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From the very beginning of Wirecutter’s existence, we’ve been testing printers. In total, we’ve spent nearly 500 hours researching hundreds of inkjet and laser printers, and testing dozens of them. The reliable, simple-to-operate HP Color LaserJet Pro M479fdw, an all-in-one color laserjet, is a good choice for most people who need to print regularly at home. It delivers high-quality prints from any device you use, can scan and copy, and is just better designed ergonomically than the competition. We’ve also got recommendations for the best, least frustrating printers you can buy, whether you print every now and then or every day, run a home business, need to print projects for school-age kids, or even if you’re a photographer who wants to print high-quality images at home.
The best all-round home printer: LaserJet all-in-one
Who this is for: Families – particularly those with school-age kids – or anyone who needs a machine that can reliably do it all.
Why we like it: The HP Color LaserJet Pro M479fdw is expensive, but it offers all the same productivity features as our favourite inkjet model. It’s fast and reliable, and whether you’re printing in colour or black and white, the M479fdw produces beautiful documents. In our testing, it cranked out a single-sided Word document at around 24.1 pages per minute, and only slowed to 21.8 ppm with duplex docs. Single-sided scan jobs flew by at 19.5 ppm, more than 6 ppm faster than any other printer we tested, while duplex jobs clocked 16.7 ppm per sheet (which works out to 32.5 ppm per page).
It also produced the sharpest text at small font sizes of any inkjet we tried. If you’re printing a lot of legal documents, this is important. Graphics are also crisper – if a touch less saturated – than what you’d get out of a printer like the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015. The M479fdw spools up faster than most inkjets, and its recommended duty cycle of 4,000 pages per month – nearly triple the OfficeJet Pro 9015’s 1,500 pages – should be plenty for even the busiest home office, and could satisfy many small businesses with multiple employees.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The M479fdw is more secure than other printers we tested, inkjet and laser alike. It features secure boot, firmware integrity, and runtime code integrity to ensure that the printer is drastically less likely to be hijacked by bad actors. (It sounds absurd, but it has happened.) It also allows for PIN-encrypted print jobs, so you can make sure no one else is intercepting your documents. There’s also role-based access control for multi-user environments, so you can choose who can access which printer features. If your work involves sensitive material, these are legitimately helpful additions – and ones you can’t get from other manufacturers.
Dimensions: 19.57 by 23.5 by 19.29 inches
Weight: 51.59 pounds
Pages per minute: 28
A home office powerhouse: Colour laser printer
Who this is for: Home- and small-business owners, or people who simply don’t want to deal with the clogs that can plague inkjets.
Why we like it: The HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw is our pick for the best laser printer because it’s easy to use, produces brilliant results, and enjoys laser printing technology’s superior reliability. No matter how long you leave it sitting unused, you can turn it on and it’ll start printing more or less right away – and without wasting any toner on cleaning cycles. Though it’s more expensive than a comparable monochrome laser printer, it’s also far more flexible. In addition to crisp text, it produces vivid colour graphics and can even turn out respectable photos (just not on photo paper). Print speeds are quick, and per-page costs are reasonable. This model’s smartphone-style colour touchscreen makes changing settings simple, and HP’s PC and mobile software is the best in the business. Unlike most other printers, the M254dw can connect to 5 GHz wireless, which should speed up big print jobs and helps ensure that the printer won’t lose connection over time.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The M254dw can take a minute or two to get going for very large print jobs. We saw this issue only once during testing, but several owners have reported it in reviews. Because this printer comes with a skimpy set of “starter” toner that’s good for only 800 black-and-white and 700 colour pages, you’ll probably need to buy replacements within a year or so of purchase. Getting cartridges with the highest possible capacity makes the best financial sense. Thanks to all that toner, this printer is big (long, in particular) and heavy; make sure you have a space that can accommodate it. And, of course, the M254dw is just a printer – it doesn’t include copy, scan, or fax capability.
Dimensions: 15.4 by 18.7 by 11.7 inches
Weight: 32.6 pounds
Pages per minute (stated, monochrome/color): 22/22
Cheaper and reliable: Monochrome laser printer
Who this is for: People who don’t need a printer on a daily basis, but still appreciate having one for the few times a year when they need to print.
Why we like it: The Brother HL-L2350DW is simple, fast, dependable, easy to set up, and affordable to operate. And because it’s a laser printer, it can sit for weeks or months between print jobs and start up again without trouble. But although it’s a cheaper model, it’s not short on features. For the asking price, you get automatic duplex printing capability, a large 250-sheet paper tray, reliable Wi-Fi connectivity, and the option to use high-yield toner cartridges – which means you don’t have to buy them very often. This printer works with Windows, MacOS, Linux, ChromeOS, iOS and Android. As for print quality, in our testing to choose the best laser printer, we found that this model is more than good enough for any text-based document, but it might need a few settings tweaks to produce a graphics-heavy document you’d want to hand out to other people. It’s also extremely compact, which means it can fit in tight spaces (like a bookcase shelf) where other printers can’t go.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: It’s a little flimsy and the packaging isn’t great, so if you buy one, be sure to check for any plastic parts that might have gotten bumped out of place in transit. We don’t recommend printing via Brother’s iPrint&Scan software, because it results in excessive, detail-destroying contrast. And if you use a Chromebook, you should be aware that the printer’s default settings might prevent it from working with Google Cloud Print; to get it working, you need to disable IPv6 in the Networking section of the printer’s Web control panel.
Dimensions: 14.0 by 7.2 by 14.2 inches
Weight: 15.9 pounds
Pages per minute (stated): 32
Gallery-worthy prints at home: Photo printer
Who this is for: Serious photographers, or those who aspire to be.
Why we like it: The Epson SureColor P600 is capable of delivering gallery-quality prints up to 13 inches wide, and can print panoramas up to 10 feet long. It can also print on a huge variety of media, including metal and CDs. Though its colour photos caught our eye while testing for the best photo printer, we especially loved the black-and-white output; it’s as close as you can get to traditional darkroom prints at home. Those prints will last you a long time, too: the P600’s UltraChrome HD pigment ink is one of the longest-lasting consumer inks. The touchscreen interface is a cut above what you’d get from most rivals. Ink costs are reasonable, and you can get extra-large-capacity tanks, so you’ll need to fill up less often. In addition to Wi-Fi, this printer has USB and Ethernet connections for faster printing.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: As with most photo printers, print speeds are glacial – a standard 8-by-10-inch photo takes more than 3 minutes to print, and that time balloons to almost 6 minutes over Wi-Fi. This printer wastes ink when switching between matte and photo black inks (about 3 mL each time), because they share the same ink line to the print head. And if you use paper other than Epson’s own, you’ll have to seek out the appropriate media settings and ICC colour profiles; frustratingly, Epson doesn’t include them.
Dimensions: 24.2 by 32 by 16.7 inches
Weight: 33.07 pounds