The best printers for 2021February 16, 2021
If you’re like a lot of us who are still, there are certain aspects of office life that you probably sorely miss at home — one of them is access to a fast, reliable printer. Despite the near ubiquity of digital displays — from to to — there are still times when you need a hard copy, even if you’re working by yourself in your pajamas. But, a printer isn’t an easy thing to shop for, and unless you’re intimately familiar with printer specs, it can be a confusing endeavor. This is doubly true due to the sheer volume of printers on the market. The labyrinth of arcane model names and numbers, technical specs and variables can make printers particularly challenging to compare and contrast.
And if variety weren’t enough to deal with, printer prices are all over the place. This is a highly dynamic market, where prices can change from day to day. During our printer testing period, for example, we saw the price of the HP OfficeJet Pro 9025 selling for as low as $100 and as high as $250. The takeaway: Unless you have an urgent printer need, it’s worthwhile to identify one or two printer models that would work for you, keep an eye out for printer deal options and discounts — and jump on a good price when you see it. Our list of the best printer options below is designed to help you do just that.
The good news: Every printer profiled below can handle the basics. They can handle mobile printing and wireless printing from a phone or any PC, Mac or Chromebook. They can print over a cabled connection and through wireless connectivity. (Note that some — but not all — printers supportand protocols, which are usually less onerous than the printer vendors’ proprietary solutions.)
But what you print will determine which model is right for you. If you’re mostly working with shopping lists, concert tickets or travel itineraries, print quality is arguably less important than speed and price. If you’re using your printer for professional materials or photo printing, color accuracy, quality and the inclusion of features like borderless printing will be primary considerations when you’re looking for the right printer.
Another factor to consider is the cost of ink, and making sure that you have enough ink to print everything you need (there’s nothing more frustrating than having a printer but no ink). So even if you’re getting a great printer deal, just be sure to do some research into the ink.
We’ve tested and reviewed the top models for home and small office use from the four major vendors — Brother, Canon, Epson and HP. Whether you print for business or personal use, at home or in an office, we’ve got the best printer for you. Check out our favorites below, which we’ll update periodically.
In our search for an affordable color printer that does everything well, the Brother MFC-J895 came out on top. It’s reasonably priced, easy to set up and use — and it’s speedy, delivering both documents and printing photos faster than the average printer. It can scan, fax and copy and it features a 2.7-inch color touchscreen, a 150-page cassette capacity and an automatic document feeder.
Best of all, it’s efficient: The four included printer ink cartridges — each of which is twice the size of the typical cartridge — lasted longer than any other inkjet we tested. As a result, after identical workloads, the J895 still had 40% of its ink after the competition had run low or dry. And the MFC-J895’s thoughtful design offers access to the ink cartridges through a front panel, making them easy to swap out. The cherry on top: Brother offers a two-year warranty while the others give you just a single year of coverage.
Our only quibble is image quality — an important consideration to be sure. Photos, in particular, looked a smidge less colorful and high-contrast than those produced by similar models from Epson and Canon. Still, for everyday use, the Brother MFC-J895 is a great printer that offers the best combination of price, performance and ease of use.
If you need to produce reams of professional-caliber documents — market research reports, business proposals or brochures — you’ll want a laser printer. These higher-end devices deliver near-professional quality that’s noticeably superior to what you’ll get from an inkjet. And they’re less expensive than you might expect, making them a great home printer option.
The Canon LBP622Cdw is a bit of a one-trick pony, but it handles its one trick well. There’s no scanning or copying capabilities, but this color laser printer prints vivid text and color graphics with high levels of contrast and range, on both white and colored printer paper. And it’s not exorbitantly expensive to run, thanks to its high-capacity toner cartridge — a rarity among laser printer options in this price range. On average, black and white documents cost about 3 cents a page and color docs cost 3.8 cents a page. Speed-wise, it’s about average.
The LBP622Cdw features a single-sheet feeder that can take in envelopes and photos while leaving your regular 250-sheet paper tray undisturbed. And you can stack up to 10 envelopes in the main paper tray, which is more than twice as many as most other laser printer options.
And though this printer’s five-line LCD isn’t a touchscreen, it’s easy to navigate and provides helpful information including the name of the job and person who sent it. There’s also a USB port that allows you to connect and print if the network goes down.
If you’re looking for a printer that can do it all, keep looking. But if you’re looking for one that delivers photos that are colorful and vivid, with natural tones, high contrast and terrific detail, the Canon Pixma iP8720 is a great choice.
Measuring roughly 23 by 13 by 6 inches, this Canon printer is big enough to accommodate six ink cartridges — and print 13×19-inch photos. This Canon printer has no physical controls or LCD screen, so you control it via the printer dialog box on your device. Instead of a traditional paper tray, you simply stack your media of choice into a rear document feeder, which makes it easy to swap out different-sized and types of papers. (You’ll get the best results from Canon photo paper; most printers deliver the highest-quality output when they’re matched with their own brand of paper.)
The Canon iP8720’s ink cartridges lasted longer than its photo-centric competition, even taking into account the additional ink necessary to produce 13×19-inch prints. And it’s fast: It printed an 8.5×11-inch photo in just over 2 minutes — 30 seconds faster than the runner-up. Again, this Canon printer is not an all-in-one. This printer doesn’t scan or copy. If that’s a deal-breaker, check out our other picks below.
If you don’t care about color graphics or photos, there’s a very good reason to buy a black-and-white printer: There’s only one toner or ink cartridge to refill, which is going to keep your cost per page down.
When Dan Ackerman reviewed this printer in 2018, he found it noteworthy for its combination of low price (at least when it’s on sale for $100), painless setup and operation, and nearly universal customer approval. It’s a monochrome laser printer — so you can’t print color images or photos — but the Brother HL-L2395DW will masterfully handle any black-and-white job. (Its sibling, the HL-3170CDW, adds color capabilities but has no scanner or touchscreen.)
This monochrome printer is easy to connect to a Wi-Fi network, and it supports Google Cloud Print and network printing whether you’re using a PC or Mac. And it’s quick: Printing 10 pages from a MacBook took 27 seconds. A seven-page webpage from the Edge browser on a Windows laptop took 36 seconds. Copying a single sheet of paper took nine seconds.
Brother says the “starter” black toner that comes with the system should be good for 700 printed pages, and a 1,200-page replacement costs $44 from Amazon. Like a number of other models we tested, this printer supports “Amazon Dash Auto Replenishment,” which means it’ll automatically order new toner for you when it’s running low (unless you turn off the feature in your Amazon settings).
Even if you almost never need a printer, when you need a printer, you need a printer. This HP DeskJet — which is cheap, tiny and unassuming — is the perfect home printer solution. This HP printer has no flatbed scanner or copier bed, so it folds up into a compact 16 by 7 by 5.5 inches — about the size of a large loaf of bread. There’s a foldable rear tray for paper, a top-mounted scanner and an output tray — but it’s so small you can easily store it on a desktop or shelf.
Quality isn’t the point. It’s not a workhorse. Print quality isn’t extraordinary. But HP DeskJet 3755 is cheap, unobtrusive and ready for basic jobs when you need it.
If space is tight but you need to print shipping labels, shopping lists or homework assignments a few times a month — an increasing likelihood as the coronavirus era drags on — this is your machine. The HP LaserJet Pro M15w is a great fit for practical, nonfussy tasks and its tiny footprint, measuring about 8 inches deep and 14 inches wide, fits perfectly on a bookshelf. And it connects via Wi-Fi to nearly any device, which means you can print from your phone. If the students in your family can live without a scanner — after all, phone cameras can handle most scanning jobs now — and color output, the LaserJet Pro M15w is a great choice for under $120.
As far as first-world problems go, waiting for a printer to spit out your document ranks high. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8025 addresses this issue by processing documents and photo prints two to three times faster than its inkjet printer competitors.
It took the OfficeJet Pro 8025 just 8 minutes to print out a 30-page report, with graphics and photos, on plain paper at the “best” quality setting — less than half as long as a print speed as it took other comparably-priced inkjet printers. It scanned photos in just 8 seconds compared to 13 to 14 seconds for other printers. And it printed an 8.5×11-inch photo in just about 2 minutes while the competition consistently took closer to 8 minutes.
This inkjet printer doesn’t sacrifice speed for quality — least as far as text is concerned. But photos are another story; though most color tones looked OK, with suitably high contrast, reds were too brash. And there’s no rear paper feeder, so you’ll have to swap out your plain paper for specialty papers.
HP offers customers a subscription service for ink that it says is 50% cheaper than buying ink a la carte. There are four monthly plans — 50, 100, 300 or 700 pages — which ostensibly ensure that you have new cartridges and enough ink before your old ones run out.
The Epson XP-970 is more of a traditional all-in-one device than our favorite photo printer, the Canon Pixma iP8720. It can’t quite match the Canon on print quality — photos are darker and sometimes overly blue. But this home printer is much more well-rounded, with the capacity to scan and copy, and it comes with a traditional front paper tray and a single-sheet rear feeder.
The Epson Workforce Pro WF-3730 is full-featured enough to satisfy the demands of a home office, though it’s not as simple to use as others. It’s also a big printer, equipped with two 250-sheet paper trays. That means you can load it up with a ton of paper or dedicate one tray to envelopes or labels.
For the price, this multifunction printer delivers solid print quality. You get bright, surprisingly colorful and subtle images photos on plain paper and photo paper — and especially on Epson’s own stock. The Workforce is also quick: It printed an 8.5×11 photo faster than any comparably-priced printer we tested. And it costs less than a host of competitors.
Canon’s Pixma TS830 is pretty and sleek — available in glossy black, red or white, instead of the usual matte black or mealy office beige. It has a big and bright 4.3-inch color LCD touchscreen, which makes it easy to use — and keep an eye on ink levels, which are displayed in real-time.
The TS8320 has six ink cartridge slots — most all-in-one printers have only four — which gives it a higher capacity, but which also means there are two additional cartridges to replace, increasing overall usage costs. Still, if you’re looking for very high-quality photos and pleasing overall aesthetics, the Pixma is a great choice.
Speed-wise it’s average. But the Pixma produces superior-quality photos with vivid contrast and bright colors thanks to an extra “photo blue” color cartridge that complements the cyan, magenta, yellow and dual black ink packs. The rear paper feeder lets you load specialty papers — such as photos, labels or envelopes — without disturbing the paper in the 100-sheet capacity front tray. And the TS8320 can automatically shut itself off after a customizable amount of time and then power back on when you send it a job.
|Best home printer||Best color document printer||Best black-and-white printer||Best photo printer||Best cheap printer|
|Product name||Brother MFC-J895DW||Canon Color imageClass LBP622Cdw||Brother HL-L2395DW||Canon Pixma iP8720||HP DeskJet 3755|
|Buying info||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon|
|Ink type||Color inkjet||Color laser||Monochrome laser||Color inkjet||Color inkjet|
|Google Cloud Print||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Warranty coverage||2 years||1 year||1 year||1 year||1 year|
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