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Best Home Printers

Updated September 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 74 Models Considered
  • 34 Hours Researched
  • 2 Experts Interviewed
  • 214 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for the best printers

    Last Updated September 2018

    If you're looking for a top printer, you'll find a huge range of models offering every conceivable feature and extra. How do you decide which is best for you?

    Our five finalists will do just about everything, from rapid black and white printing to scanning, copying, automatic color duplexing, and outputting from a smartphone or tablet.

    We're happy to recommend any of them.

    So how did we come to these decisions? A full analysis follows.

    Considerations

    Output statistics

    The BestReviews lab staff examined each printer’s output statistics: pages per minute, color quality, and so on.

    Features

    Few printers just print any more; multifunctional models abound. What’s more, the prices of these machines are now well within reach of the average home user. Are print-only machines worth the expense? Do these models save you money or grant a better performance? Our lab staff noted and tested the features offered by each printer on our shortlist.

    Connectivity options

    Most printers can still plug into a computer, but WiFi is everywhere now, and an increasing number of machines print wirelessly from smartphones and tablets. During testing, we noted the offerings of each model on our shortlist.

    Price

    It's possible to buy a cheap printer for less than $50, but the faults of these bargain models frequently outweigh the savings. And, the truth is, a decent machine could cost you just a little more than $50. Even at the top end of the pricing scale, a high-quality multifunctional printer is remarkably affordable.

    Read on to discover the price of each of our shortlist contenders. You can also check out our matrix, above, to discover this information.

    Should you buy a laser or an inkjet printer? Yes, the laser vs. inkjet question is a big one, but other issues also figure prominently. For example, should you get a color or monochrome printer? A single-purpose or an all-in-one with scanning and faxing capability?

    Color vs. monochrome

    Little difference exists between the cost of a color printer and the cost of a black and white printer. So why not have the color option? There are several reasons, actually.

    The best monochrome printers are:

       •    Compact

       •    Fast

       •    Easy to use

    Although a color printer may be more cumbersome and slightly more expensive than a black and white model, the benefit is undeniable: you get color prints.

    As such, some consumers find it prudent to buy a cheap monochrome printer for text printing and an all-in-one color printer for everything else.

    Notably, all of the monochrome models we looked at were laser printers, designed for rapid output of large amounts of text and/or black and white images. Even the very best inkjets struggle to produce text that's as sharp (particularly at sizes below 12 point), and when they do, they run much slower because they're on a “high resolution” setting.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Inkjet printers create images by squirting wet ink onto paper. As such, you can print the ink onto different fabrics, like burlap, for a fun DIY.

    Single-function printer vs. multifunctional printer

    Should you buy a single or multifunctional printer? In general, this is an easy question to answer. If you can find a quality color printer with fax, scanning, and copying capabilities for the same price as a printer without those functions, the decision is a no-brainer.

    However, some situations exist in which you might prefer a single-function printer. Consider the following:

    • If you want photo-realistic output of high quality, you almost certainly want a specialist machine that focuses solely on the task at hand.

    • A printer with a built-in scanner would probably serve the needs of most consumers, but if you require high-resolution scans for trade printing or graphic displays, a machine dedicated entirely to high-resolution prints could be your best bet.

    • Business owners might prefer a more robust single-function unit that can consistently handle their heavy output demands.
    EXPERT TIP

    Always refer to your printer's manual for specific instructions on cleaning and maintenance of the machine.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Inkjet vs. laser

    This is always going to be a difficult question to answer, and even the BestReviews lab testers had differing opinions.

    However, all agreed that your final choice should depend largely on what you intend to use the printer for.

    In the early days of home printers, the choice between inkjet and laser was rather straightforward. Back then, laser printers created images with superior detail, but the machines were prohibitively expensive.

    Inkjets were far more affordable, but the final product wasn’t nearly as sharp.

    Today's printers employ the same basic technologies, but much has changed.

    • Laser and inkjet printers share similar price tags. And although laser toner remains much more expensive, you get up to ten times as many pages from a cartridge.

    • Print resolution is no longer an issue. Even cheap inkjets render a decent output. The graphic quality of our inkjet finalists is well above average.

    Price & Speed

    If you're looking for a cheap inkjet printer with all the functions of a machine that costs twice as much, the HP Envy 4520 could be your ideal. At nine black and white pages per minute and six color pages per minute, it’s a bit slow, but this multifunctional unit also offers copying and scanning, borderless printing, and wireless communication. (For example, you can print photos from your smartphone.)

    Features to consider

    Most inkjet and laser printers offer similar features. Almost all can communicate wirelessly with your smartphone or tablet. Many offer WiFi so you can share the printer with other users. And, as we've seen, scanning, copying, and faxing are common.

    Here are some notable “other” features you might be interested in:

    • Paper tray capacity: If you do a lot of printing, a large-capacity paper tray comes in handy.

    • Automatic feeding: If you print lots of envelopes or cards, automatic feeding of multiple sizes is useful.

    • Automatic duplexing: This feature is great for those who want to execute rapid double-sided printing.

    • Borderless printing: This is great if you want to print lots of photos, but you should check the print sizes available before making a purchase.

    • Ink refill subscription program: A program such as this could save you money, but we urge consumers to think about their usage patterns before choosing a printer with this feature. It’s not necessary for everyone.

    When considering the price of a printer, also consider the cost of ink or cartridges. Many printers are priced low, but their ink costs are sky high. Laser printers have a higher upfront cost, but many are cheaper when analyzed over their entire life cycle.

    A note about ink quality

    Of course, you want your prints to last forever — especially if you use your printer to create copies of beloved family photos. But some inks fade over time. Here’s what you need to know about ink technology as it stands today:

    • Inkjet inks fall into two categories — dye-based and pigment-based. Dye-based inks are 100% liquid; the color is dissolved in water. Pigment-based inks have solid particles in the mix and consequently last longer.
    • Testing suggests that some images created by cheap replacement ink fade in as little as three months. This may be extreme, but it’s a known danger of buying remanufactured cartridges.

    • Ink purchased directly from the printer manufacturer may cost more, but the images rendered from it could last longer. The reason: this ink will probably be part pigment (the black) and part dye (the colors).

    • If you want your photo images to retain their richness for years, consider a specialist photo printer and the corresponding ink and paper. You'll pay more, but you’ll enjoy remarkable technology.

    The Canon All-in-one Printer performs every task you might need, from scanning to copying to duplex printing. Its photo reproduction quality is particularly outstanding, but then, you might have expected that from a company that also produces bestselling cameras. Colors are particularly rich thanks to the printer’s five inks — a bonus feature that could also save you money.

    Pointers

    We wholeheartedly endorse all five of our chosen printers, but what if you’re still not sure which product is right for you? After all, your printing needs may differ from those of your neighbor.

    Keep these pointers in mind when making your final decision —

    If you need high quantities of monochrome/grayscale printing, choose a monochrome laser printer. This unit will offer you:

    • Fast printing
    • Sharp detail
    • High-volume capability

    If you need high quantities of business printing, choose a color laser printer. This unit will offer you:

    • Fast printing

    • Fine detail

    • Quality presentation (though not best for photos)

    • High-volume capability

    If you need a general-purpose home or small business printer, choose a color inkjet model. This unit will offer you:

    • A lower initial investment
    • Cheaper ink
    • Good photo quality

    If you need large quantities of high-quality photo printing, choose a specialist color inkjet printer. This unit will offer you:

    • Exceptional visual quality
    • Prints that hold their color for decades
    EXPERT TIP

    What should you do with your empty inkjet cartridges? You could have them refilled, or you could donate them to charity. Some charities collect empty cartridges and recycle them in exchange for cash.


    Matthew  | IT Professional, Product Manager
    The team that worked on this review
    • Alvina
      Alvina
      Photographer
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Bob
      Bob
      Writer
    • Branson
      Branson
      Videographer
    • Ciera
      Ciera
      Production Assistant
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Vukan
      Vukan
      Post Production Editor

    2 diy projects with your inkjet printer

    Printing on burlap

    Materials you will need: burlap, cardstock, ruler, X-Acto knife, computer, inkjet printer

    1. Measure out your piece of burlap to 8.5" by 11". Use the X-Acto knife to cut it.
    2. Repeat with the card stock.
    3. Use the masking tape to affix the burlap to the card stock.
    4. Make sure your printer settings are set to Heavy Duty.
    5. Gently feed the burlap/card stock through the printer.

    Use this DIY to make customized burlap bags, wall decor and more!

    Temporary tattoos

    Materials you will need: tattoo paper, credit card, scissors, computer, inkjet printer

    1. Design your tattoos on your computer.
    2. Print them onto the tattoo paper.
    3. Lay the adhesive sheet on top and use a credit card to smooth.
    4. Cut out the tattoo with scissors.
    5. Place the tattoo on your arm and gently rub with a wet paper towel for 30 seconds.
    6. Slowly peel the tattoo off.

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