Contrary to popular belief, good old-fashioned print media is far from dead. If anything, the exploding popularity of Google maps, cloud storage, and online news has been great for the home printer industry; as the average consumer prints less and less, printer manufacturers have to offer more and more value in their products.
Maybe you need to print a lot of shipping labels because you run a small business from home. Or perhaps you like to print and frame your best photos, rather than storing everything solely on your phone. The point is, even at the peak of the digital age, there are still a number of reasons to invest in a high-quality home printer. We’ve searched high and low for five of the best inkjet and laser printers, and one of them is sure to be just right for you (or at least pretty close).
Just like with gaming hardware, no one home printer is perfect for everyone. Small business owners, scrapbookers, and recipe collectors all have different needs. The biggest cost and performance differences between printers stem from whether they are inkjet or laser printers, so we’ve made sure to review a few of each.
Be sure to check out our home printer buying guide for an in-depth look at the most important factors to weigh when shopping for a new printer.
The OfficeJet 3830 is an outstanding all-around home printer. HP’s awesome Instant Ink program is really just icing on the cake.
Customer service rep: Great, I’ll just need you to fax that over to me.
Me: I’m sorry, I can’t fax from where I live.
Customer service rep: Where do you live?
Me: 2019. I live in 2019.
If you’ve ever had a conversation like that one, you know how annoying it can be to have to drive to Kinko’s to fax something that can and should be sendable by email. The HP OfficeJet 3830 can save you the trip, and it’s an excellent printer/copier, too.
Historically, the thing that people hate the most about inkjet printers has overwhelmingly been the cost of the ink. HP started their Instant Ink program several years ago, and it’s made home printing exponentially more affordable. By enrolling, you allow HP to monitor your printer’s ink levels over the internet and automatically ship replacement cartridges when you start to run low. There’s a 100% free (yes, totally free) plan that allows you to print 15 pages per month, and even the top-tier plan (700 pages per month for $20) is a killer deal compared to regular ink prices.
At least with some wireless printers, the initial setup can be a real hassle, but the OfficeJet 3830 just works. You can print via Wi-Fi, a USB cable, or both. The printer can connect to your home network with a single button (if your router supports WPS), directly to an Ethernet cable, or via your regular Wi-Fi password. Most printers support most of those things; we just want to stress that in the 3830’s case, all of them work consistently, almost all the time.
The 3830 is wonderfully quiet. You can barely hear it, especially if you turn on the optional quiet mode. It feeds seamlessly, rarely jams, and produces high-resolution scans up to 600 DPI. Its only real shortcoming is a small and inaccurate touchscreen that can be frustrating to work with, but once the initial setup is done, you should rarely have to use it. All in all, it’s a superb all-purpose home printer at a fantastic price (currently $99 on Amazon).
For people who need to print a lot of stuff, laser printers are often the way to go, but they do have their downsides. The Canon MB5420 approaches the speed and durability of a laser printer while retaining an inkjet printer’s superior colors, but you’ll pay a lot for ink over time.
At $280, the Canon MB5420 costs as much as a low-end laser printer, but it (mostly) justifies its price tag with excellent print quality and lightning-fast speeds. Historically, inkjet printers have generally offered superior quality while laser printers win for speed and volume (for color printing, not necessarily for black-and-white). The MB5420 largely closes that gap and performs surprisingly well on all fronts.
Dual paper trays that hold 250 sheets each also accommodate different paper sizes, so if you frequently need to create legal-size documents, it’s nice to not have to manually change out your paper all the time. The MB5420 also cranks out pages at speeds that are truly impressive for an inkjet printer—up to 25 per minute (black and white) or 15 per minute (color).
Other nice quality-of-life features include auto-on printing that works even if the printer is off, quick-drying ink that resists smudging, and compatibility with all major wireless printing protocols, including Apple Air Print. This printer isn’t perfect, though. It’s not cheap, and neither is the ink. A full set of factory-new cartridges will run you about $140. (They last a good long time, at least—about 50% longer than many other inkjet printer cartridges.) The MB5420 also jams more than it probably should, but we wouldn’t call it a huge problem.
If you’re looking to invest in a high-quality inkjet printer that will last a long time and can handle thousands of pages per month, the Canon MB5420 would be an excellent choice. Despite its shortcomings, we heartily recommend it.
Printers under $100 aren’t hard to find, but good printers under $100 can be. HP’s DeskJet 2655 is just $60, and it outperforms many printers that cost twice as much.
If you only need to print stuff occasionally, it’s hard to justify spending a lot on a printer just for it to collect dust. The HP DeskJet 2655 is perfect for light use, and since it’s HP Instant Ink compatible, you’ll pay next to nothing for ink, making it the perfect “best value” choice.
This printer doesn’t fax, but it does everything else. It’s slow, though, and it doesn’t have a feed tray, so you’ll need to load pages onto the glass one at a time for scanning and copying. The print quality is decent, and it even puts out nice-looking photos. The optional HP Smart app for Android and iPhone lets you send files to your home printer from anywhere, though it can be finicky with some particular models of phones.
In continuing with its core theme of convenience, the DeskJet 2655 is technically portable. It’s not a true portable printer like realtors often use, it’s just small and light enough to cart around if you need to do so. However, its compact and lightweight nature also make it rather fragile. The lid, in particular, is thin and cheap, as are its hinges; you’ll want to be extra gentle with it.
Still, for $60 plus just a few dollars for ink on infrequent occasions, it’s hard to do better. The HP DeskJet 2655 is a solid choice for college students (or grandmothers who just want to print off a few photos of their grandkids).
If your printing needs are both high-volume and mostly black-and-white, the Brother L6200DW laser printer is the way to go. If you need to print a ton of color documents, consider the next printer on our list, the Kyocera 1102RB2US0.
Laser printers very often cost $400 or more, so if you’re a little suspicious of a $140 laser printer, we understand. The Brother L6200DW is not a piece of junk, though. In fact, it’s one of the most well-engineered laser printers we’ve used. If you regularly print more than 100 pages per month, this is one of the cheapest ways to do it in the long run.
Many laser printers take f o r e v e r to wake up and start printing, but the L6200DW reliably goes from hibernating to printing the first page in about ten seconds. If you’re printing wirelessly, it also encrypts your data to make it harder to intercept, even over an unsecured network. (We couldn’t find any technical details on this process, just Brother’s sales pitch, so we’re taking their word for it on this one.)
The L6200DW is more reliably built than many of its competitors. I’ve owned this printer for about nine months and I’ve run 5,000+ pages through it in that time; it’s never jammed. However, I have noticed that I need to remove and clean the drum about twice as often as is necessary with other laser printers. After about 1,000 pages, small black dots and smudges start to appear on printed documents, and the only way to get rid of them is to spend about half an hour cleaning the drum with alcohol. Cleaning the drum of any laser printer is just a fact of life, but it shouldn’t be necessary that often.
It’s worth noting that the L6200DW’s attractive $140 price tag shoots up to $300 if you opt for a second paper tray. Really, though, the only reason to do that is if you need to print differently sized documents on a daily basis. The default single tray holds 520 sheets—an entire ream of paper—so only a handful of people will absolutely need a second one.
Despite a few minor annoyances, a fast and reliable monochrome laser printer for $140 is a killer deal. Definitely check this one out if you’re looking to print a lot of stuff as cheaply as possible.
$400 is a pretty typical price for a monochrome laser printer, so when we see one for that price that also prints color, we pay attention. The Kyocera 1102RB2US0 deserves serious consideration if you print so much that even your local print shop isn’t cost-effective anymore.
Ok, yes, there are a number of color laser printers out there for around $200, but a) that’s a relatively new phenomenon and b) at that price point, you’re usually getting a fairly bare-bones set of features and/or dubious longevity. If you want a solidly built laser printer that will perform at a high level for a long time, you’re generally still looking at models that are $400 and up. The Kyocera 1102RB2US0 brings a lot of value to the table and will serve you well for years, even if you print 1,000+ pages per month.
Many laser printers top out at 600 DPI, but the Kyocera can print at resolutions up to 1,200 DPI for ultra-fine detail. Its insides are expertly machined and precisely fitted, resulting in virtually no jamming. There’s a downside to its solid construction, though: this thing is heavy, even by laser printer standards (it’s almost fifty pounds). It’s also got a menu that’s about three decades behind the rest of the printer in terms of technology; the interface is unintuitive and hard to navigate. Once you get used to it, it’s fine, but there’s more of a learning curve than there should be.
The main reason to go for the Kyocera 1102RB2US0 over another color laser printer is its excellent price-to-features ratio. Its ECOSYS toner cartridges last 10-20% longer than most others, so that’s a little more money in your pocket in the long run, too. If you can commit to powering through its dumb menu, it’s an otherwise fantastic printer.
Fortunately, finding the right home printer for you isn’t as challenging as tracking down the best 4K gaming monitor or the best 1080 Ti card. Unless you’re a professional photographer or something (in which case you’re not coming to us for help), there isn’t too much you need to know about home printers in order to make an informed decision.
In this short and sweet buying guide, we’ll cover the essential considerations: inkjet vs. laser printers, short-term and long-term costs, print quality, and multifunction capabilities. Finally, we’ll wrap things up with an FAQ section covering some of Google’s hottest home printer questions.
For decades, laser printers were widely regarded as business products, whereas inkjet printers were marketed as being ideal for home use. That gap has narrowed in recent years, though, as better technology has made laser printers more affordable for individuals. They’re still generally more expensive than inkjet printers in terms of upfront costs, but depending on your printing needs, they may be the more cost-effective option in the long run.
Inkjet printers use ink, as the name suggests. Laser printers do too, technically, but they use much less of it. Through a combination of low-intensity lasers, heat, static electricity, and black magic, laser printers effectively “burn” text and images into the paper. This is why you can’t smear a page fresh from a laser printer even if you try to—the tiny amount of ink involved has already been fully dried by heat and electricity by the time the paper comes out.
In a nutshell, inkjet printers are less expensive to purchase, more expensive to operate, easier to maintain, and more reliable (because they’re mechanically less complicated. Conversely, laser printers are more expensive to purchase, less expensive to operate, harder to maintain, and less reliable (though most aren’t exactly unreliable, just slightly more prone to malfunctions).
For most people, the deciding factor here is how much printing you do. If you routinely print more than 100 pages per month, that’s about the threshold where you may want to consider a laser printer. If you’re at 500 pages per month or more, most inkjet printers become pretty hard to justify. At that point, a laser printer is almost guaranteed to save you money, even after you factor in its higher maintenance costs. (Even though toner is more expensive than ink, your price per page will be way lower.)
Obviously, the price of the printer itself isn’t the only financial factor to consider. Ink/toner, paper, and extra maintenance costs are all things to think about when you’re trying to figure out the real cost of operating any given printer.
Generally, toner for laser printers costs more than ink does, but you’ll almost always get more pages out a single cartridge in the former case. Toner and ink both have shelf lives, too; if they sit in your closet for too long, they won’t work as well (or at all) when you finally need to use them. Ink can sit for about a year and toner can sit for about two years, but again, these are general estimates. A laser printer won’t save you any money if you don’t do enough printing to fully deplete each toner cartridge while it’s still good.
Inkjet and laser printers both require regular maintenance. For the most part, the heads of inkjet printers just need to be cleaned and calibrated once a year or so; it’s a quick and cheap process that only uses a small amount of ink. Laser printers, however, need their drums cleaned at least a few times a year. Routine cleaning requires only a few capfuls of rubbing alcohol, but it does take some time—up to an hour if the drum is especially dirty.
Should your inkjet printer fail completely, it’s often cheaper to just buy a new one if it’s out of warranty. Laser printers are easier and cheaper to repair in the event of a malfunction, at least in some cases.
Almost everyone needs to copy or scan something at one point or another, and it’s nice to not have to leave home to do it. Many home printers can do those things, but there are less expensive printers that only print if you definitely don’t need those other functions.
Of course, a multifunction printer is usually more expensive than a simple one, especially if we’re talking about laser printers. Many of them are just straight-up printers, and those that do scan and copy often have significantly bigger price tags, especially relative to comparable multifunction inkjet printers.
Broadly speaking, laser printers produce higher-resolution text and images than inkjet printers do, and they do so much more efficiently. (Inkjet printers use a lot more ink to print at 600 DPI than laser printers use toner to print at the same resolution.) Even at the exact same resolution, laser printers produce slightly better-looking pages by virtue of the fact that they print more precisely and uniformly. Quality and richness of colors is a different issue; inkjet printers usually produce a wider, richer, more distinct range of colors than laser printers do.
Here are the top five questions about home printers that shoppers are typing into Google.
This really depends on your needs. Check out our full reviews of the five excellent home printers in this article for more in-depth answers.
Here’s the super-short version:
For low-volume/occasional printing needs, we’d go with the HP DeskJet 2655.
For medium-volume printing, try the Canon MB5420 or the HP OfficeJet 3830.
For lots and lots of printing, we recommend the Brother L6200DW (for black-and-white printing) or the Kyocera 1102RB2US0 (for color).
When it comes to new ink cartridges, HP Instant Ink dominates the market by a pretty big margin. Their most expensive plan is $20 per 700 pages, and they have less expensive plans (as low as literally free) if you don’t need that many pages. No other factory-new cartridges even come close.
This really depends on how much printing you do. If you print more than 500 pages per month, you’re almost certainly better off with a laser printer—the excellent Brother L6200DW is one of the most cost-effective models around.
If you print less than 100 pages per month, a basic inkjet printer with HP Instant Ink or remanufactured/recycled cartridges is probably the cheapest option. (Be careful with recycled cartridges, though—some are just as good as new ones, but some are cheaply made and could produce inferior results or even damage your printer.)
If you print between 100 and 500 pages per month, it could go either way. If most of those pages are black and white, we’d lean toward an inexpensive laser printer, but if you do a lot of color printing, a high-end inkjet model may be better.
Assuming that by “ink,” you truly mean ink and not toner, we’d have to vote for any HP printer that uses Instant Ink cartridges. Instant Ink tanks are larger, more efficient, and cheaper than those of almost any other manufacturer.
It used to be, but printer manufacturers caught onto this trick a long time ago. Nowadays, when you buy a new inkjet printer, it will come with partially filled ink cartridges that are only good for a few dozen pages (if it comes with any at all). There’s just no way around the need to buy new, full cartridges at some point.
There are so many great home printers out there that the hardest part of buying one is narrowing down the list of candidates. Whether you primarily print photos, invoices, or long documents, we’ve found something for everyone in this review roundup. Keep our buying guide handy when you’re ready to start shopping for a home printer and you’ll surely find the perfect fit.