The Best Printer Buyer’s Guide – Summer 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 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.
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.
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$280The 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.
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.
Monochrome Laser –
Canon ImageCLASS LBP6030w$109 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 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 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 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 The Guru’s Tip
This model has a 4000-page monthly duty cycle rating.
- Monochrome Laser – Canon ImageCLASS LBP6030w ($109)
- Multi-Function Monochrome Laser – Canon ImageCLASS D570 Laser Printer ($149)
- Home Office Multi-Function Color Laser – Canon Color imageCLASS MF644CDW ($398)
- Small Office Color Laser – HP Color LaserJet Pro M454dw ($489)
- Small Office Multi-Function Color Laser – HP Color LaserJet Enterprise M480f ($879)