Inkjet Printers Lose Consumer Reports’ Recommendation Over Reliability Issues

Independent review and testing organization Consumer Reports announced that it’s removed its “recommended” designation from 14 printers already its ratings. The removed printers include several Epson standalone inkjet printers and All-in-One inkjets, as well as several HP standalone inkjet printers, and several Samsung (now HP) standalone laser printers and All-in-One color laser models.

Consumer Reports removed the Epson printers in response to a survey of of 113,959 users.

“There’s an opportunity for manufacturers to step up here,” commented Maria Rerecich, Consumer Reports’ senior director for product testing. “Some of the printers that are losing recommendations score highly in our performance testing. If manufacturers can improve the reliability of these products, their models should do quite well in our ratings.”

This is the first time that brand reliability and owner satisfaction are being factored into Consumer Reports’ Overall Scores for printers, along with data collected during its lab testing, which covers print quality, speed, ink usage, ease of use, and more.

The change is helping to elevate some printers in the company’s ratings while moving others downward. No brand that earns a Poor or Fair score for predicted reliability is eligible for a Consumer Reports recommendation.

When Consumer Reports reached out to Epson, the company affirmed the reliability of its printers.

“Epson does not believe that Consumer Reports’ findings accurately capture the performance and reliability of Epson printers and genuine ink,” said a spokesperson, Merritt Woodward. “In fact, we believe that our sales growth reflects user satisfaction. Epson has always been committed to responding to and meeting the needs of consumers.”

Consumer Reports is currently recommending 19 All-in-One inkjet printers. In itssurvey, this type of printer accounted for 80 percent of the models members purchased in 2017 and 2018. No standalone inkjets printers in Consumer Reports’ ratings earned a recommendation –  but Consumer Reports says that standalone printers are much less popular, accounting for only 2 percent of the models purchased by survey respondents during the same time period.

Consumer Reports notes that a sub-par  rating doesn’t indicate that users will have a problem with a brand’s products or that a model delivers bad performance. However, it says the score is a useful factor to consider in making a  purchase, and to “boost your odds of having a hassle-free experience.”

Currently, there are more than 200 printers in Consumer Reports’ ratings. As with everything Consumer Reports tests, these models were purchased via retail.

Ink Costs High on List of Complaints

Respondents to Consumer Reports’ printer survey were asked about the two newest printers in their homes, as long as the printers were bought new between 2011 and 2018. To derive its reliability scores, CR uses a statistical model that estimates how likely a particular brand and type of printer is to experience problems by the end of the fourth year of ownership. That’s about halfway through the life span that consumers say they expect from their printers.

Consumers reported a number of problems. The most common complaint was the high cost and hassle of replacing ink cartridges—and that affected every inkjet brand in the survey. Twenty-eight percent of all inkjet printers need ink replacements too often, according to respondents. The figures ranged from a low of 21 percent for Brother All-in-One inkjets, all the way up to 42 percent for Kodak All-in-One inkjets, with HP inkjet printers and Epson All-in-Ones falling near the middle of the range, at 31 percent.

Some Consumer Reports members also said their printers dropped their network connections or produced poor print quality. And a small percentage reported that their printer suddenly stopped working with third-party ink or toner.

Additionally, paper jams or misfeeds affected around 10 percent of all printers.

Zack Rubin, an engineer who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told Consumer Reports that he experienced this problem with his HP inkjet printer right out of the box.

“Half the time the paper wouldn’t feed correctly,” he says, and sometimes paper would get jammed. Online, he discovered that the problem was an issue for lots of owners. Rubin got a “paper feed cleaning kit” from the manufacturer that was very helpful, but he says the problem still crops up.

“I bought it because it was an HP printer, which I thought was a good brand,” Rubin says, “but this printer was clearly not well designed.”

HP,  which recently purchased Samsung‘s printer business, declined to comment on Consumer Reports’ survey results regarding either brand.

No inkjet printer brand earns high ratings for reliability from consumers, but Consumer Reports said some are more “trustworthy” than others. And many printers and All-in-One laser printers, it says, fare well for reliability, with some earning Excellent scores.

Black-and-white laser models from Brother, Canon, and HP earn top marks for reliability, as do color laser printers from Canon and HP.

According to Rich Sulin, who leads the printer testing program at Consumer Reports: “If you can afford to spend more up front, a laser printer is the best choice for many people. That’s especially true when you factor in the reliability problems we’ve uncovered with inkjets.”

According to Consumer Reports, however, laser printers still don’t match the best inkjets for photo quality. For consumers focused on printing photos, Sulin suggests an All-in-One inkjet printer that scored well in Consumer Reports’  ratings.