with water.
  3. Follow-up: When you have flushed the print head properly, there should be no ink left in the nozzles. Gently blot the printhead dry with a paper towel and then insert it into the printer. Flip the lever and place the cartridges in the carriage. Print a few test pages before putting the printer back into full operation.

By the way, every inkjet printer has an automatic print head or self-cleaning programme, which you can access via the system settings.

Run this programme at regular intervals. This ensures that the print quality is maintained and the ink does not dry out so quickly.

What do I do if the inkjet printer no longer prints correctly?

Does your inkjet printer print streaky or even blank pages? In most cases, the problem lies with the consumables.

First check whether the ink cartridges have been inserted correctly and whether there is enough ink to print.

Tip: If the printer cartridge is not going to be used for a long time, remove it from the machine and store it in an airtight container (e.g. in a freezer bag) in a dark place - this will prevent it from drying out quickly.

Now make sure there is enough paper in the input tray and that there is no paper jam inside.

If everything is fine, the problem could also be a clogged print head. You can find out how to clean it and what to look for above.

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Controlling your inkjet printer with a laptop or smartphone can sometimes be impaired, usually due to old or defective software. (Image source: DarkWorkX / Pixabay)

Another potential source of error is the communication between the printer and the computer or mobile device.

Make sure that you use a correct device driver that is up to date. An update or reinstallation can sometimes work wonders for data transmission.

If this does not help, it is worth taking a look at the operating instructions before calling the technician.

Image source: 123rf / Antonio Guillem

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