The Best Printer Buyer’s Guide – Winter 2021-2022

By Ari Altman | Published December 14, 2021 | Updated December 14, 2021

Do 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 Winter 2021-22

For Winter 2021-22, 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: Go Canon Megatank, but with a Caveat!

We really like what Canon has done with its Megatank line. It’s a breath of fresh air in the printer business, with honest printing, no tricks or scams. 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.

In contrast, Megatank printer 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!).

Alas, even good ideas can have a hidden flaw, and after our expose of Canon’s first-gen MegaTanks, which you can see below, we now only recommend models released since 2020 with user-replaceable waste ink cartridges.

The Laser Option: Go Brother 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 were sold out for months at a time in 2020 and 2021, but many are finally restocking at reasonable prices, and our sole recommendation is to buy a Brother. Their models offers so much more value and reliability than competitors that there really is no reason to look elsewhere.

Parting Thoughts

We provide links to Amazon and B&H throughout this guide, and the Amazon links will auto-convert for readers in Canada, the UK, and parts of Europe, while B&H will ship internationally. 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

    Here's a dirty little secret: all MegaTank printers released prior to 2020 are designed for planned obsolescence, as their ink "maintenance" cartridge cannot be replaced once full. We list only models that offer user-replaceable cartridges in this guide.

  • Home Office Multi-Function Inkjet

    Canon PIXMA G3260 MegaTank @B&H

    $200
    The G3260 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 has wireless networking, which makes connecting to multiple PC infinitely easier.

  • The Home Office Photo Inkjet

    Canon PIXMA G620 Photo Printer

    $300

    The G620 is among Canon’s top-selling printers, and often impossible to find in stock. The reason: unbeatable photo printing quality. If that’s your thing, this is your printer. It uses six dye-based inks that make photos pop, and being a Megatank-series printer, the inks last for thousands of pages (up to 3,800 4″x6″ photos), and are inexpensive to replace.

    The Guru’s Tip

    To be clear, all MegaTank printers we recommend, including this one, have a user-replaceable maintenance waste ink cartridge, which is critical to keeping these printers running.

Laser Printers

  • Monochrome Laser

    Brother HL-L2300D @B&H

    $125
    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 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 duplex as its main feature.

  • Multi-Function Monochrome Laser

    Brother DCP-L2550DW @B&H

    $225
    If you have the space for it, there’s almost no reason not to step up to the multi-function (MFP) printer, and the Brother L2550DW is a great choice. It offers a fast print speed of 36ppm, double-sided (duplex) printing, wireless networking, and a scanning bed plus multi-sheet feeder 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 Brother TN760 High-Yield Cartridge, which sells for about $75 and is good for 3,000 pages. That’s about 2.5 cents per page.
    The Guru’s Tip

    While you do pay extra for scan/copy, we think it's a very valuable add-on for most people. This model adds faster speeds and wireless connectivity versus the simpler model above.

  • Home Office Multi-Function Color Laser

    Brother HL-L3290CDW @B&H

    $370
    Rated at a fast 25ppm, this printer is a great option if you need to print color documents at home, along with the copying and scanning, all with one device. Here are some of its standout features: built-in duplex printing, a 250-page paper tray, wireless networking, and a flatbed scanner. This model uses the Brother TN227 high-yield black cartridge at around $75, good for 3,000 pages, and Brother TN227 high-yield color cartridges at around $95, good for 2,300 pages. That works out to 2.5 cents per b/w page and 4.1 cents per color page.
    The Guru’s Tip

    This model is a great value for a color printer, but you don't really need color, the black & white model above is probably the better overall pick due to a much lower price and the automatic feed scanner.

  • Small Office Color Laser

    Brother HL-L8360CDW

    $390
    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 in color or black/white, and features automatic duplexing, wireless printing options, plus a 2.7″ color touchscreen control panel. Super-high-yield black cartridges for this model are rated at 6,500 pages and cost about $85, while each of the three high-yield color cartridges rated at 4000 pages and cost about $130 each. Running costs will therefore be around 3.3 cents per color page and 1.3 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

    Brother MFC-L8900CDW @B&H

    $649
    If you need a full-featured color laser all-in-one for your small office setup, go for this model from Brother. Rated at 33ppm for either color or black & white, this printer features built-in wirelesls networking, automatic duplexing printing as well as duplex copying and scanning, fax capabilities, and a 5″ color touchscreen control panel. Super-high-yield TN436 black cartridges for this model cost around $85 and are rated at 6,500 pages, while each of the three high-yield TN433 color cartridges rated at 4,000 pages and cost about $130 each. Running costs will therefore be around 3.3 cents per color page and 1.3 cents per B&W page. It has a monthly duty cycle of up to 60,000 pages, putting it solidly in the small office category.
    The Guru’s Tip

    This is basically the multi-function version of the model above. The printing capabilities are identical.

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