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Do Printer All-in-one Reviews Really Help You To Choose The Best Printer?

May 14, 2011

There are now hundreds of printer all-in-one reviews on the web, ranging from simple Amazon reviews all the way to bells-and-whistles review websites with pretty colours… But do the review scores really help you to identify the best home printers or find the most suitable all-in-one for your office?

The Basic Review Process

Which Printer? Are Printer Reviews Useful?

Which Printer should I choose? Which Printer Reviews should I read?

The basic idea behind nearly every customer review site is that each individual who has bought and tried the product then rates his or her experience on a point-scale. For example, an all-in-one printer might receive a total review score of 4 stars out of 5 stars, or a score of 8 out of 10. But what exactly does that mean?

Back at school, when you were given a homework grade of 7/10, what did that mean? Good? Ok? Maybe your teacher was really tough and 7/10 meant excellent work?

Well Done – You’ve Scored 7/10. You’re Average… and Excellent…and…

In a printer review, it might simply mean for example, that the user thought that the printer was excellent (10/10), except for one or two things that brought its score down to 8/10 (or the equivalent stars). What were those things? Well, you’d have to read the reviews to find that out.

To get a final review score, all the reviews made so far for that printer are then totalled up, and an average rating is calculated. For example, here is a printer all-in-one reviews page for an HP Printer (that will remain nameless for the moment):

A Printer All-in-One Review

A Typical All-in-One Printer Review

Usefully, this reviews website has split the scores into 4 categories of ‘Features’, ‘Print Quality’, ‘Print Speed’ and ‘Value’. Customers have entered these scores when they gave their review.

The problem is that one person’s “7/10” is different to another person’s “7/10” as each reviewer has a different set of judgement criteria in their heads. So do these scores provide objective enough information on which to base a purchase decision? Probably not… these scores may be less useful than you think…

How To Distinguish A Good Printer… From a Better Printer

All-in-one PrinterIf you take a look through the best selling all-in-one printers on the web you’ll see that pretty much all of them have total scores (or equivalent star-scores) between 6/10 and 9/10.

So why are there few – if any – review scores below 6/10? Some review websites don’t even give 10/10 for ANY printers! This type of scoring doesn’t leave the reader with much ‘score clarity’ to distinguish the best printer all-in-one.

And At The Bottom Of The Scoring Scale…

Review StarsLooking at the bottom end of the scale, do people really ever give scores of 2/10? It’s rare. Most people who rate an all-in-one’s printing speed as ‘annoyingly slow’ would give it 4/10. Perhaps in our minds, a score of 1 or 2 out of 10 means the printer doesn’t actually work at all…

So that means most review sites which score out of 10 points or stars, are actually only using a scale of 4 points (6/10 to 9/10).

The Case Of The Defective All-In-One Printer

Unfortunately, every so often, a defective printer gets delivered to a customer. It happens. Most of the time, the customer realises because the fault is obvious – the printer just doesn’t work. They send it back to the supplier for a replacement and everybody’s happy because the replacement works fine.

All-in-One Printers are sometimes defective...However sometimes, the defect is harder to spot. Perhaps there has been a manufacturing glitch in the print head, which keeps giving the printer the wrong signals… The customer battles on and just about copes with the struggling printer’s performance. The customer concludes that the printer is a load of rubbish and gives an online review of 3/10 because it’s so slow or the print quality is not up to standard. However, the printer was defective and should have been replaced.

In this situation, the rest of the reviews have been skewed as the scores given for a defective printer have been included with all the normally working printers. Not very useful.

A Different Type Of Printer All-In-One Reviews Website?

So far then, we’ve seen that the review scores given to printer all-in-ones (and for many other products for that matter) are not actually that useful for finding the best home or office printers. They will certainly give you an indication and if you read all the reviews from customers, then you’ll get a much better idea. You’ll need a fair amount of time and effort for that though.

A different type of all-in-one printer review website

The Bigger-Thinking Printer AIO Review Websites...

So, is there a way to present the experiences of previous users in a more objective and fair way, so that others can make better choices?

Well, recently, a different type of all-in-one printer reviews site has made it’s appearance. There are not many of them around, but these gems actually analyse the customers’ written reviews – not the customers’ scores. The way they usually work is that a human being (yes – a real person!) reads the reviews and keeps a tally of scores in different categories, depending on the comments made.

For example:

“I found the WiFi setting up to be a piece of cake – really easy!…” = plus 1 point for the ‘Setting Up’ category.

“Wow, this printer is so heavy and it certainly doesn’t win the looks-award of the year…” = minus 1 point for the ‘Design’ category

“You can print envelopes from tray one, and normal paper from tray 2…” = 0 points, i.e. not a relevant comment.

Printer Review Scores

The Scores are In!

The Scores Are In…

The scores for each category are then added up and hey presto! You have an unbiased picture of the printer’s true performance characteristics. The scores are not skewed by the customer’s judgement criteria (which can change with the wind), and you’ll find that these review websites give a wider range of scores in different performance categories. Any reader can then easily spot the best printer all-in-one for their printing requirements.

The downside for the review website team is that it takes time and effort to read through the hundreds of printer reviews in order to crunch the numbers. However, the quality of information is much better, so these websites should see rapid growth as more and more people realise the benefits of making purchase decisions using reliable data.

Finding the Review Websites That Reach The Parts Other Review Websites Can’t Reach…

So next time you’re looking for the best home printer, or perhaps the best printer all-in-one solution for your office, see if you can find a review site that goes that little bit further – save yourself time, effort and money.

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