Best printer 2022: The best inkjet and laser printers to buy
From crisp black text to brilliant photos, we’ve got the inkjet and laser printers that can do it all
The problem with definitively choosing the best printer on the market is that there are so many things to consider. Is it best to go with an inkjet or laser printer? Cartridges or refillable tanks? Do you need a multifunction printer (MFP) that also scans and copies, or are you after something that just prints? How much do you need to spend?
Yet a printer remains essential, whether for business or the home. That’s why we’ve pulled together a new roundup covering the best printers from the leading brands, so you’ll know which model will be the best fit for your specific needs.
These recommendations come from hours of rigorous hands-on testing, so we know what we’re talking about. Look below and you’ll find guidance on everything from the different types of printers to the major functions and features, to help you work out what you need and what you’re not prepared to pay the extra for.
The best printers still in stock
UPDATE: Printers are in short supply and high demand at the moment. While we wait for stock to slowly recover, we’ve created this list of the products on our roundup that are still available to buy. We’ll be updating this list as often as we can.
The best budget printer: HP LaserJet Pro M15w Printer
The best office MFP: Brother MFC-L2710DW Wireless AIO Printer
The best A3 printer: Brother A3 Multi-Function Printer MFC-J6930DW
The best printer for low running costs: HP DeskJet 2330 All-in-One Printer
The best office MFP for high-speed printing: Toshiba e-Studio 5518A Copier
How to choose the best printer for you
What’s the difference between laser and inkjet printers?
Inkjets create prints by placing thousands of tiny dots over every inch of the page. Printers with higher resolutions – measured in dots per inch (dpi) – can place more dots on the page.
As their print heads usually need to move about to cover the page, inkjet printers tend to be slower than lasers. Also, because the ink takes a second or two to dry, they might be slower still when duplex (double-sided) printing.
Laser printers work by negatively charging a light-sensitive surface called an optical photoconductor (OPC) drum. A laser then “draws” an image of the page to be printed onto the surface of the drum, discharging the areas it hits.
Negatively charged toner is then released on to the surface of the drum. This is attracted to the discharged areas drawn by the laser and repelled by the negatively charged background. A positively charged sheet of paper is passed over the drum, and the toner is transferred. This process occurs on all four drums – for cyan, magenta, yellow and black – to make up the final colour image. Finally, the paper is heated by a fuser, which melts the toner to the page.
A laser printer used to be the only option for fast, high-quality document printing, but in the last few years, office-focused inkjets have started running them close for speed and quality. Despite popular belief, inkjets are often cheaper to run than their laser equivalents, too. But inkjets can suffer from blocked nozzles if you don’t use them often and flushing them out wastes ink: if you tend to go weeks without printing, you’re still better off with a laser printer.
If you plan to do lots of printing, opt for a device with a high duty cycle figure. This represents a one-time maximum number of prints a device can produce if you really push it, rather than the number of pages it can print regularly, so always pick a printer with a duty cycle that exceeds your requirements. Some manufacturers also quote a recommended duty cycle figure, which is useful to know if you’ll be putting your printer to heavy use and don’t want to wear it out quickly.
Does high print resolution mean better quality?
In general, the higher the resolution, the sharper the print, but other factors influence the final result. With inkjet printers, a smaller droplet size helps avoid grain – tiny dots of colour that might otherwise be visible in lighter areas of a graphic or photo. Some photo inkjets use extra colours to reduce grain further or to improve neutral shades or the colour range (gamut) in photos. Inkjets are quite sensitive to paper quality – you’ll get better documents if you avoid lightweight papers and dramatically better photos on coated photo paper.
With laser printers, it’s more typically true that high resolution (1,200dpi or more) looks better. You’re most likely to notice it as improved graphics and smoother outlines to text – the latter can look jagged at the 600dpi resolution typical of entry-level models, but only if you have very sharp eyes. Note that a laser’s quoted resolution may be the product of interpolation, rather than the print engine’s native or “true” resolution. An interpolated resolution of, say, 1,200dpi is likely to look better than a 600dpi print, but not as good as a true 1,200dpi print.
In practice, you can’t always predict print quality from a printer’s specifications. Our reviews tell you how good a printer’s output is across a range of tests, and highlight the kind of strengths and weaknesses you can only spot from hands-on comparisons.
Do I need an MFP?
MFPs have several advantages over a separate printer and scanner. They’re great if you’re short of space, and you can use them to make photocopies without your PC. You can usually scan and copy directly from the MFP’s control panel, although these interfaces vary in how easy they are to use. Our reviews tell you what a printer’s built-in control panel is like to use for basic tasks. If we don’t mention it, it’s fine.
The scanners in office-orientated MFPs can be disappointing – they’re usually fine for archiving paperwork at low resolution, but they won’t necessarily be ideal for creating a permanent digital copy of your favourite slides or photos. The scanners in home-focused devices usually do a little better, but there are good and bad examples of each.
If you’re likely to scan, fax or copy multi-page documents, look for an automatic document feeder (ADF), which will help you do it automatically. If you’re doing a lot of office work, a duplexing ADF will help if you work with double-sided originals. The best MFP scanners will do a great job of capturing old photos, but if you want to scan slides or negatives, you’ll need a dedicated scanner.
How do print speeds vary?
Print speeds vary greatly between models. Very generally, inkjets are quicker to start printing, whereas lasers are faster once they get going. We test how many pages per minute (ppm) a device reaches when printing a 25-page text document, as well as a complicated 24-page colour document that contains a mix of text and graphics. We also measure how long each printer takes to produce a page from sleep. On shorter jobs, a fast warm-up is more important than the quoted speed.
How do I connect my printer?
Almost all printers and MFPs can work over a USB connection to a single PC, but these days most can also connect to your wireless network. Office printers may have a wired Ethernet port. Whatever the method, a network connection lets you share a printer among multiple PCs or other devices in your home or office. Almost all network-capable printers now support direct printing from iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android devices, or indirect printing via cloud services such as Google Cloud Print. Some printers additionally use NFC technology to help you connect a smart device – it’s most useful for visitors to an office environment who may not have access to the core network.
Some printers and MFPs have additional ports, such as a front USB slot for printing from or scanning to an inserted USB stick. Home devices with a creative bias may have a memory card slot for direct photo prints – it’s a handy feature, but you’ll get more control printing from a PC.
Print and scanning software makes a big difference to what a printer or MFP is like to use.
What about ink and toner cartridges?
Inkjet printers typically need frequent ink cartridges, and they may need an occasional waste ink box replacement – or possibly a new print head. Laser printers can be similarly straightforward, but the most complex models can use up to ten or more consumables.
The simplest lasers use one (mono) or four (colour) toner cartridges with an integrated OPC drum. These make the printer easy to maintain, but they can result in high print costs. The absence of other user-serviceable parts can also limit your printer’s lifespan. Other laser printers have separate OPC drums, waste toner bottles and even fuser units, which can produce a lot of hidden costs even if the toner cartridges are cheap.
The prices and lifespans of these parts vary widely, but if you do enough printing, they’ll all have to be replaced. We always include every relevant consumable when working out print costs. To calculate the cost per page, we find the best price for each printer’s best-value toner or ink cartridge and divide it by the rated number of pages.
If you have more questions, feel free to contact ABLE Home & Office near you.
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