The Best Printer Buyer’s Guide – Winter 2021

By Ari Altman | Published February 8, 2021 | Updated February 8, 2021

Despite everyone’s move to digital paper, digital photos, and the cloud, we still all need to print a few things once in a while, and some of us need to print a whole lot all the time! To help you find your way through the maze of printer options available, we’ve compiled this Home and Small-Business Printer Buyer’s Guide, which profiles the best inkjet and laser models. As a rule of thumb, inkjets are great for small-volume printing that requires color, and are the only printers to consider for album-worthy photographs. Meanwhile, laser printers are vastly superior for large-volume printing, with color laser models suitable for business presentations.

For Winter 2021, we’ve updated this guide with a number of new models from Brother, Canon, and HP, which replace models we previously recommended. While printer tech doesn’t change all that often, every brand regularly refreshes its lineups with new features and designs. We really like what Canon has done with its Megatank line, shown here. It’s a breath of fresh air in the printer business, with honest printing, no tricks or scams. It holds enough ink to print at least 6,000 pages, and replacement ink costs next to nothing. Yes, Megatank printers are more expensive than comparable standard inkjets, but we believe transparency in pricing is important for consumers, and the high introductory price of this printer is offset by running costs of about half a cent per page, rather than the 25 cents most inkjets cost. In fact, the entire inkjet business has been turned on its head, and all those “cheap” inkjets under $100 that cost well more than $100 to run each year are gone. We think that’s great news, because the pricing of these products was simply deceptive.

With that said, anyone needing ultra-fast or high-volume printing should absolutely go with a laser printer. Based on our extremely-positive experience with every Brother model we’ve tested, we recommend Brother laser models to most users, although due to the large demand for these printers in an era of working remotely, we also list an HP model for business-class users.

We provide links to Amazon throughout this guide, and these links will auto-convert for readers in Canada, the UK, and parts of Europe, with regional substitutions made automatically where necessary.

Inkjets

  • Home Office Photo Inkjet

    Canon PIXMA G6020

    $270
    A few years ago, inkjet printer manufacturers came under scrutiny for their tendency to sell printers at a loss, and then make up for that with sky-high ink costs. Well, since then Canon has shaken things up a lot with its MegaTank series. With four huge ink tanks, this machine can print up to 6,000 black and white pages or 7,700 color pages before running out of ink! Adding another 7,700 pages worth of ink will only cost around $15 per bottle, and a full set around $50. With printing costs around half a cent per page, this is absolutely the cheapest printer to operate on a per-page basis.
    The Guru’s Tip

    Canon alternatively refers to its large ink tanks as SuperTank and MegaTank. One thing is for sure: it's big!

  • Home Office Multi-Function Inkjet

    Canon G7020 All-In-One

    $330
    Want all the features of the printer above, but with the added benefit of an automatic document feeder and fax capability? Then step up to the G7020. It still features four huge ink tanks, allowing up to 7,700 color pages before running out of ink!
    The Guru’s Tip

    At this point, we would never recommend any inkjet that did not use a large refillable ink reservoir. The per page running cost on such printers is typically 5-10x higher!

Laser Printers

  • Monochrome Laser

    Brother HL-L2300D

    $100
    The 2300D is a perfect printer for the price. Why? Simple – it has the right combination of features at the right price. Fast 27 page per minute printing, built-in duplexing, and a 250-sheet paper tray plus manual feed slot. When it comes time to refill, we suggest skipping the standard TN630 cartridge and getting the TN660 high-yield toner cartridge. It provides 2,600 printed pages and costs about $60. That works out to 2.3 cents a page, a true bargain in the printer world, where vendors often get you on ink/toner costs!
    The Guru’s Tip

    As you skim through this guide, notice the codes used to indicate features in Brother printer models: "D" is for duplex, "N" is for wired networking, "W" is for wireless plus wired networking, and "C" is for color. This model therefore offers duplexing as its main feature.

  • Multi-Function Monochrome Laser

    Brother DCP-L2550DW

    $160
    As much as we like the 2300D listed above, if you have the space for it, there’s almost no reason not to step up to the multi-function version of that printer, the 2550DW. It offers a faster print speed of 36ppm, as well as wireless networking, which can be a critical feature for a lot of users, especially when multiple PCs must print from the same printer. It also adds a scanning bed with a handy 50-page automatic document feeder, as well as a flatbed for irregularly-sized sources. This allows it to provide copying, scanning, and fax functionality. In terms of paper handling, it has both a 250-page paper tray and a manual feed slot. For refills, we recommend you skip standard cartridges, and go straight to the high-yield TN760 toner cartridge for about $75, which is good for 3,000 pages. That’s about 2.5 cents per page.
    The Guru’s Tip

    We've been using an older version of this model for years, and the lifespan of Brother B&W lasers is simply phenomenal. They just keep going and going!

  • Home Office Multi-Function Color Laser

    Brother HL-L3290CDW

    $300
    Rated at a fast 25ppm, this printer is a great option if you need to do color document printing at home, along with the occasional copy and scan. Unless you have a dedicated copier and/or scanner available to you, this model will likely be a better overall pick than print-only models, since it offers three functions instead of one. Here are some of its standout features: built-in duplex printing, a 250-page paper tray, wireless networking, and a very compact footprint for a color laser. This model uses the same high-yield TN-227BK black cartridges, rated at 3000 pages and about $70, while each of the three high-yield color cartridges is rated at 2300 pages and cost about $100 each.
    The Guru’s Tip

    Running costs for this printer will be around 4.3 cents per color page and 2.3 cents per B&W page.

  • Small Office Color Laser

    Brother HL-L8360CDW

    $365
    If you’ll be doing a lot of non-photo color printing, you really want a laser printer for the job, rather than an inkjet, and you should probably step up to one designed for small offices, not home users. This model is a dedicated color printer with no multi-function features, but it is very fast and very robust. It prints at up to 33ppm, and features automatic duplexing, wireless printing options, and Gigabit ethernet, plus a touchscreen color control panel. High-yield TN-227BK black cartridges for this model are rated at 3000 pages and cost about $70, while each of the three high-yield color cartridges rated at 2300 pages and cost about $100 each. Running costs will therefore be around 4.3 cents per color page and 2.3 cents per B&W page.
    The Guru’s Tip

    While at first glance this may seem to offer lower value than all-in-one color lasers that cost less, consider that it is intended for much higher usage, or duty cycle. If you need to print regularly, that's an important factor to consider.

  • Small Office Multi-Function Color Laser

    HP Color LaserJet Pro M283fdw

    $449
    If you need a full-featured color laser for your small office setup, go for this model from HP. Rated at 22ppm for either color or black & white, this printer features built-in wired and wireless networking, automatic duplexing printing as well as duplex copying and scanning, and a large color touchscreen control panel. Replacement high-yield black toner is about $95 and prints 3,150 pages, working out to 3 cents per page. It’s a bit more expensive than Brother ink, and the same goes for the color cartridges.
    The Guru’s Tip

    This model has a 40,000-page monthly duty cycle rating.