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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

31 Models Considered
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295 Consumers Consulted
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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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best printers for college students

Last Updated August 2019

The perfect printer for your dorm room could be a basic machine for printing the occasional essay, or it could be a powerhouse capable of scanning, copying, and double-sided printing. Finding a good printer for a college student means carefully weighing your budget against your needs.

Modern printers have lowered in price significantly, and just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you have to forgo useful features. There are plenty of affordable inkjet and laser printers to choose from and several models that feature additional functions like scanning and copying. You want to look for a printer with a relatively small footprint, and a machine with the ability to print via WiFi can save you a mess of cables. Also, consider how easy the printer is to set up and whether it’s compatible with your laptop.

Every college student has different printing needs, but whether you need to use a printer monthly or daily, we can help you find the perfect model. Continue reading our buying guide to learn more about the different printers available to college students, and take a look at our favorites when you’re ready to buy.

Many budget printers are so inexpensive that the cost of ink cartridges can quickly eclipse the price of the printer itself.

Key considerations

You may not yet know the printing demands of your courses, or perhaps you can estimate how much paper and ink you’ll go through in a semester. Either way, get started on the right track by estimating what types of jobs you need a printer for.

Inkjet vs. laser

The two most common types of printer are inkjet and laser. The names refer to the printing method — an inkjet sprays ink through a nozzle, while a laser printer uses heat to fuse toner to the paper (no, there are no lasers involved). While there are many inkjet printers available below or around the $100 mark, finding a laser printer at that price can be more difficult, but it is possible. Some models may be capable of scanning and copying, though these extra functions will often increase the price.

Inkjet: These printers tend to be less expensive than laser printers, though they’re slightly more versatile. If you plan on printing a variety of text documents and images, an inkjet printer is your best option. There are two primary downsides to inkjet printers: the ink can dry up over time, and they print somewhat slowly compared to laser printers, around 15 pages per minute. Unless you’re printing out your 80-page thesis three minutes before it’s due, this probably won’t be a problem.
 

Laser: These printers are typically more expensive and therefore harder to find at a moderate price. However, the toner doesn’t dry up over time, and they print at a much faster rate, up to 100 pages per minute. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a laser printer with this speed for around $100, but even low-end laser printers typically exceed the printing speed of inkjet printers. Laser printers don’t always match the image quality of inkjet printers, but they excel at printing crisp text documents.

Though this printer is more expensive than many basic options, its portability is convenient and it works quickly. The small footprint makes it a good size for dorm rooms.

All-in-ones

An all-in-one printer is a machine that has a built-in scanner, copier, and fax machine. You should already know whether you’ll need any functions beyond printing. Almost everyone needs to scan a document from time to time, though copying and faxing are less common. However, having these capabilities in the comfort of your dorm room can save you an extra trip to the library. All-in-one models may also be capable of two-sided printing. While basic printers are sometimes cheaper, it is possible to find all-in-one printers for competitive prices.

Compatibility

There is no wiggle room when it comes to compatibility. Make sure that your printer is compatible with your computer or laptop before you buy. Many popular models are compatible with PC or Mac computers, but if you have a Chromebook or computer that uses an alternative OS, double-check the compatibility. In addition, some printers have mobile apps that allow you to print remotely, but you’ll need a compatible smartphone or tablet to do so.

DID YOU KNOW?

Though budget printers are inexpensive, many have additional functions like scanning and copying.

Printer features

Low-priced printers vary in size, connectivity, and additional features. Once you know what type of printer best meets your needs, consider some other features that can help you narrow the search.

Size and portability

Size: The footprint and height of a printer can be deal breakers, especially if you have limited space. Fortunately, most budget printers are fairly compact. The footprint — how much surface area a printer covers — is the most important consideration. Height may be important if you plan to tuck your printer beneath a shelf on your desk or in another discreet area.

Portability: Though portable printers tend to be on the more expensive end, it’s possible to find a mobile printer for less than $150. If you need the ability to take your printer with you, the extra cost may be worthwhile.

Connectivity

Though almost all printers include a USB cable for wired printing, some models may be able to connect to your WiFi network for easy remote printing, as long as you’re on the WiFi network. Other printers have cloud-printing capability. This may mean using a service like Google Cloud Print, or you might be able to email your documents to your printer. For something a bit more low-tech, some models can print directly from a USB drive or memory card.

Setup

Take note of whether a printer requires you to install drivers before you’re ready to print. This may take a bit of time, and it may mean that anyone else who wants to use your printer will also have to install the driver on their computer.

Having a printer in your dorm room means you don’t have to worry about trips to the computer lab, and there’s a good chance you’ll make a few friends as well.

Printer prices

Inexpensive: Printers that cost less than $50 are almost always inkjet printers, and they may be mobile or all-in-one models. Longevity and print quality may be questionable in this price range, but if all you need to do is print text documents from time to time, these printers can get the job done. They may also be fairly compact, though they could lack additional features like WiFi printing.

Mid-range: In the $50 to $100 range are printers with a variety of features and designs. They may be inkjet or laser printers. Features like cloud printing or WiFi printing are more common at this price. Printers may be mobile or all-in-one models, and they’re likely robust enough to last for a few years.

Expensive: Printers in the $100 to $150 range may be inkjet or laser and tend to print more pages per minute. While some smaller models can be found in this range, many are larger and designed for larger paper capacities — features a college student likely doesn’t need. Cloud printing, WiFi, and other connectivity methods are common in this range.

EXPERT TIP

If you don’t have a laptop or computer, many printers come with compatible apps for easy printing from anywhere.


Staff  | BestReviews

Money-saving tips

Printing can be expensive, especially when you consider the high price of printer ink and toner. Here are a few simple ways to save money when using your printer’

  • Take “low ink” warnings with a grain of salt. They’re often premature. Print until your printer doesn’t let you or until images start losing their pop.
  • Double- and triple-check which type of ink cartridge you need before you buy. There are many varieties available, and just because the store clerk says they know which one you need doesn’t mean it will definitely be compatible with your printer. An easy way to get it right the first time is to take the old cartridge with you.
  • Proofread your documents before printing. Printing has the magical effect of revealing all of your typos on paper. Do your best to proofread before you send your essay to the presses. Consider having a friend look over your paper, too.
  • Check page-per-cartridge numbers. A cheaper printer may use ink less efficiently. Take note of the manufacturer’s estimates for pages printed per cartridge to get an idea of how much a printer will cost you over the long run.

This wireless printer doubles as a scanner and copier, and it is compatible with Mac and Windows computers. It also has a fast printing speed of 20 pages per minute.

Other products we considered

While we stand by our top recommendations as some of the best printers on the market for college students, there are a few other models worth pointing out. If you are looking for a laser printer but have limited space, the wireless HP LaserJet Pro M29w is one of the smallest laser printers available. Customers love the print quality, though many report that the initial setup takes some time. For printing high-quality images, the wireless inkjet Canon PIXMA iX6820 Business Printer is loved by customers for its excellent image quality. Its price may be out of the budget of some, but the reliability of this printer makes up for it.

Having your own printer means you don’t need to worry about depleting printing funds through your college’s printing policy.

FAQ

Q. Do printers come with ink or toner cartridges?
A.
Not always, but buying a printer that comes with ink is convenient and often cheaper than buying ink separately. It’s also a safe way to make sure that you have the right cartridges.

Q. Are budget printers covered by a warranty?
A.
That depends on the manufacturer. The length and terms of warranties vary. If you’ve had bad luck with printers in the past (and who hasn’t?), look into the warranty and the responsiveness of customer service.

Q. What sizes of paper are compatible with printers?
A.
This varies from one model to the next, but almost all printers can accommodate letter and A4 sizes. Some models may be capable of printing on legal-size paper, US #10 envelopes, and other less common sizes.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer
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