Printer prices keep falling. I’ve seen a plausible prediction that printers will come to be disposable – we’ll replace the printer instead of replacing the ink cartridges individually. Even the least expensive inkjet printers can print photos that rival prints from the drugstore.

HP inkjet printers are designed inelegantly in one respect: there isn’t room to install all of the possible ink cartridges at the same time. You’re required to put in the appropriate cartridge for photos or text before you send a print job. They sometimes include a cute little stand for the cartridge that has to sit off to the side when it’s not being used. That’s not a huge deal – but why is it necessary at all? The competing printers don’t put you through that.

Canon’s line of Pixma printers is gorgeous, especially when they’re all folded up. The Pixma iP4000 has a particularly good reputation for the price. Changing between 8 1/2 x 11 paper and 4 x 6 photo paper takes only a button click.

But Epson has a printer line with an extraordinary extra feature. The R200/R300/R320 printers do the usual gorgeous photo printing and fast text printing. But they also print full-color designs directly on CDs and DVDs. No more writing with markers, no more labels that are difficult to print correctly and hard to apply. It’s simply awesome to be able to do this cheaply. Here’s an extended review of the R300.

CD/DVD printing can only be done on special “inkjet-printable” blanks, slightly more expensive than regular CDRs and blank DVDs. But Costco frequently has the blanks at a reasonable price these days, and I’ll bet the price drops quickly once these printers become popular. (Be careful, by the way – the ink is not water-resistant. Don’t get them wet.)

For what it’s worth, I bought one of the Lightscribe drives that inscribes a label on the top of expensive special disks. The disks are expensive, printing the label took 20 minutes, and the results are none too impressive. I wish I’d gotten an Epson printer instead.

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