Brian Westover, senior editor at Tom’s Guide, which provides online reviews of tech products. TomsGuide.com
One home printer isn’t a carbon copy of the next. Some excel at printing photos…others text. Some offer scanning and copying…others just printing. And cost per page varies dramatically from printer to printer, which often is the most important reason to choose one over another.
There are two basic home printer technologies—inkjet printers apply fast-drying liquid ink to the page…laser printers use a complex system involving static electric charge from a small laser, bonding powder—instead of ink—to paper. Laser printers tend to cost more up-front than inkjet printers, and many can’t print in color, but they generally produce extremely crisp text, their per-page printing costs usually are modest and they tend to be quite durable. On the other hand, a well-chosen inkjet printer can cost less up-front than the typical
laser printer and deliver high-quality color images—but with many inkjet printers, ink costs are steep, and if you don’t print frequently, the ink can dry up.
Best all-around color inkjet printer: Canon Pixma TS9120 offers excellent print quality with photos and text. It uses six separate ink cartridges—which produce subtle, realistic colors. The scanner/copier quality and speed are impressive, and the intuitive five-inch color touchscreen makes it especially easy to operate. Printing costs are relatively high, however. Recent price: $186. Printing costs: 7.8 cents per page black and white, 19.8 cents color.*
Best low-cost color inkjet printer: Brother INKvestment Tank MFC-J995DW has extremely low ink costs—printing doesn’t just cost less than other inkjets…it costs less than most laser printers. Those savings result from large, long-lasting ink cartridges—its standard black ink cartridge can print 3,000 pages, for example, compared with just 200 for cartridges used by many printers. Also, its print quality and speed are very good with both photos and text, and it offers fast scanning and copying. Recent price: $199.99. Printing costs: 1.2 cents per page black and white, 5.8 cents color.
Best all-around black-and-white laser printer: Brother MFC-L2750DW delivers extremely crisp black-and-white text and images for a very reasonable price. It works fast, whether printing, scanning or copying, and it’s designed to stand up to years of small-office use. Recent price: $249.98. Printing costs: 2.7 cents per page.
Best low-cost black-and-white laser printer: Brother HL-L2390DW is durable and has a lower price tag than many inkjets. It produces sharp black-and-white text and images, and it copies and scans as well. Recent price: $149.98. Printing costs: 3.7 cents per page.
* All printing costs are based on Tom’s Guide tests using standard-size ink or toner cartridges.