The Best Printer Buyer’s Guide – Winter 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.
Home Office Photo Inkjet –
Canon PIXMA G6020$270A 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.
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$330Want 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!
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!
Monochrome Laser –
Brother HL-L2300D$100 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 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 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 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 The Guru’s Tip
This model has a 40,000-page monthly duty cycle rating.
- Monochrome Laser – Brother HL-L2300D ($100)
- Multi-Function Monochrome Laser – Brother DCP-L2550DW ($160)
- Home Office Multi-Function Color Laser – Brother HL-L3290CDW ($300)
- Small Office Color Laser – Brother HL-L8360CDW ($365)
- Small Office Multi-Function Color Laser – HP Color LaserJet Pro M283fdw ($449)