The HP Deskjet 6940 is a basic color inkjet printer designed for home and small-office users who have low-volume printing needs but may want to print the occasional snapshot. In fact, its price, features, and print quality make it a great printer for college dorm rooms. Its no-fuss, low-profile design makes it easy to tuck in the corner of your office or room, and the built-in Ethernet capability means you can leave it there and print from any networked computer in the office or from your roommate's laptop. It's simple to print photos without using your PC with the built-in USB port for PictBridge-enabled cameras or camera phones, but the fact that you need to change out ink tanks for optimal photo quality is a bit of a drag if you switch back and forth between regular text/graphic documents and photos. Still, at $130, the Deskjet 6940 is quite a value. If you want autoduplexing and a larger input tray, spring for the 6940dt. If you don't need the network capability, check out the Canon Pixma iP4200; with this printer, for less than what you'd pay for the base model of the HP Deskjet 6940, you get built-in duplexing and two input trays.
The Deskjet 6940's design is understated and rather prim. The boxy, silver-and-black printer measures 17.5 inches wide, 8 inches deep, and 5.5 inches tall, and it weighs a light 13.2 pounds. The paper input/output tray juts out of the printer's front face nearly 5.5 inches and doesn't fold up, which can be a pain if you're short on desk or shelf space. On the front left is a limited control panel that reflects the printer's few functions: a power button, a print cancel button, a print resume button, and a printer report button. There are also graphical LEDs to indicate low ink and a network connection. A single USB port for printing directly from a camera resides on the other side of the paper tray. The paper cartridge operates as both an input and output tray. The input tray, which sits below, holds up to 150 sheets and has two paper guides. You can buy an optional 250-sheet input tray, as well. The tray doesn't slide out for refilling, but the input tray's cover, which functions as the output tray, flips up or pulls out entirely for easy access. The output tray has a pass-through slot for feeding in smaller media, such as envelopes, 4x6 photo paper, or postcards. A pull-out extension helps keep longer paper in check.
The front cover flips up for easy access to the two ink cartridges, which are simple to switch out. For standard document printing, use the included black cartridge and the tricolor CMY cartridge. For photo printing, you can swap out the black ink for a second tricolor ink cartridge for six-color printing or for a gray cartridge for black-and-white photos. Changing ink cartridges is a simple matter: open the main cover, flip up the plastic cover for each ink tank, and pull the tank straight out. While the task is easy enough, it can be a pain if you switch back and forth often between photos and regular documents. If you're willing to sacrifice a bit of photo quality for convenience, the Canon Pixma iP4200 doesn't require changing ink tanks for photo printing. At least the HP Deskjet 6940 uses separate black and color ink tanks, though: if you print primarily black text, you won't have to waste the precious (and expensive) color ink when you run out of black. HP ships the printer with full ink tanks, but they are expensive to replace: the standard black tanks costs $29.99, and the tricolor tank costs $34.99. The gray photo and tricolor photo ink tanks cost $24.99 each. HP estimates that it costs 3.7 cents to print a page of black text and 7.8 cents for a page of color text--a little less expensive than the cost per page for the Canon Pixma iP4200.