It’s a great time to shop for a printer. In case you haven’t noticed, the printer aisle of your computer superstore is a battlefield, with Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, Epson, and others slugging it out in a price war that has driven many inkjet printers below $200. Here are two impressive cheapies and a nice damn-the-budget model.


HEWLETT-PACKARD DESKJET 920C, $99
PROS: Both text and photo quality are surprisingly high for such a low-end unit. Fold-up paper tray helps minimize desktop footprint.
CONS: Did we mention you get what you pay for? That means just a 90-day limited warranty, after which you’ll pay the piper each time you call.
BOTTOM LINE: This printer doesn’t blaze new trails or shock with its speed, but remember its three best points: $99. $99. $99.
CANON S820D, $399
PROS: Loaded with photo-enhancing software such as Vivid Photo and PhotoStitch, which builds panoramic shots by combining several images. Thanks to a proprietary USB port, owners of Canon PowerShot digital cameras can print straight from the camera.
CONS: No parallel port, so owners of older computers sans USB are out of luck.
BOTTOM LINE: Along with its zippy photo-printing speeds, the S820D turns out decent text and quality graphics for presentations. And Canon’s one-year Instant Exchange Program applies to this unit: Should the printer go kaput during the warranty period, Canon will get you a refurbished model by next business day.
LEXMARK Z53, $130
PROS: Print times for text match those of costlier printers; photo prints emerge with clear, sharp colors even in normal mode.
CONS: Ink for the Z53 is priced like liquid gold — up to $40 for a color cartridge, and because it’s a tricolor, you’ll have to replace the entire tank when one color runs out. Also, no parallel port or USB cables included. There oughta be a law.
BOTTOM LINE: With healthy print speeds rarely found in this price bracket, the Z53 spells good value for the SoHo set.