Looking for the best printer for 2021? Look no further! In this article, we will explore the top options in various categories, including the best home printer, best upper mid-range home printer, and best budget home printer. We will also discuss notable mentions and recent updates in the world of printers. Plus, we will provide valuable insights into the factors you should consider when buying a printer. From the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e All-in-One Printer to the Canon ImageClass LBP236dw, we've got you covered. So, whether you're a professional in need of a high-performance printer or a casual user on a tight budget, read on to find the perfect printing solution for your needs.
Top Home Printer
The Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500 is our top pick for a home printer. It offers exceptional performance and value compared to the Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550. The main distinction is that the ET-8500 is more affordable and caters to a wider audience. Regardless of the model you choose, both printers produce sharp documents and vibrant, detailed photos. The supertank design eliminates the need for expensive cartridges, as the refillable ink tank provides thousands of prints at a low cost. Connect to the printer effortlessly through Wi-Fi, USB, or Ethernet, and take advantage of its convenient SD card printing feature. The built-in flatbed scanner excels at capturing even the tiniest details, making it perfect for digitizing old photos. However, note that it lacks an automatic document feeder, requiring manual scanning of each page. If your primary focus is document printing, there are more affordable options available.
Check out our review
Top Mid-Range Home Printer
The Epson EcoTank ET-3850 is the ideal choice for users who primarily require a printer for document printing and general office tasks. Similar to the Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500, this all-in-one inkjet model with a refillable ink tank is an excellent option for households that frequently print. It produces both black and color documents at a decent speed: 15 black or seven color pages per minute. While it falls slightly short in photo printing compared to the ET-8500, it compensates with its versatility and efficiency. The printer offers Wi-Fi, USB, and Ethernet connectivity, along with compatibility with Apple AirPrint and Mopria Print Service. The scanner delivers high-quality scans and features an automatic feeder for multi-page documents. However, its scanning speed is relatively slow at three pages per minute, and it lacks duplex scanning capability. Take advantage of Epson's mobile app to accomplish various printing, scanning, copying, and maintenance tasks easily.
Check out our review
Top Affordable Home Printer
Our top budget-friendly home printer recommendation is the Brother MFC-J1205W, also known as the Brother MFC-J1215W at Walmart. It suits households with a moderate print load perfectly. The printer offers standard Wi-Fi and USB connectivity, along with Apple AirPrint and Mopria Print Service support. Although the scanner produces high-quality scans, it struggles with capturing intricate details, making it less suitable for digitizing photos. The absence of an automatic feeder and duplex scanning is typical for a budget model. When it comes to printing performance, the MFC-J1205W produces sharp documents, although its speed is limited to nine black or six color pages per minute. Duplex printing requires manual page flipping. While it excels in reproducing fine photo details, it may struggle with saturated tones, resulting in slightly flat-looking pictures. The ink cartridges have a yield of approximately 1100 black and 700 color pages before requiring replacement, and they offer cost-effective replacements to keep running expenses low.
Check out our review
Other Options Worth Considering
- Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300: If photo printing quality is your primary concern, the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 is an excellent alternative to the Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500. It offers superior color accuracy but prints at a slower pace and has higher maintenance costs due to shorter-lasting ink cartridges. Note that it focuses solely on printing, so a separate scanner would be necessary. Check out our review
- Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850: For users primarily focused on document printing, the Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 is a remarkable alternative to the Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500. It delivers superior document quality and faster printing speeds of up to 25 pages per minute. Additionally, it features an automatic feeder with single-pass duplex scanning. However, its scan quality is slightly inferior due to challenges in capturing fine details, and its photo printing capabilities are limited by a narrower color range. Check out our review
- HP OfficeJet Pro 9025e: The HP OfficeJet Pro 9025e is a viable alternative to the Epson EcoTank ET-3850 if duplex scanning is essential. However, it produces lower-quality scans and offers fewer prints with its ink cartridges. Keep in mind that if you opt for HP's ink replenishment subscription service, you will be unable to utilize third-party cartridges, even if you unsubscribe later. Check out our review
- Epson EcoTank ET-2400: The Epson EcoTank ET-2400 is a more affordable alternative to the Epson EcoTank ET-3850. It excels in producing high-quality photos but lacks an automatic feeder, Apple AirPrint and Mopria Print Service support, and automatic duplex printing. The printing speed is also slower, and it yields fewer prints compared to the ET-3850. Check out our review
- Canon PIXMA TR8620a: If you prioritize photo printing, the Canon PIXMA TR8620a is a suitable alternative to the Brother MFC-J4335DW. It produces more vibrant and grain-free pictures, but its ink cartridges have a shorter lifespan, resulting in higher long-term maintenance costs. Check out our review
Factors to Consider When Purchasing a PrinterThe kind of printing you intend to do will determine the best printer for your needs. If your printing requirements mainly consist of shopping lists, concert tickets, or travel itineraries, print quality may hold less significance compared to print speed and cost. However, if you frequently print professional materials or photos, color accuracy, printing quality, and features like borderless printing become crucial considerations in finding the right printer.
Another essential factor to consider is the cost of ink and ensuring you have an ample supply to cover your printing needs. Running out of ink after purchasing a printer can be incredibly frustrating. While inkjet printers use liquid ink, laser printers rely on toner cartridges containing powdered ink. Even if you find a great printer deal, it's wise to research ink refill options to select a printer that fits your overall budget. Some printers may include an ink subscription in the original purchase price, which might be worth considering.
Over the past year, I have thoroughly tested numerous printers simultaneously. It may have been a noisy process, but each printer tested has helped us identify the best overall options. While the list may evolve over time, these printers currently remain at the top.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e All-in-One Printer
The Best Printer for Everyday Use
Why We Chose ItOur selection of the "Best Printer for Everyday Use" had to fulfill several criteria. It needed to have excellent print quality, offer color printing for visually appealing presentations and reports, be an all-in-one (AIO) model allowing for quick copies and document scanning, and include an automatic document feeder (ADF) to simplify multi-page scanning. The HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e checks all of these boxes, delivering laser-like text output, faster speeds, and higher duty cycle compared to most competitors.
Who It's ForThe OfficeJet Pro 9015e is eligible for HP's Instant Ink subscription plan, which can help reduce operating costs to as low as 3.5 cents per page. Whether you're printing double-spaced black text or letter-sized borderless photos, Instant Ink provides a cost-effective solution for families with extensive printing needs. However, the OfficeJet Pro lives up to its name, making it an excellent choice for home or micro offices that require both high-quality text documents and colorful marketing materials.
Fast printing speeds
Good overall print quality
Competitive running costs
Borderless printing capability
35-sheet auto-duplexing ADF
Compact and attractive design
Single paper input source
Canon Maxify GX5020
A Reliable Print-Only Alternative to the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e
Why We Picked ItInkjet printers without AIO capabilities are quite rare these days. However, if your main focus is printing documents and glossy-paper photos in large quantities while maximizing ink savings, the Canon Maxify GX5020 is worth considering. Its most significant selling point is its cost-effective ink system, which utilizes refillable ink bottles instead of cartridges. Our calculations, based on Canon's yield claims and the cost of bottles, average out to just 0.5 cents per monochrome page and 0.7 cents per color page. This estimate does not account for full-size ink bottles bundled with the printer, making it an even more appealing option. Additionally, the printer consistently delivers impressive print quality.
Who It's ForThe Maxify GX5020 is primarily designed for home offices but is also suitable for families with heavy printing needs. Its merit lies in generating a significant number of prints consistently to take full advantage of the low ink costs. Although the printer itself is priced slightly higher than the competition due to its bulk-ink/bottle-refill system, it offers substantial long-term savings for families with home businesses or substantial printing requirements.
Affordable ink costs
Ethernet, USB, and Wi-Fi connections
Duplex printing capability
Mobile device support
Higher initial price compared to cartridge-based alternatives
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$215.64 on Amazon
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The Ultimate Inkjet All-in-One Printer for Homes and Small Offices
Why We Chose ItWhen you have a tight budget of under $200, you have plenty of options for compact all-in-one inkjet printers. However, the Brother MFC-J4335DW stands out from the crowd with its exceptional features. Not only does it offer duplex printing and faxing capabilities, but it also includes a 20-page automatic document feeder and impressively low running costs of less than a penny per black page and less than a nickel per color page. While the ADF doesn't handle double-sided pages, you can't expect everything at this price range.
Who Should Buy ItWhether you have a cozy home or a small, compact office space, the Brother MFC-J4335DW is a perfect fit. While you may not use its fax function frequently, having it on hand can be valuable in unexpected situations. In addition to its reliable paper handling, this printer offers more-than-adequate text quality and better-than-adequate graphics quality.
Impressive print speed for the price
Mobile-friendly printing and scanning
Low price combined with low cost per page
ADF does not support duplex scanning
Text quality may suffer for small font sizes and certain font styles
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Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850
The Ultimate Inkjet All-in-One Printer for Businesses
Why We Chose ItRecognized as a Best of the Year winner in 2020, the Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 remains an exceptional choice for high-volume office printing. While it no longer comes with a two years' supply of free ink, it still offers excellent value. This all-in-one printer features a 50-page automatic document feeder with single-pass auto duplexing, a generous 550-sheet paper capacity, and near-typeset-quality output for text and graphics. It rivals the speed of its inkjet and laser counterparts and impresses with its affordable running costs, around 2 cents per page for both mono and color printing.
Who It's ForDesigned for small businesses and workgroups that consistently print between 3,000 to 4,000 pages per month, the EcoTank Pro ET-5850 is an ideal choice. While its sibling, the ET-16650, supports wider format media, this model ensures compatibility with letter and legal-size paper. Its bulk-ink concept revolutionizes page costs and offers exceptional value, unlike consumer printers that lack the capabilities required for busy office environments.
Two years of unlimited ink
Incredibly low running costs
Exceptional print quality
PrecisionCore 4S printhead
Excellent mobile connectivity options
Two-year warranty with registration
Relatively high initial purchase price
HP Color LaserJet Enterprise MFP M480f
The Top Color Laser All-in-One Printer
Why We Chose ItWhile midrange color laser all-in-one printers may come with a higher price tag and larger size, the HP Color LaserJet Enterprise MFP M480f stands out as a reliable workhorse. With a recommended monthly usage of around 5,000 pages, it features a 50-sheet automatic document feeder, a versatile multipurpose tray, and a 250-sheet paper drawer. For mobile connectivity, it offers both Ethernet and Wi-Fi options, enhancing its versatility. Its exceptional output quality further strengthens its position in the market.
Who It's ForAs its name suggests, the MFP M480f caters to enterprise-level businesses, offering fleet-management features and unmatched performance. However, midsize businesses will also find it enticing due to its impressive print quality and competitive running costs, approximately 2.3 cents per monochrome page and 14.1 cents per color page.
Robust mobile connectivity options
Excellent print quality
Relatively compact design
Competitive running costs
Somewhat high purchase price
Canon imageClass MF452dw
The Best Monochrome Laser All-in-One Printer
Why We Chose ItWhile color inkjet printers steal the spotlight, compact and affordable monochrome laser printers remain a staple for small offices and workgroups focused on black-and-white text documents. The Canon imageClass MF452dw leads the pack as the go-to mono laser AIO, and its pricing is tough to beat. As part of the imageClass lineup with minor feature variations, this model includes fax capabilities for added versatility. It boasts a user-friendly touch panel, flexible paper handling, and excellent monochrome output quality.
Who It's ForWhile small offices and workgroups benefit the most from the AIO features, heavy-printing households can also take advantage of this model. Although it lacks color printing capabilities, it offers exceptional document input and output quality at an affordable price point.
Top-tier text, graphics, and photo quality for a mono laser
Duplexing ADF for scanning and copying
Both wired and wireless network connections
Easy Wi-Fi Direct connections to mobile devices
ADF does not support duplex scanning for faxing
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HP Neverstop Laser MFP 1202w
An Excellent Alternative to the Canon imageClass MF452dw
Why We Chose ItThe HP Neverstop Laser MFP 1202w is a highly capable monochrome document printer that offers convenient copying and scanning features, albeit at an entry-level. While it lacks an automatic document feeder for handling stacks of sheets or multipage documents, its standout feature lies in its innovative toner-refill system. This system significantly reduces operating costs, as low as 0.6 cents per page—approximately one-fifth or one-sixth the expense of laser printers that use traditional toner cartridges. It's like having a "bulk ink tank" for laser printers.
Who It's ForIf you prioritize top-quality graphics and photos, the Neverstop Laser MFP 1202w may not meet your needs. However, for homes or small offices that primarily require approximately 2,500 black-and-white pages per month on a tight budget, with occasional copying and scanning tasks, this multipurpose printer is a game-changer.
Lightweight and compact design
Impressive text print quality
Bargain running costs
Easy and mess-free toner refill kit
Great price point
Below-average graphics and image print quality
Lacks automatic two-sided (duplex) printing
Lacks an automatic document feeder
Top Choice for Color Laser Printing Only
Why We Chose ItCopying? Not with this one. Scanning? Forget about it! The Brother HL-L9310CDW is a laser printer designed specifically for printing, no extra features. It excels at producing flawless, vibrant Excel and PowerPoint graphics, as well as professional-quality text that rivals even the most expensive enterprise printers in terms of speed. With its extensive connectivity options and advanced security features, it's a reliable choice for midsize and large offices.
Who Should Use ItThe HL-L9310CDW is a favorite among midsize and large offices and workgroups. It offers a range of features, from its color touch-screen control panel to its competitive running costs. Certified for various tasks, such as remote computing and electronic medical-records handling, this workhorse combines superb output quality with versatility.
Exceptional print quality.
Rapid printing speeds.
High-capacity toner cartridges.
Expanded paper capacity.
Advanced security features for enterprises and fleets.
Extensive standard and mobile connectivity options.
Slightly higher price.
Relatively small color touch screen.
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Canon ImageClass LBP236dw
Leading Choice for Monochrome Laser Printing Only
Why We Chose ItThe Canon ImageClass LBP236dw won over the Lexmark MS431dw due to its significantly faster duplex printing speed. It also boasts a lower price ($299) and affordable long-term operational expenses. Small or midsize offices in need of duplex printing will find this model to be an ideal fit, offering reliable monochrome printing for high-volume environments.
Who Should Use ItIf duplex printing is not a priority, the Lexmark MS431dw provides similar performance and features at a comparable price. However, the LBP236dw is the clear choice when it comes to monochrome printing needs. It suits small and medium-sized offices and workgroups that require dependable black-and-white printing without any additional copying or scanning functionalities.
Exceptional mono laser output quality.
Auto-duplexer for double-sided printing.
Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity options.
Mobile printing support for Android and iOS devices.
User manual covers two printers without clear indication of which information pertains to each model.
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Brother MFC-J6945DW INKvestment Tank Color Inkjet All-In-One Printer
Best Wide-Format Printer for Office Use
Why We Chose ItEven small offices require wide printouts sometimes. The Brother MFC-J6945DW is part of the company's INKvestment Tank color inkjet line, which combines high-capacity cartridges with internal tanks to minimize operating costs to just a penny per monochrome page and a nickel per color page. What sets it apart is its ability to handle tabloid (11-by-17-inch) as well as letter- and legal-size paper, making it a versatile option with the added functionalities of copying, scanning, and faxing. It also includes a convenient 50-sheet, single-pass-duplexing automatic document feeder, and stands out with its 600-sheet paper capacity and recommended monthly print volume of 2,000 pages.
Who Should Use ItThis printer does not support Bluetooth connectivity (although it does have Wi-Fi Direct and NFC features), and it doesn't accommodate super-tabloid (13-by-19-inch) media. However, it offers exceptional convenience and print quality for small businesses that create their own marketing materials. It is suitable for light to medium duty in any office setting due to its impressive speed.
Economical to operate.
Excellent print quality.
Handles tabloid-size pages for printing, scanning, copying, and faxing.
Single-pass duplexing automatic document feeder.
- Three paper input sources.
It would be even more valuable with super-tabloid support.
Epson SureColor P900 17-Inch Photo Printer
Best Wide-Format Photo Printer
Why We Chose ItEpson has a longstanding reputation for producing exceptional wide-format art printers, and the SureColor P900 is an impressive addition to their line. Capable of printing on cut sheets up to 17 by 22 inches and paper rolls for panoramas up to 17 by 129 inches, this printer utilizes 10 premium high-definition inks to create breathtaking banners and photos. With its automatic switching between photo-black and matte-black inks and compatibility with Epson's wide range of photo and art paper, it guarantees top-quality results. Additionally, its operating costs are competitive, and its touch-screen control panel offers advanced print job customization options that used to require specialized software from Epson or Adobe.
Who Should Use ItWhile the SureColor P900 is not suitable for casual family snapshots or text documents, it is a must-have for imaging professionals and serious enthusiasts who prioritize museum-quality photos, artwork, and banners. Its output quality is exquisite and will leave a lasting impression.
Exceptional print quality.
Prints borderless banners and panoramas up to 17 inches wide.
Prints cut sheets up to 17 by 22 inches.
Uses UltraChrome PRO10 pigment inks for vibrant colors.
Automatically switches between photo black and matte black inks.
Affordable per-millimeter ink costs.
Additional purchase required for paper roll adapter.
Canon Selphy CP1500 Wireless Compact Photo Printer
Best Printer for Snapshot Photos
Why We Chose ItWe couldn't resist the humor in the phrase "You had one job!" The Canon Selphy CP1500 fulfills that job perfectly: delivering high-quality photo prints, period. It belongs to the esteemed Selphy dye-sublimation printer series, known for their snapshot-size output using convenient print packs that combine paper and dye-ribbon cartridges. This model stands out for supporting up to four different print sizes, some with adhesive backing and others without. (An inexpensive tray adapter is needed for sizes smaller than the default 4-by-6 inches.) It's a fast printer that produces stunning prints at very competitive running costs. The software is more geared toward mobile devices than PCs, but it performs admirably regardless of the photo source.
Who Should Use ItThis printer is perfect for families, especially those with a passion for scrapbooking or genealogy. If you need a quick, portable, and affordable way to transform your family's smartphone images into beautiful photos and stickers, the Selphy will meet your needs. You'll always know how much "ink" you have left, eliminating any guesswork.
Impressive photo print quality.
Low running costs (for 4-by-6-inch media).
Supports multiple paper sizes with an affordable tray option.
User-friendly control panel.
Prints directly from USB and SD card memory devices.
Optional battery for added portability.
No dedicated Windows or macOS software (companion apps are focused on phones).
Photo paper stock included in consumable packs is thin.
Brother PocketJet PJ883
Top-notch Portable Document Printer
Why We Chose ItThe market for printers is saturated with portable options that can print small-sized photos or square prints resembling Instagram photos. However, finding a truly portable printer that can produce letter-sized documents on the go is much more difficult. Brother's PocketJet line of printers has been meeting this need for many years. Our current favorite is the PJ883, a thermal-printing model that uses fax-style thermal paper to print without the need for ink. While it is not inexpensive and the thermal paper has a limited lifespan before fading, this monochrome printer is a winner due to its versatility in connectivity options and extreme portability (weighing just 1.34 pounds, including the battery). It's a perfect fit for specific usage cases. It's worth noting that Brother offers several variations of the PocketJet models, each differing in terms of print resolution, inclusion of a battery, and connectivity options.
Target AudienceLet's clarify that this is a niche printer. Portable printers like the PJ883 are commonly used in scenarios that require printing in a vehicle, such as printing receipts in a delivery truck or tickets in a police car. However, their compactness and lightness make them well-suited for other purposes as well, such as printing a roofing proposal at a potential customer's table or printing invoices or informational materials at a street fair. The suitability depends on the nature of your business. You'll need to keep a stock of special paper, but you'll never have to deal with ink cartridges.
Smaller and lighter compared to mobile inkjets
Surprisingly excellent output quality
- Able to print via USB, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, and Bluetooth
Eliminates the need for ink with thermal paper
Restricted to monochrome printing only
Epson LabelWorks LW-PX800
Premium Label Printer for General/Industrial Labeling
Why We Chose ItWhen it comes to industrial labeling, versatility is key. Whether you need to print labels from your computer or take the printer with you to a job site, whether you need to print on reflective tape or heat-shrink tubes for cables, or whether you require various label sizes, Epson's LabelWorks LW-PX800 is the solution for serious tasks. This printer supports over 200 different types of tape cartridges, ranging from standard polyester strips to specialized tapes up to 1.42 inches wide. The software is compatible with both Windows and macOS (although macOS-based machines may not be common on factory floors). With its weight of 2.4 pounds, it's a stationary printer designed to get the job done effectively, which is exactly what this printer is all about.
Target AudienceThe LW-PX800 may be overkill if you only need to label a few storage bins in your garage. However, it's perfect for organizing busy construction, electrical, or engineering workplaces. With its speed and flexibility, it can handle most bulk label printing tasks and even cut labels without cutting the backing, providing a continuous strip of labels for application.
Prints on a wide variety of tape types, with widths up to 36mm
Downloadable apps available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS
Ability to cut labels and round corners without cutting the backing strip
Manual corner rounding requires additional time and effort
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Rollo Wireless Printer X1040
Excellent Label Printer for Shipping Labels
Why We Chose ItThe Rollo X1040 isn't the only printer specializing in 4-by-6-inch shipping labels for small businesses that handle a large volume of packages. However, this device, priced at $279.99, offers additional convenience by utilizing Wi-Fi connectivity instead of relying on USB or Ethernet connections. It is compatible with almost any die-cut thermal paper roll or stack, automatically detecting gaps between labels and adjusting its position for printing based on the label size. What's more, it works seamlessly with the cloud-based Rollo Ship Manager, which, for a mere 5 cents per label after the initial 200 labels, provides a unified interface for USPS, UPS, and 13 different online shopping platforms. Moreover, it grants access to significant discounts for shipping services from the Post Office and UPS (FedEx support is on its way, according to the company).
Target AudienceStores, shops, and entrepreneurs on platforms like Etsy can benefit immensely from the Rollo X1040. If you ship enough packages to consider investing in a label printer, the Rollo is an excellent choice.
Wi-Fi connectivity enables printing from a PC, phone, or tablet
Compatible with non-proprietary labels that are easy to load without any wastage
Prints labels quickly ranging from 1.57 to 4.1 inches wide
Option to use Rollo Ship Manager for generating labels with attractive shipping discounts
Lacks an app for designing or printing labels
At present, Ship Manager only offers discounts for USPS and UPS (FedEx support is not available yet)
Buying Guide: The Best Printers for 2023
Printers come in a wide range of variations, depending on whether they are intended for home use, business use, or both, the type of printing they are suitable for, and whether they offer color or monochrome printing. Different printing needs, such as text, graphics, and photos, require various capabilities to achieve high-quality results. Even if you primarily print one type of output, it's beneficial to have a printer that can handle other printing tasks effectively. Therefore, it's crucial to assess the full extent of your printing requirements before making a purchase.
Most printers are designed either for business purposes (typically office environments) or for home use. Business models are generally geared towards producing high-quality text output, while color models can handle both text and graphics. On the other hand, home printers (commonly inkjets) prioritize photo and graphic printing. However, there are special-purpose printers available, such as label printers, portable printers, and dedicated or near-dedicated photo printers. (It's worth noting that 3D printers are a unique category and are beyond the scope of this discussion.)
What Are the Most Common Printer Technologies?Typically, business models use laser or similar technologies and are designed for text printing, while home printers are mainly inkjets and specialize in photo and graphic printing. However, there are significant differences within each printer category in terms of output quality. Some business printers can handle all three types of output well, making them suitable for in-house printing of brochures and other marketing materials, for example.
The two most common technologies, laser and inkjet, have overlapping capabilities, but they still possess distinctive features. Most lasers and LED printers (which are essentially identical to lasers but use LEDs as their light source) produce higher-quality text prints than most inkjets, while nearly all inkjets outperform lasers when it comes to printing photos. However, some inkjet printers on the market today can produce text prints of almost laser quality, with the exception of being susceptible to smudging when wet, while certain lasers can print photos at a quality level suitable for business purposes, such as trifold brochures.
Apart from technology and output type considerations, there are other specific categories of printers to consider as well.
Home printers (price range approximately $50 to $250) are typically inkjets (except for small-format dedicated photo printers). They are designed for low-volume printing, tend to be slower, and often have high ink costs. Their strength lies in photo printing, while graphic and text printing can vary in quality. Most of them are multifunctional devices. If you're on a tight budget and need a single printer to handle text, graphics, and photos reasonably well, start looking for an affordable printer in this category.
Home-office printers ($100 to $400) are either inkjets or low-cost monochrome lasers, built for low to medium-volume printing. Most inkjets within this category are all-in-one printers, primarily focused on text and graphics printing but capable of handling photos as well. In contrast, most lasers function as printers only. Paper capacity usually starts at around 100 sheets, though higher-end models can hold up to 500 sheets. These printers are also suitable for micro offices with up to five people and are often a practical choice for households, especially for students who need to print numerous school documents.
Home-office printers are a subcategory of business printers ($100 to $2,500 or more), encompassing compact models for low-volume use as well as large floor-standing units suitable for departmental use. Most business printers are lasers (although inkjets have gained popularity in recent years) and many are monochrome printers optimized for text rather than graphics and photos. Most business printers are multifunction devices. For many businesses, speed and paper capacity are critical factors, and security is also important. As a result, many business printers offer security features like password-protected printing or even employ accessories like an encrypted hard drive or an ID card reader to restrict access to documents.
Regardless of whether a printer falls under the home or business category, cost is often a crucial aspect. Generally, the more expensive the printer, the lower the per-page printing costs. Conversely, printers with cheaper ink costs tend to have a higher upfront price. The choice between a low-cost printer and low-cost ink depends on your printing volume (more on this later). Some printer manufacturers also offer ink subscription programs, which can help lower running costs, especially if you print close to the number of pages included in the subscription plan.
Near-dedicated photo printers ($400 to $2,000) are primarily designed for professional photographers and photo enthusiasts, although they also find utility among graphic artists due to their ability to produce high-quality graphics. Some of these photo printers are wide-format printers capable of printing on large paper sizes, while others can print on paper rolls. These printers typically use a dozen ink cartridges to achieve precise color reproduction. However, their high ink consumption results in higher cost per page. Furthermore, the high-quality papers they are designed to print on can give the printed images unique appearances, further increasing the overall cost per page.
Small-format photo printers ( to $250) are dedicated devices exclusively used for printing photos, particularly from smartphones. These printers usually print wallet-sized to 5x7-inch photos and are often limited to a single print size. They are highly portable and typically come with a built-in battery or have the option to purchase one separately.
(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)
Tabloid and supertabloid-size printers ($150 for desktop models to multi-thousand-dollar floor-standing units) are another subcategory of business printers. These wide-format printers offer the same variations as other office printers, including both mono and color options, printer-only or multifunctional, and inkjet or laser technologies. The key feature of these printers is their ability to handle tabloid (11x17-inch) or supertabloid (13x19-inch) size paper. However, the least expensive models in this category can only accept one large sheet at a time, limiting their usefulness to small-scale printing of large-sized documents on an occasional basis.
Label printers are specialized devices used exclusively for printing paper or plastic labels. Some come with label-design software and connect to computers, while others are standalone devices with a built-in keyboard for designing and printing labels. Manufacturers of label printers typically offer a variety of label colors, types, and sizes.
Portable business printers are not as common but can be highly useful in certain scenarios. They allow you to print a proposal for a potential client while sitting in their office or at their kitchen table or to print the latest version of a handout for a meeting while in your car. Portable printers are compact, lightweight, and utilize inkjet or thermal printing technologies. Many of them come with rechargeable batteries.
What Types of Paper and Sizes Do You Print On?Make sure to take into consideration the smallest and largest paper sizes you use, the thickness of the paper, and whether you require a duplexer for double-sided printing. If you frequently switch between different types of paper, such as envelopes, checks, or letterheads, consider a printer with multiple trays or a single-sheet bypass tray. This way, you don't have to constantly unload and reload regular paper whenever you need to print on specialty media. It's also important to choose a printer with a paper capacity that meets your needs so you don't have to add paper too frequently. A good guideline is that you shouldn't have to refill paper more than once a week, on average.
What Will a Printer's Total Cost of Ownership Be?The cost of printer ink has always been a pain point for both home and business users. To address this, major manufacturers have introduced methods for lowering the per-page ink costs. However, it's crucial to consider the total cost of ownership, which includes the initial cost of the printer plus the total cost of ink over its lifetime, to determine which printer is more cost-effective in the long run. Depending on your printing volume, it may actually be more economical to choose a low-cost printer with a higher cost per page. Our guide on How to Save Money on Your Next Printer explains how to calculate the total cost of ownership for inkjet printers, but the same principle applies to any type of printer.
If you print enough pages to make a high-cost printer with low-cost ink the more cost-effective option, consider printers like Epson's EcoTank and SuperTank models, Canon's MegaTank printers, HP's Smart Tank Plus printers, or Brother's INKvestment models. These printers use affordable bottled ink or high-capacity ink cartridges that can offload ink into reservoirs within the printer. HP's Neverstop laser printers offer a similar approach with bulk laser toner. While these printers may have a higher upfront cost, the included ink will last for a long time, and additional ink bottles or cartridges are available at a low price. For more information, visit our article on how to save on printer ink.
Consider ink subscription programs as another way to reduce ink costs. The most popular program is HP Instant Ink, but Brother Refresh EZ Print and Canon Pixma Print Plan are also worth considering. These programs allow owners of select printers to pay a monthly fee for a certain number of pages, regardless of whether they are black or color prints. When you run low on ink, the company automatically sends you more. This type of program can lead to significant savings, especially if you often print in color and come close to the page limit included in the plan.
How Fast Do You Need to Print?If your printing needs are limited to a few pages at a time, speed is not a major concern. Home printers, in general, are not designed for high-speed printing. It's worth noting that some laser printers with high page-per-minute (ppm) claims exclude the first page when calculating the rating, resulting in slower first-page-out (FPO) times. However, if you frequently print longer documents, the speed starting from the second page becomes more important, making a laser printer a suitable choice.
Laser printers typically achieve speeds close to their claimed ratings for text documents since they require minimal processing time. Although inkjet printers often advertise faster speeds than higher-priced lasers, they rarely live up to those claims. However, recent high-end inkjet models, sometimes referred to as "laser alternative" inkjets, have shown impressive speed comparable to similarly priced lasers. For more details, you can read about our printer testing methods in our article on how we test printers.
How Will You Connect Your Printer?USB ports are present on almost all printers, and an increasing number of home printers and most office printers offer additional connectivity options like Ethernet and Wi-Fi. These features allow you to share the printer within your home or office network. If you're experiencing difficulties with Wi-Fi connectivity on your current printer, our troubleshooting guide on how to troubleshoot your printer's Wi-Fi connection may be helpful. Printers equipped with Wi-Fi Direct can directly connect to most Wi-Fi enabled devices using a peer-to-peer protocol.
Leading printer manufacturers now provide mobile apps that allow you to take a photo with your phone and print it directly without transferring the file to a computer. Bluetooth is commonly supported by small-format photo printers for connecting mobile devices. Some printers even offer Near-Field Communication (NFC), enabling instant printing by tapping a compatible phone or tablet on a specific spot on the printer. However, the popularity of NFC technology appears to be declining.
Do You Require Printer Security Features?Printer security is often overlooked but can have serious consequences. Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in printers to gain access to a network, and confidential documents in the paper tray can be viewed by unauthorized individuals before they are retrieved. Business-centric printers often include a private printing feature that requires entering a PIN at the printer's control panel to print a document that has been sent to the printer.
For optimal security, it is essential to keep printer firmware updated as it often addresses vulnerabilities. Additionally, printer hard drives should be encrypted to protect sensitive data. Most manufacturers offer administrative tools to assist IT departments in ensuring printer security.
How Do You Evaluate Size and Weight?The size and weight of a printer are primarily determined by its paper handling features, but there can still be significant variations. It's crucial to ensure that the printer fits within the available space in all dimensions, including any required extensions for paper feeders and output trays. Additionally, if portability is a concern, consider the weight of the printer in case you need to move it. Compact printers are available for individuals residing or working in small spaces, such as dorm rooms.
HP Smart Tank 5105Trusted Score
- Impressive features
- Excellent print quality on plain paper
- Significantly lower running costs
- Slower color printing
- Potential mis-insertion of ink bottles
Our top recommendation for a multifunction printer is the HP Smart Tank 5105. This printer offers printing, scanning, and copying functions, although it does not have fax capabilities. It is compact, making it suitable for home offices, and its low-cost printing option makes it a valuable choice in the long term. While HP printers are often associated with high running costs due to cartridges, the Smart Tank 5105 utilizes efficient ink bottles, resulting in ink costs as low as 0.7p per color page. Furthermore, the printer comes with 6,000 pages worth of ink, potentially eliminating the need to purchase more ink for an extended period.
Our tests showed a reasonable printing speed of 10.9 pages per minute, and we were particularly impressed with the print quality on plain paper. It is worth noting that this printer is not recommended for photo printing, as it may not deliver optimal color accuracy and detail retention with dark colors. For photo prints, the Canon PIXMA G650 and Instax Square Link are better alternatives.
Nevertheless, if your printing needs primarily involve documents and you desire a cost-effective multifunction printer, the HP Smart Tank 5105 is our top recommendation.
Reviewer: Simon HandbyFull review: Review of the HP Smart Tank 5105
In conclusion, finding the best printer for your needs in 2021 may seem like a daunting task, but with the right information, it can be a breeze. This article has highlighted some of the top contenders in various categories, such as the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e for a versatile all-in-one option and the Canon Maxify GX5020 for those on a budget. We have also discussed important factors to consider when purchasing a printer, including paper types, connectivity options, and security features. Whether you're a home user or a small business owner, there is a printer out there that will meet your specific requirements. So go ahead and make an informed decision to ensure that you're getting the best printer for your needs in 2021.