Whether you need a printer for a small business, home office, or school, it’s important to choose a device that makes printing quick and easy. Choosing the best printer can be complex due to the wide range of features available. You might be wondering which features are worth investing in and which specs you should pay attention to when comparing printers.
Our guide to the best printers will give you a better idea of the features and innovations that match your needs.
Best printers at a glance
- Best all around printer: HP OfficeJet Pro 9015
- Best photo printer: Epson SureColor P400
- Best small printer: HP Tango X
- Best office printer: Canon Maxify MB5420
- Best laser printer: Brother HL-3170CDW
- Best cheap printer: Canon Pixma MG6320
Why we picked the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015:
HP has spent a lot of years slowly ironing out the kinks in the Office Jet line and updating the technology for the modern home or office. The result is the OfficeJet Pro 9015, an incredibly advanced printer that works very hard to make the printing, scanning, copying and faxing experience — if not pleasant — then reliably manageable. It has a 22 page per minute (ppm) printing speed (B&W), automatic 2-sided scanning up to 1200 dpi, a 35-page automatic document feeder, and a 25-sheet paper tray.
On the printer, the excellent color touchscreen allows you to change settings and choose your tools, with plenty of options for sending scans to email, the cloud, or a device of your choice (with Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, working by voice is also an option). Or you can use the HP smart app, which allows you to control the printer from afar and even monitor your ink levels. That’s only the start, if you want to dig into Smart Tasks that allow you to optimize the printer for specific programs like QuickBooks.
Connection options include major Wi-Fi Direct features like Apple AirPrint: If you’re printing over Wi-Fi, you also get a nice intelligent Wi-Fi connection that monitors for connection problems and fixes itself when possible. Since this is HP, the printer also comes with a variety of security features like encryption and password protection.
Few printers have ever shown such quality from top to bottom. However, we will note that while it’s a bit more compact than previous models, this printer still takes up quite a lot of space, so you’ll need to make some room for it.
Why we picked the Epson SureColor P400:
Photography is an expensive hobby, and if you’ve invested a lot of money in a great camera, you may want a printer that can do your photos justice. While you can certainly drop a thousand dollars on a premium photo printer, the Epson SureColor P400 offers great prints without the need to tap into your retirement fund.
With its unassuming facade,may not look like anything out of the ordinary, but it houses an eight cartridge system (seven colors and a “Gloss Optimizer”) that can create prints of “excellent color accuracy and saturation,” as we put it in our review. The P400’s seven ink colors allow for a rich variety of shades, and the gloss optimizer gives photos a slick finish that emphasizes the color saturation.
The P400 can accommodate paper up to 13 by 19 inches, and while those sheets may take a little while to print (several minutes, according to our reviewer), the results are stunning. There may be photo printers with a higher ceiling than the P400, but casual photographers or those still learning the ropes should get the most value out of this entry-level beast.
Read our full Epson SureColor P400 review
Why we picked the HP Tango X:
For the average home, dorm or even business, printing needs have never been rarer. Everyone has gone digital and PDFs can easily be signed on your computer…but some printing is still required out of necessity. For those jobs, the Tango X steps in: This tiny printer has no screen and barely any buttons — it does everything by app and voice command, offering compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana.
The printer also has great color accuracy for printing photos, and optional high-yield cartridges for greater flexibility, depending on what you want to print. However, there’s no room on this compact model for an automatic document feeder and it won’t exactly win any awards for speed. However, it’s safe to say that the Tango represents the future of printing, and may be perfect for you right now.
Read our full HP Tango X review
Why we picked the Canon Maxify MB5420:
If you run a small business, chances are you need to print a lot of documents, and not just any printer will do. You’ll want a printer that works quickly (so you don’t have people forming a queue, grumbling angrily), and one that can handle the rigors of frequent printing without breaking down.
Enter the Canon Maxify MB5420. With its compact, cube-shaped body, thewill fit in any office or house, and while it may not be the prettiest horse in the stable, it can pull a lot of weight. The printer can hold a hefty 500 sheets of paper (spread over two trays), and as we noted in our review, it can print monochrome documents at a rate of 22.2ppm (10ppm for color documents). Critically, it can also stand up to a heavy workload. The printer’s monthly “duty” cycle is 2,000 pages, which will likely be enough for any small business.
As an all-in-one device, the MB5420 can do more than just print; it can also fax, copy, and scan, and as we said in our review, “our scanned documents exhibited accurate colors and fine detail.” While it’s not the cheapest printer in the world, the MB5420 gives you a lot of mileage for the price.
Read our full Canon Maxify MB5420 review
Why we picked the Brother HL-3170CDW:
If you want a laser printer for your home or office, theis a safe bet, a compact device that you can get at an affordable price. This printer can blaze through jobs at a rate of 23ppm, and it holds 250 sheets of paper; both of these factors make it a good choice for offices, where people may need to print out a lot of documents without waiting for someone else’s job to finish.
The printer isn’t just fast; it also supports duplex printing for double-sided pages. Whatever you print will probably look great, as it can print full-color documents at 600 by 2,400 dpi.
Setting up this Brother model is a cinch, and in addition to its Ethernet and USB 2.0 connections, it also supports wireless printing; users can connect with Android and Apple devices, among others.
Why we picked the Canon Pixma MG6320:
If you are primarily concerned with affordability, check out this Canon Pixma print/copy/scan model, which you can find for around $50. It offers complete wireless printing options via app and services like AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, NFC, Canon Print, and so on. We were also very impressed with the printer’s color accuracy when combined with Canon photo paper. While small enough to fit in many different locations, the printer also includes automatic duplexing and a small touchscreen for controls. There are two paper trays, with a tray that can hold 125 sheets and a second tray for photo paper if necessary.
While this printer is a good fit for the average home, it does use ink pretty quickly, so it may not be the most cost-effective option for frequent printing tasks.
Read our full Canon Pixma MG6320 review
Research and buying tips
- Which printer has the cheapest ink?
- What printer has the longest lasting ink cartridges?
- What printer is the cheapest to operate?
- Which printer brand is best?
- What pages per minute (PPM) is good for a printer?
Affordable ink depends on several different factors: How much the cartridges cost upfront, how much ink the printer uses on average, and how long cartridges last. Ultimately, it’s best if you take a look at specific models and check how much the cartridges are, and how long they appear to last (usually measured in page yield). Even within the same brand, ink costs can vary considerably based on the printing machine.
In general, you should look for printers that offer a high page yield for their cartridges, and cartridges that are more affordable compared to alternatives. These two stats combined can tell you a lot. Inkjet printers with their liquid ink cartridges tend to cost more over time than laser printers with their large toner cartridges. All our top brand picks, like Canon, HP, and Epson, tend to be quite efficient. Our HP picks, in particular, may be a good choice if you want to save money on ink (we were a little disappointed in our Canon Pixma model’s ink performance, however).
Laser printers with their toner cartridges have high initial costs for replacing toner, but toner lasts longer than almost any other printer ink type. However, if you want a home or small business printer, then a laser printer probably isn’t on your list. In that case, we suggest you take a look at our top HP OfficeJet pick. HP offers very high-quality ink cartridges for its OfficeJet models, and they’ll last longer than most alternatives.
We have already established that, aside from the high initial costs, laser printers tend to be more affordable in the long run because they are so cheap to operate. However, let’s say that you’re looking only at inkjet printers: What should you look for?
Your best options will be well-known, dependable brands that create higher-end printers designed for lighter office work. We’re talking about Epson Workforce models, HP Officejet printers, and similar brand families.
When it comes to printers, you’re probably familiar with brands like Canon and HP, and for good reason. They produce a very wide variety of printer models and have something for everyone at every cost. Lesser-known brands like Brother have also made a name for themselves on the high-quality printers they produce. Also, while Epson may be more known for its enterprise-level printers, the company is also making some very excellent photo-quality home printers that are worth a closer look.
Generally, higher pages per minute isn’t quite as important as print quality, but if you want a fast printer you should still look for good specs. For the average inkjet printer, anything above about 20ppm for black and white is good. For a laser printer, you can usually bump this number up by 10 to 20ppm. Printers that go above 40ppm are rarer, but the best for particularly demanding offices.
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