Whether you need a printer for work from home tasks, family printing needs, or both, picking the right printer can be a challenge. We’ve picked the best printer for you based on budget and feature set.
Update, 1/7/2022: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and are still confident these are still the best printers you can buy.
When buying a printer, there are a few things that you need to consider since features can vary wildly, even within a specific price range.
First of all, it’s important to note that most modern printers tend to have a built-in scanner. This allows the printer to also function as a copier, scanner, and even sometimes a fax machine. These are called All-In-One printers, or AIO for short. Remember that not all printers are AIOs, so if you are looking for that sort of functionality, be sure to check before you buy.
The second thing is whether you want to go for inkjet or laserjet, the two main printing technologies that exist. The main thing to know between the two is that inkjet printers are generally cheaper to buy but more expensive to maintain and laserjet is the opposite. Also, laserjets tend to have sharper quality and are not prone to ink smudging.
Next on the agenda is the Cost Per Page (CCP), which is how much it costs to print every page. You come to that number by taking the cartridge’s cost and dividing it by the number of pages that the cartridge should yield. Keep in mind that this is a rough estimation because ink usage can change a lot depending on what you’re printing.
Either way, we’ll give you a rough estimate of what you should expect regarding CCP. Granted, the best printer is not always about getting the lowest CCP that you can, especially if you don’t print often. It can be better to pay a few extra cents per page for the sake of better print quality, speed, or just overall features.
Besides the above, you’ll also want to look at Page Per Minute (PPM), which tells you how many pages the printer can print in that time frame. So 10ppm means that you’ll get ten pages within the space of one minute.
What you are comfortable with depends wholly on how much you print and how much patience you have. If you tend to do a high volume of printing, then the more ppm you can get, the better.
Finally, you’ll want to look at the feature set, and more specifically, the sort of connectivity you can get. Nowadays, most printers are expected to have at least WiFi access and an Ethernet port. Some also have Bluetooth and apps that you can use to print directly to the printer without needing a computer, which is pretty handy. You’ll also see some printers are voice-activated, which is more of a fun little extra to have.
That’s a lot to keep in mind, but worry not—our recommendations below do all the research legwork for you.
Best Printer Overall: HP Envy Pro 6455e
- ✓ Great upfront price
- ✓ Good print quality
- ✓ Cheap on-going costs with Instant Ink Subscription
- ✓ A strong roundup of features
- ✓ Stylish and modern design
- ✗ No card port for SD or Flash
- ✗ Wasteful ink cartridge design
- ✗ Relatively slow printing
When looking at the best overall printer, it’s essential to try and find something that does well in most scenarios. The HP Envy PRO 6452 manages to hit many of those essential targets.
For starters, this is an all-in-one (AIO) device, so not only can you print, you can scan, copy, and even fax, which isn’t something you tend to see often with these AIOs. Even better, it’s voice-activated and even supports both Alexa and Google Home Assistant, so you can get your printing done from anywhere without even touching a button. The Envy Pro also has WiFi connectivity if you don’t want to tether it to a desktop or laptop with a cable.
In terms of print quality, it’s suitable for an entry-level inkjet printer, and you’ll likely see some good sharp quality in even somewhat smaller fonts.
Photo quality is also good, but unfortunately, since it uses two cartridges rather than four or six, it doesn’t have the same color range that a printer with more cartridges has. Still, it’s not that the quality is terrible, it’s just not the best in its class.
Print speeds are around 10ppm for color and 7ppm for monochrome. As for the scanner, The Envy Pro has a resolution of 1,200 pixels by 1,200 pixels, which is pretty good. It has an auto-document feeder, although it can’t print on both sides of a sheet of people.
Finally, we come to the critical caveat—if you plan to buy this printer, it’s only economical if you purchase HP’s Instant Ink subscription with it. The reason is that while the upfront purchase cost of the printer is excellent, the printing cost is pretty bad without the subscription.
While there has been bad press about HP’s Ink subscription DRM, it’s still worth it. It takes an eye-watering color cost per page of 22 cents down to a more reasonable 3.5 cents per page. Monochrome pages go from around 10 cents down to 3.5 cents as well. It makes the HP Envy Pro an absolutely excellent printer.
HP ENVY 6455e
While a strong contender in various categories, what makes the HP ENVY 6445e an excellent choice is its low cost when paired with an HP Instant Ink subscription.
Best Budget Printer: Epson Expression Home XP-4100
- ✓ Excellent mobile app and overall connectivity
- ✓ Great print quality for colors & monochrome
- ✓ Modern design fits right in any space
- ✓ Easy-to-use panel
- ✗ Lack of flash memory support
- ✗ Higher running costs
- ✗ Slow printing speed
When trying to pick a budget printer, it’s important to try and balance low cost and features. Thankfully the Epson Expression XP-4100 does a good job of just that for just under $100.
Much like our best overall printer, this is an all-in-one device with a surprisingly small footprint and is great if you don’t have a ton of space to work with. The scan resolution is 1,200 DPI, the same as the Envy Pro 6455e, while the print speed is 4ppm for color and 7ppm for black. The print speed is slow, but don’t let that put you off.
As for print pricing, that’s a bit lackluster since we see about 11 cents per page for black and 17 cents for color. But again, if you don’t often print and need something for occasional use, the price per page won’t matter so much. Also, this is assuming you are buying the cartridges for the $20 MSRP—if you can get them cheaper, then the cost per page goes down.
The only other significant downside is that the color accuracy is not that great. That means if you’re looking for something to print photos, you’ll probably need to look to one of the other options on the list.
Still, you get WiFi and ApplePrint, making this a superb little printer for occasional use to keep somewhere on the side.
Alternatively, for those willing to pay a little extra to get a laserjet, the HP LaserJet Pro M15w is an excellent choice. While the upfront cost is higher, the printing costs are slightly lower, and there’s no risk of ink smudging.
Epson Expression Home XP-4100
What this printer has going for it is that it manages to balance lower cost with the number of features relatively well. It may be a bit more expensive to run, but it gives you WiFi, an LCD screen, and a small size for $100.
Best Home Office Printer: HP Color LaserJet Pro Multifunction M479fdn
- ✓ Feature packed
- ✓ Excellent print quality
- ✓ Auto-duplexing
- ✓ Good security options
- ✗ Expensive running costs
While the HP Color Laserjet Pro Multifunction is a mouthful, the printer has as many features as the name suggests, making it excellent for a home office or a small business.
For starters, this HP printer has a 300-page paper tray and 50-page feeder, so there’s no need to babysit it while it prints or copies. Then, you have auto-duplex printing so you don’t waste time having to feed paper in again for double-sided documents. It’s also pretty fast since it’s a color laser printer, and paired with the high-capacity, that means you can get a lot more printing done.
Connectivity on the Laserjet Pro is also pretty impressive, having USB, Ethernet, WiFi, and Bluetooth, which you don’t see often. You also have a variety of 3rd-party apps you can use, such as Google Cloud Print, HP Smart App with HP ePrint, Apple Airprint, and Mopria. There’s also some good security and encryption on it. Plus, the LaserJet Pro has permission controls if you only want certain people to have access to color printing.
In terms of performance, the Laserjet Pro works as expected in its price range. Print speed is around 28 ppm for black and approximately 17 ppm for color, which is about average for its class.
As for print quality, it’s terrific, as you’d expect from a laserjet. The text is sharp, and there’s no possibility of smudging, so it’s perfect for business documents. Photo quality is also good for charts and presentations, though don’t expect to print accurate photos with it.
Finally, we come to running costs, and the truth can be painful depending on how much you print. For monochrome, you’ll expect to see 2.2 cents per page and 14.2 cents for color. If you’re printing thousands of pages a month, that can quickly add up.
The M479fdn is a pretty good, although slightly expensive, printer. Of course, not everybody needs a printer that fancy, and if you’re looking for some high-quality monochrome printing, the HP Neverstop 1001nw is an excellent alternative. It does away with most of the features but provides the same quality and speed for less than half the price and only 0.3 cents a page, which is staggeringly low.
HP Color LaserJet Pro Multifunction M479fdn
While the M479fdn comes with an eye-watering price, it also has a host of genuinely excellent features, especially for SMEs.
Best Photo Printer: Epson Expression Photo XP-970
- ✓ Truly excellent photo quality
- ✓ Great price for an A3 printer
- ✓ 11 by-17-inch borderless printing
- ✓ Nice design
- ✗ Slow printing
- ✗ Lack of automatic feeder
- ✗ Even XL cartridges run out pretty fast
When it comes to photo printing, the two most important things are color accuracy and range, and the Epson Expression XP-970 delivers on both.
What helps it with that goal is that it opts for five-color inks, and when you add black, that’s six altogether. The color gamut that you get is truly hard to beat unless you want to go for something four or even five times the price.
As for cost, that’s a bit more complicated since there are so many different types of inks, and you can print in a variety of different sizes. You’re probably looking at up to 4.5 cents a page for black and up to 14 cents for color when you do the CPP calculation.
Is that price range good or bad? Realistically, it’s about average for this printer class, which is impressive considering its above-average color accuracy.
When it comes to other features, though, the XP-970 is run of the mill for the price. You get your standard suite of connectivity in the form of USB 2.0, WiFi, WiFi Direct, as well as support for most SDs and Micro SDs. You also get voice-command operation, support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which is pretty nice.
All that being said, the one major downside is that the printer is a bit slow, which is compounded by the fact that it can only hold one sheet of paper at a time. That means that you will have to babysit it, and if you print in huge volumes, this can be an issue.
Still, this printer more than makes up for those downsides with its stunning photo printing quality.
Epson Expression Photo XP-970
It's hard to beat the color accuracy of the XP-970, especially since it's one of the AIO that come with six inks. While it is a bit on the slower side, it more than makes up for it with stunning photo quality.
Best Portable Printer: HP Tango
- ✓ Small and pretty looking
- ✓ Surprisingly good print quality
- ✓ Reasonably quiet
- ✓ Voice control and smart home integration
- ✓ Fast printing
- ✗ Lack of control buttons
- ✗ Non-existent copy function
- ✗ Small feed tray
When thinking about portable printers, you can get pretty small while losing much quality. Thankfully, the HP Tango manages to strike a relatively good balance between being small and providing you with great print quality.
The HP Tango has surprisingly good quality for its size and cost. According to HP, it can manage about 11ppm for monochrome and 8ppm for color. It’s also relatively good for printing photos, being a four-ink printer, but don’t expect it to be as good as our photo printer pick.
Approaching it from a cost per page angle, though, it’s a bit expensive, at 16.5 cents per page for color and 6ccp for monochrome. That’s why you’re much better of getting the HP Instant Ink subscription, which brings it down to a more tolerable 3.5 cents per page for each.
Of course, the small size and design philosophy come with two downsides—no scanner function nor physical control buttons. The “scan” feature of this printer is essentially placing the paper you want to scan on the flat surface of the printer, taking a picture with your smartphone, and having the app straighten the image and send it to the printer.
Put these two together, and that equals a printer that is wholly reliant on a smartphone to function, and if you ever find yourself without one handy, it becomes a problem. Still, the chances of that happening are minimal, and the downsides are not at all a dealbreaker, especially if you need a small and portable printer for occasional printing.
While we’re at it, if small size is what you’re looking for, a slightly smaller alternative is the HP Sprocket Studio and is additionally well-suited for photos.
The HP tango manages to balance printing quality and size well, and while you can get smaller printers that fit in your pocket, they won’t be able to do document printing or get the same quality as the Tango.
Best Ink Tank Printer: Epson EcoTank ET-2760
- ✓ Incredibly low CCP
- ✓ Excellent print quality
- ✓ SD card support
- ✓ Auto-duplex printing
- ✗ No ethernet port
- ✗ Lack of auto-feeder
- ✗ Slow printing speed
One of the more significant issues for cartridge-based printers is that the cartridges themselves are pretty expensive. Not only that, but if you’re dealing with a cartridge that has several ink colors, then you’re almost always going to waste some percentage of one color when the other runs out and you throw away the toner cartridge.
This is where ink tank or cartridgeless printers come in. They allow you to refill the ink directly, significantly lowering the price and waste factor. One of the best ink tank printers you can get is the Epson EcoTank ET-2760, and while it’s not the fastest printer, it’s one of the cheaper ink tank printers with some good features.
For starters, printing cost is astonishingly low. You can expect 0.9 cents per page for colors and 0.3 cents for monochrome. That easily beats out every other printer on this list when it comes down to CPP.
Print quality is also pretty good. The EcoTank does struggle a bit when it comes to speed though, handling only five pages per minute for colors and 10ppm for monochrome. The photo quality isn’t as good as it could be, and the colors can be a little bit flat.
But device connectivity is good, as you get WiFi, WiFi direct, and USB 2.0. Bafflingly though, there’s no ethernet port, which may be a dealbreaker. In terms of app support, you get Morpia, Fire OS Support, Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, as well as Epson’s iPrint app for iOS and Android.
The ET-2760 shines in its running cost, especially since the features are pretty average for the associated cost. Nonetheless, if you do high-volume printing, you can’t beat these prices, plus there’s much less waste, making this an equally good eco-friendly alternative to traditional printers.
Epson EcoTank ET-2760
While slightly more expensive than a traditional inkjet printer, the savings costs in ink alone are pretty high. It won't turn any heads with its speed or inability to auto-feed the scanner, but it does an excellent job of balancing cost vs. features while providing a cartridgeless experience.
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