Searching for a Basic Color Printer

by Barrett

Doesn’t anyone make a small color printer anymore? I’m not talking about a multifunction unit. Just something to spit out a few pages at home. My old HP has moved on to the great printer’s gallery in the sky. So the quest begins…

Doesn’t anyone make a small color printer anymore? I’m not talking about a multifunction unit. Just something to spit out a few pages at home. My old HP has moved on to the great printer’s gallery in the sky. So the quest begins…

My old HP Deskjet 6540 printer from 2004 finally jammed itself beyond repair. It somehow ate six sheets of paper, tearing tiny fragments into its innards.
(Actually, I did the tearing myself, trying to remove the bloody jam.)

I stepped back, looked at the mess, glanced at my watch, and then called it…
“End of Life!”
(Remarkable it lasted this long.)

Secretly, I’ve been waiting for five years to replace the darn thing!!
So I was happy to embark on a little shopping expedition for a new printer.

(Spoiler alert: It’s another rabbit hole.)

At Home with Two Printers?
You may recall I also own an Epson Artisan 837 printer to handle my photo-printing needs.
(The Artisan line has since been mostly replaced by Epson’s Expression series.)

So you may be asking, “Why would anyone want a second printer?”
(Heck, many of you are probably wondering why you need a printer at all.)

Well, somehow, this particular family just can’t get it done living in this supposedly paperless world of ours.
(Check back with me in another decade or so…)

Have a Back-Up Plan
Look, it’s not that crazy. My HP simply served as a down-and-dirty printer… just to spit out some hard copies. Mostly for throwaway use.

Also, my five year old often asks me to print out photos of different animals he’s learning about.
(Last week, I printed out four different flying geckos for him.)

These animal photos hang around for a few days, until the new ‘pic du jour’ gets created. So these images don’t need to be stellar representations. The old HP was just fine for this job using everyday paper…

I didn’t want to task the Epson with regularly churning out the animal kingdom, because the process would unnecessary drain down the six (expensive) ink cartridges.

And even though my Epson is considered an ‘all-in-one’ printer, I usually reserve it for higher-end photo printing on photo paper.

The old Deskjet became the workhorse for temporary pages or the backup printer if the Epson had problems.
(Not that it really has… although its predecessor was felled by a carefully inserted penny by my curious boy.)

And of course, in those irritating moments of technology failure, I think you should have a back up plan.

A Small Footprint
So all I wanted, and all I needed… was a simple printer.

  • Not a scanner
  • Not a fax
  • Not a photo creator
  • Not a machine to create hundreds of pages a month

I didn’t need another all-in-one printer.
(I’ve already got one.)

And its footprint should be small.
My old HP Deskjet was 17.75” wide by 14” deep.
(17.5” deep with tray extended)

Well, guess what?
They don’t really make that kind of machine anymore.


Nobody Makes Just a Printer Anymore!
Most of the choices are either photo creators, or big all-in-one, multifunction printers with a scanner bed on top.

I’ve got to admit there are some multifunction beauties out there if I wanted to move in that direction.
Epson’s got the Workforce Pro WF-4630, which is on sale for $199.99 direct from Epson.

It gets stellar reviews, and I fantasized about starting all over again, and building my office around this gentle giant.

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4630






Maybe the alternate universe Barrett just pulled the trigger, but not this one.

Plus, my Epson Artisan is just fine… for now.

Laser Printers
One option is to buy a laser printer. I discovered several relatively compact models, and found that the Wirecutter highly recommends the Brother HL-L2340DW.

But the problem with home laser printer models is they print only in black and white.
(I thought we’ve permanently moved beyond black and white decades ago.)

Plus, I expect my son would prefer his animals in full Technicolor… so I continued shopping…

Portable Printers
I then found a small selection of portable printers for people who want to travel with a printing solution and not a broken back.

Here are three portables, all of which are nice and small!

  • Epson WorkForce WF-100
    Epson WorkForce WF-100






  • Canon Pixma iP110
    Canon PIXMA iP110






  • HP Officejet 100
    HP Officejet 100






The problem with this family of printers is they’re relatively expensive.

You’re paying a premium for the portability factor:

Plus, they’re not Wi-Fi enabled.
(Although I could use the USB connection to my Airport Extreme, which is how my old HP was linked to my home Wi-Fi network.)

And their daily printing costs are high.

The HP ends up with the lowest operating costs of the bunch, but this model was released back in 2011.
(I have a hard time buying into new tech that’s already four years old.)

But its footprint is so small… very appealing.

As much as I like the ‘less is more strategy’, it just didn’t seem like the perfect fit for my needs. I don’t need a portable printer to travel with.

So I moved on…

HP Deskjet 1010
And guess what I finally found…?
Yes, HP does make a basic printer:

…But it’s still bigger than my old HP.
(I thought newer tech is supposed to get smaller.)

HP Deskjet 1010








PIXMA iP2820
Canon offers the PIXMA iP2820 at its own ridiculously low price point.
B&H Photo has it for $37.56.

Canon PIXMA iP2820







The iP2820 isn’t Wi-Fi enabled. So you need to cross your fingers and play the “Wireless Printing over USB” dance with your wireless router.

Nor does it have an internal paper tray.
(You place the sheets on its top feeder.)

This PIXMA seems to have mostly gone unnoticed with the ‘experts,” although the Phoblographer gave it a decent review, considering the inexpensive price.

The iP2820’s footprint is 16.8” wide x 9.3” deep x 5.3 high,” which is actually smaller than my deceased HP printer.

And it’s designed with the basic two-ink cartridge structure.
(black and color)

The iP2820 is entirely average, which is what I wanted, right?
(And it’s almost free.)

I guess it fits the bill.
(You’ve got to provide your own USB cable.)

Good Enough?
If you can’t tell, I’m not too excited with this purchase. And while I’m pleased to have not spent a ton of money, I’m also wary about the long-term health of any inexpensive machine.
(But, heck, there’s really not much of a selection for printer-only models.)

Does anyone have any better ideas?
(With less than $40 invested, I can always pivot to another choice without much guilt.)

Is There Anybody Out There?
I feel like the last nerd on Earth.

Maybe it’s because half of the planet wouldn’t buy a back-up printer to begin with. And the other half doesn’t own a printer at all.

But deep down, I don’t think I’m alone on this.

But the way it’s going, the next time I need a printer-only model, I might have to find it at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box…