Touch, scroll and push: printer interfaces that make life easy

Sure they may produce pretty pictures, but some printers have interfaces that seem designed to make you want to tear your hair out

Your printer might have the fastest print speeds, most connections and best print quality, but if it isn't easy to use, it may well end up out the window in frustration. Sometimes an overabundance of buttons, wheels and confusing menus can often be the biggest problem with a printer; we know, we've been frustrated once too often ourselves. So which printer gives you the most control over its functions — and which is easiest to use?

Canon MP640 Easy Scroll Wheel

Scroll Wheels

Canon multifunctions might not be perfect, but their hallmark feature — the Easy Scroll Wheel — makes them a pleasure to use. The wheel makes it easy to navigate through the revolving root menu, as well as lists, photos and settings. Accompanying buttons are always clearly labelled, making menu selection and photo editing on the likes of the PIXMA MP640 and PIXMA MP980 easy. We only have two complaints with the Easy Scroll Wheel: it definitely isn't the best tool for inputting lengthy Wi-Fi passwords, and it becomes confusing to use when teamed with a tiny LCD screen (as is the case with the PIXMA MP560).

HP Photosmart Premium C309g-m

Touch screens galore

Touch screens are all the rage in consumer electronics at the moment, and printers aren't immune. Offerings from HP, Lexmark, and Epson all give you a tactile experience, with varying levels of success. We aren't fans of Epson's approach on the Stylus Photo TX800FW, but the touch panels on the Lexmark Prestige Pro805 and HP Photosmart Premium C309g-m are responsive, easy to use and fantastic replacements for a traditional button interface. Better yet, they open up new possibilities like Web-enabled widgets and printing photos from your Snapfish account if you're that way inclined.

Kodak ESP 7

Buttons

Touch screens and fancy wheels aside, there's still room for the humble button on printer control panels. Of course, the fewer the better; unless the multifunction has a fax, we can't see any real need for more than 10 buttons on a control panel, however poorly designed. For example Kodak's ESP 7 successfully combines a basic navigation pad with a few quick access buttons to get to the printer's main functions. Why complicate things unnecessarily?

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