Printers

Despite everyone's move to digital paper, digital photos, and the cloud, we still all need to print a few thigns 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. We profile both inkjet and laser models, and as a rule of thumb, inkjets are great for mixed text and graphics printing, and are the only printers to use for photographs. Lasers, meanwhile are best for large-volume printing, with color models suitable for business presentations.

For Fall 2017, we've decided it's time to take a stand on a subject that has really concerned us for quite some time. Traditional inkjet printers have been sold at a loss by manufacturers, but they've been extremely profitable overall due to grossly-overpriced inkjet cartridges that were marketed with highly-inflated page output ratings. And most recently, manufacturers have doubled-down on this approach, with HP going the furthest by actually remotely disabling printers that had been loaded with generic inks. 

Canon

Well, it's time to take a stand. We've removed all HP printers from this list, and will keep HP out of this guide for the foreseeable future. And while we're still recommending Epson and Canon inkjets, we've significantly reduced the total number of traditional inkjets we list. Instead, for most users, we recommend Canon's wonderful new Megatank printer, 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 6,000 pages, and replacement ink costs next to nothing. Yes, the printer is 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. Folks, this is what we call progress!

By the way, for high-volume printing tasks, we always recommend laser printers, and based on our extremely-positive experience with every Brother model we've tested, we've decided to recommend Brother models exclusively, including its top-of-the-line MFCL8900CDW small office model shown above.

We use Amazon's real-time pricing engine, so displayed prices are always up-to-date. If you decide to purchase any of the products listed below, please support this website by using the links provided, which we provide for the US, Canada, UK, and Germany, with regional substitutions made where necessary.

The Printer Buyer's Guide - Fall 2017

    Personal Multi-Function Inkjet:

    Canon MX492

    The MX422 is a great all-around home office printer, and its low price and great feature set makes it a best seller. Despite its low cost, it offers an automatic document feeder for color scanning and copying, as well as fax. In addition, it features wireless networking, including Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print for direct printing from smartphones. And its best feature is its small size - it will fit just about anywhere!

    The Guru's Tip:

    We're going to make something very cleear: users who need to do a lot of printing should not buy this printer. The ink prices make it extremely expensive. The high-yield black cartridge is $25 and the high-yield color ink cartridge is $30. They will last for about 100 pages, meaning each page costs about 25 cents. Note that Canon no longer rates these cartridges for print output as the previously-published ratings were so wildly inaccurate.

    Home Office Photo Inkjet:

    Canon PIXMA G4200

    Inkjet printer manufacturers have come under scrutiny over the past few years for their tendency to sell printers at a loss, and then making up for that with sky-high ink costs. Well, Canon is looking to shake things up a bit with its new MegaTank series. With four huge ink tanks, this machine can print up to 6,000 color pages before running out of ink! Adding another 6,000 pages worth of ink will only cost around $30 per bottle. With printing costs around half a cent per page, it's absolutely the cheapest printer to operate on a per-page basis. To learn more about how these printers work, see our full review of the similar Canon G3200.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model is only available in the U.S. and Canada as of our most recent update, so we've provided links to a comparable model from Epson for readers in other countries.

    Small Office Photo Inkjet:

    Epson SureColor P400

    If you're looking for gallery-worthy print quality and are willing to pay the price both in terms of printer and ink costs, then go for Epson's SureColor P400, which is a dedicated photo printer. It has no multi-function capabilities, and it would be the wrong choice for text printing given its upfront cost and cost per page. But with eight separate ink cartridges (including its unusual orange ink), it's the best photo printer in its price range.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This printer can even print off of art-style paper rolls!

    Personal Monochrome Laser:

    Brother HL-L2340DW

    The HL-L2340DW didn't take long to become the top-selling laser at Amazon. Why? Simple - it has the right combination of features at the right price. Fast 27 page per minute printing, a text-based LCD display, built-in duplexing, wired and wireless networking, and a 250-sheet paper tray plus manual feed slot. While its "starter" toner cartridge is rated for just 700 pages, the TN660 high-yield toner cartridge provides 2,600 printed pages and only costs about $50. That works out to under 2 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.

    Personal Multi-Function Monochrome Laser:

    Brother DCP-L2540DW

    As much as we like the  Brother HL-L2340DW 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 DCP-L2540DW. In essence, Brother is throwing in a copier and scanner for free. It offers even faster rated print speeds of up to 30ppm, and like the 2340DW features built-in duplex and built-in wired and wireless networking. But it adds scanning and copying via the handy 35-page automatic document feeder, as well as a flatbed for irregularly-sized sources. In terms of paper handling, it has both a 250-page paper tray and a manual feed slot.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model uses the same toner as the HL-L2340DW profiled above - we recommend that once the 700-page starter cartridge runs out, you go straight to the high-yield toner cartridge for about $50, which is good for 2,600 pages, coming in under 2 cents per page.

    Home Office Color Laser:

    Brother HL-3170CDW

    If you'll be doing a lot of non-photo color printing at home, you really want a laser printer for the job, rather than an inkjet. Color lasers are generally much faster, and quite a bit more economical as well, at least for large-volume color document printing. The 3170CDW is a dedicated low-cost color printer with no multi-function features. But at 23ppm it's very fast, and features automatic duplexing and a number of wireless printing options.

    The Guru's Tip:

    High-yield black cartridges for this model are rated at 2500 pages and cost about $70, while each of the three high-yield color cartridges is rated at 1400 pages and cost about $57 each. Running costs will therefore be around 4 cents per color page and 2.8 cents per b&w page.

    Home Office Multi-Function Color Laser:

    Brother MFC-9330CDW

    Rated at a fast 23ppm and loaded with extra features, this printer is a true small office workhorse! 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 four functions instead of one. The tradeoff is greater bulk, and a lot more controls to figure out! Here's just a brief list of its features: built-in duplex printing, built-in automatic document feeder with duplex scanning, copying, and faxing, a 250-sheet paper tray, and a 3.7" color touchscreen control panel. It of course has built-in wired and wireless networking as well. To learn more about this printer, check out our hands-on review!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This printer includes 1,000-page yield cartridges. The high-yield cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges cost about $70 each and are good for about 2,200 pages. The standard-yield black cartridge is actually good for 2,500 pages and costs under $60. But take note: if on average you print more than 50 pages per day, please step up to the model listed below. It has a much higher duty cycle, which really does make a difference. Cartridges aren't the only thing that wear out over time!

    Small Office Multi-Function Color Laser:

    Brother MFCL8900CDW

    New flagship printers don't come around all that often, but Brother has been busy keeping its high-end lineup fresh. This model, released in 2016, is Brother's best small office offering. It's so feature-packed that no small business would need anything more. Rated at 33ppm 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, a legal-sized flatbed and 70-page automatic document feeder, fax capabilities, and a huge 5" color touchscreen. And take note - it can process multiple jobs simultaneously, such as printing while scanning, making it a true workgroup printer.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Replacement super-high-yield TN436BK black toner is about $80, and super-high-yield cyanmagenta, and yellow toner cartridges cost about $175 each, or $600 for all four. Rated at an amazing 6,500 pages, that's just 1.2 cents per b&w page and 2.7 cents for color, making this model a true bargain to operate.

  1. Personal Multi-Function Inkjet Canon MX492 ($49.00)
  2. Home Office Photo Inkjet Canon PIXMA G4200 ($350.00)
  3. Small Office Photo Inkjet Epson SureColor P400 ($573.00)
  4. Personal Monochrome Laser Brother HL-L2340DW ($90.00)
  5. Personal Multi-Function Monochrome Laser Brother DCP-L2540DW ($100.00)
  6. Home Office Color Laser Brother HL-3170CDW ($180.00)
  7. Home Office Multi-Function Color Laser Brother MFC-9330CDW ($360.00)
  8. Small Office Multi-Function Color Laser Brother MFCL8900CDW ($489.00)