The Best Printer Buyer’s Guide – Summer 2021

By Ari Altman | Published August 8, 2021 | Updated September 1, 2021

Canon G6020Do You Still Need a Printer? Of Course You Do!

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 guide to 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.

Our Latest Recommendations for Summer 2021

For Summer 2021, we’ve updated this guide with a number of new models from Canon and HP. While printer tech doesn’t change all that often, every brand regularly refreshes its lineups with new features and designs.

The Inkjet Option: Megatanks for Everyone!

We really like what Canon has done with its Megatank line, also marketed as Supertank. Whatever the name, one thing is for sure: 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 traditional 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 (yes, we do mean 50x higher!).

Ever since the Megatank arrived, the entire inkjet business has been turned on its head. All those “cheap” inkjets under $100 that cost well more than $100 to run each year have virtually disappeared. We think that’s great news, because the pricing of these products was deceptive, plain and simple.

The Laser Option: Perfect for High-Volume Printing!

Anyone needing ultra-fast or high-volume printing should absolutely go with a laser printer, available in both black and white (monochrome) and color models, as well as printer-only or multi-function models. Keep in mind that color lasers are not for photo printing, so think twice before you jump up to one of these models, because they tend to be quite a bit bulkier and more costly than monochrome models. They are intended for business color printing, for example flyers, brochures, and presentations.

Also, a heads up: given the huge transition from in-office to remote work, laser printers have skyrocketed in price, and supply has dropped tremendously. For example, while we used to recommend Brother brand printers almost exclusively, most haven’t been available at a decent price since 2020. We’ve therefore added a number of competitive models from Canon and HP to reflect the best deals on the market today.

Parting Thoughts

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. Please help support continued development of this guide by using our links if you decide to purchase one the printers we recommend.

Inkjet Printers

  • Personal Photo Inkjet

    Canon PIXMA G1220 MegaTank Printer

    $160

    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. The G1220 is a simple printer-only model, but it brings the economy of the MegaTank design down to a very reasonable price. It offers print speeds of 9.1 pages per minute black and white, and 5 pages per minute in color.

    The Guru’s Tip

    While you may see inkjet printers selling for under $100, we guarantee that within six months, they'll exceed the price of the G1220 in additional ink costs.

  • Home Office Multi-Function Inkjet

    Canon PIXMA G6020 MegaTank Multi-Function Printer

    $280
    The G6020 is a true multifunction workhorse at a great price. It provide multi-function capability (print, copy, scan), along with wireless connectivity, including printing from mobile devices. And 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

    This model adds quite a few features to the one above; in addition to the scan/copy function, it's nearly twice as fast, and it has wireless networking, which makes connecting to multiple PC infinitely easier.

Laser Printers

  • Monochrome Laser

    Canon ImageCLASS LBP6030w

    $109

    The 6030w is the ideal low-cost personal laser printer. It offers fast 19 pages per minute black and white printing, a 150-sheet paper tray, and built-in wireless networking. It’s also incredibly compact for a laser printer. When it comes time to refill, the Canon 125 Toner Cartridge will provide 1,600 pages at a cost of around $75, or 5 cents a page.

    The Guru’s Tip

    As you skim through this guide, notice the codes used to indicate features in 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 wireless as its main feature.

  • Multi-Function Monochrome Laser

    Canon ImageCLASS D570 Laser Printer

    $149
    If you have the space for it, there’s almost no reason not to step up to the multi-function (MFP) printer, and the Canon D570 is a great choice. It offers a fast print speed of 28ppm, double-sided (duplex) printing, wireless networking, and a scanning bed for scanning and copying. In terms of paper handling, it has both a 250-page paper tray and a manual feed slot. For refills, use the Canon 137 toner cartridge, which sells for about $70, which is good for 2,400 pages. That’s about 3 cents per page.
    The Guru’s Tip

    If you want copy/scan features, it's basically a no-cost add-on, so definitely go for this model if you have the space.

  • Home Office Multi-Function Color Laser

    Canon Color imageCLASS MF644CDW

    $398
    Rated at a fast 22ppm, this printer is a great option if you need to do color document printing at home, along with the occasional copy, scan, or fax. Here are some of its standout features: built-in duplex printing, a 250-page paper tray, wireless networking, and an automatic document feeder with duplex scanning. This model uses either Canon Toner Cartridge 054 or 054 H (high-yield). We recommend 054 H, which gives you 3100 pages for around $90, working out to 3 cents per page.
    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

    HP Color LaserJet Pro M454dw

    $489
    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 28ppm in color or black/white, and features automatic duplexing, wireless printing options, plus a 2.7″ touchscreen color control panel. High-yield black cartridges for this model are rated at 7500 pages and cost about $170, while each of the three high-yield color cartridges rated at 6000 pages and cost about $235 each. Running costs will therefore be around 4.0 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 the all-in-one color laser above that costs 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 Enterprise M480f

    $879
    If you need a full-featured color laser all-in-one for your small office setup, go for this model from HP. Rated at 29ppm for either color or black & white, this printer features built-in wired networking (wireless is optional), automatic duplexing printing as well as duplex copying and scanning, fax capabilities, and a 4.3″ color touchscreen control panel. High-yield black cartridges for this model are rated at 7500 pages and cost about $170, while each of the three high-yield color cartridges rated at 6000 pages and cost about $235 each. Running costs will therefore be around 4.0 cents per color page and 2.3 cents per B&W page.
    The Guru’s Tip

    This model has a 4000-page monthly duty cycle rating.

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