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Inkjet and laser printers to avoid

These printers were the lowest scorers in our lab tests. 

printer printing out sad face
Last updated: 29 April 2022

Need to know

  • Our experts tested more than 80 inkjet and laser printers from brands like Canon, Epson, Brother, HP and more
  • We assess printers for print quality, printing speed, ease of use, power consumption and yearly ink/toner costs
  • Become a CHOICE member to read our full reviews and test results

With so many models, features and costs to consider, buying a printer can be confusing. Plus, it's not as if you can try before you buy instore – if only you could rock up and print your holiday photos or kids' homework for a test run!

That's why we've tested printers for years – so you know what you're getting before you buy. Our lab experts have reviewed 80-plus popular models, assessing key factors including print quality, speed, scanning and copying, yearly ink/toner costs, power consumption and ease of use.

Scott Okeefe testing Printers

Fresh prints: we test 80-plus printer models.

In the process, we've uncovered some impressive printers (spoiler alert: they're not always expensive) alongside some seriously average performers. 

So you don't end up with a dud, we reveal some of the lowest rated models and share expert shopping tips so you can finally find your Prints Charming.

Inkjet printers to avoid

1. Epson Expression Home XP-2100

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 59%
  • Price: $79
  • Yearly ink/toner cost*: $512

It may take just 17 seconds from flicking the switch to busting out a print, but sadly that's where this printer's speed ends: it prints slowly and poorly. Our experts rated it just 54% for printing speed and 61% for print quality.

While it may be a decidedly underwhelming printer, it's also disappointing as a copier (scoring just 48%) and as a scanner (scoring 62%). 

Don't write off the entire brand – it's just that this one really lets the team down

Unfortunately, this is a model that expects more inputs than it outputs. The main tray holds fewer than 100 sheets of paper, so you'll be constantly topping it up. And it'll cost you an arm and a leg for ink and toner: $512 a year, to be precise. 

Plus, it wastes quite a bit of ink for its cleaning cycle, which is bad news for your pocket and the environment as you'll burn through cartridges quickly. That's a lot for a $79 printer, and especially for one that creates such ordinary prints. 

Epson does produce other models that perform well, so don't write off the entire brand – it's just that this one really lets the team down. 

Read our full Epson Expression Home XP-2100 review.

*Yearly ink/toner cost is based on 1000 mono prints, 250 colour document prints, and 250 full-colour photo prints over the course of a year.

Equal second-last place

These printers both received the same low score. While they may differ in their strengths and weaknesses, they have one thing in common: mediocrity. With an overall CHOICE Expert Rating of 60%, these printers were all just one percentage point higher than the worst performer in our tests. We suggest you avoid them equally. 

canon pixma ts3160

This Canon takes 54 seconds to start up... and then prints poorly.

Canon Pixma TS3160

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
  • Price: $59
  • Yearly ink/toner cost: $309

Highlighting the cheap printer trap, this Canon will cost you $59 – and then five times that in ink for a year of use. That said, $309 is actually a low amount compared with thirstier models out there, but it can still be a nasty surprise.

As the second-lowest scoring printer overall in our test, this model's chief sins are dismal print quality (it scored 43%) and pretty ordinary copying (55%). 

Highlighting the cheap printer trap, this Canon will cost you $59 – and then five times that in ink for a year of use

It does have some saving graces – it scores well for print speed and scanning – but it's undone by woeful ink wastage.

It also takes a finger-drumming 54 seconds to start printing from being switched on, so you'll be left like Cinderella at Officeworks, bemoaning "some day my prints will come". 

Read our full Canon Pixma TS3160 review.

hp deskjet 4122e

This HP will truly drink your ink.

HP DeskJet 4122e

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
  • Price: $87
  • Yearly ink/toner cost: $856

Yes, you read that correctly: this HP costs nearly ten times as much a year in ink and toner as it does to buy off the shelf. We thought the Canon Pixma above was bad, but then this HP arrived at the party and said "hold my drink". (Or should that be "hold my ink"?)

If you're thinking of buying this printer to save money on photo printing, don't: it'll cost you $1.74 per print. And over three years, you'll be out of pocket a grand total of $2655, thanks to the purchase price and ink and toner costs. 

Not to mention that it'll need constant attention – its main tray holds fewer than 100 sheets, and it'll only print 115 pages of text before you need to replace the cartridges. (Other printers will deliver 300-plus pages, with some into the thousands.) 

Unfortunately millions of printer cartridges are thrown away each year, so not only will you be putting your hand in your pocket more often if you buy this HP printer, you'll also be putting more waste into landfill if you don't recycle them. 

It's not great at basically all the things you buy a multifunction printer for

It scored poorly in almost every single test we ran: 29% for ink wastage, 43% for printing speed, 46% for copying... things do get slightly better for ease of use, scanning and printing quality, but the picture still isn't looking good. 

It did perform well when we analysed its networking capabilities and power consumption, but it's not great at basically all the things you buy a multifunction printer for. 

Want to know more? Read the full HP DeskJet 4122e review

Equal-third (last)

These printers tied for third-last place, with a CHOICE Expert Rating of just 61%:

  • HP OfficeJet 8012e ($189)
  • Epson Workforce WF-2810 ($99)

Ranking equal third-lowest, these models show that price doesn't necessarily correlate to performance – from cheapest to expensive, they're all disappointing.

The HP OfficeJet 8012e takes an agonising 75 seconds to warm up before it's ready to print. And if it's out of black ink, you're out of luck – it won't print. Fortunately, it's cheaper for printing photos than some models, but it wastes a lot of ink, so you'll lose out there. 

If it's out of black ink, you're out of luck – it won't print

The Epson Workforce WF-2810 has its own set of issues, including poor copying, poor print speed and even more ink wastage. 

So there you have it: different brands, different price points, different issues, but one thing in common – ordinary performance overall. 

Read the full results:

Laser printers to avoid

1. Lexmark MC3426i

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
  • Price: $699
  • Yearly ink/toner cost: $639*

The review of the Lexmark MC3426i laser printer is a tale of highs and lows – it's quite the read. 

The highs: super-fast printing, excellent networking capability, pretty good scanning. The lows: abysmal print quality (scoring just 43%), underwhelming copying capabilities, a yawn-worthy 95 seconds from power on to printing, high yearly ink/toner costs, and only rated OK for ease of use. 

The two top performers in our laser printer tests cost far less than this Lexmark

So basically, you'll wait an age for this to get started, then be amazed by how quickly it churns out your prints, and then appalled again by how rubbish the prints are. Oh, and then appalled again when you have to pay the bills. 

The two top performers in our laser printer tests both cost far less than this Lexmark, so do yourself a favour and check our printer reviews before you buy. 

Read the full Lexmark MC3426i review

*Yearly ink/toner cost is based on 1000 mono prints, 250 colour document prints, and 250 full-colour photo prints over the course of a year.

brother hl l2300d

Oh Brother! This ordinary unit scored just 50% for print quality.

Equal 2. Brother HL-L2300D

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 62%
  • Price: $149
  • Yearly ink/toner cost: $109

If you're looking for a mono-colour unit, skip this basic Brother. On the upside, it's easy to use, fast to start up (14 seconds) and quick to print (scoring 96% for speed). 

Which all sounds sweet until you see the poor print quality, which rated a lowly 50%. It also uses an awful lot of power when printing and doesn't feature scanning or copying functions.

Interestingly, Brother makes a bevy of mono laser models around the same price that perform far better than this one. Check out our reviews and buy one of those instead of this clanger. Read our full review of the Brother HL-L2300D.

Equal 2. HP Colour LaserJet Pro M283fdw

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 62% 
  • Price: $499 
  • Yearly ink/toner cost: $489

This colour multifunction printer may churn the prints out quickly, but the quality of the prints leaves a lot to be desired – it scored just 47% for print quality. It's pretty good at scanning, but not great at photocopying.

That speedy printing certainly comes at a cost, too: it has very high relative toner costs and poor power consumption. Read our full HP Colour LaserJet Pro M283fdw review.

Equal 2. HP Laserjet Pro MFP M428fdw

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 62%
  • Price: $825
  • Yearly ink/toner cost: $80

This mono multifunction model (try saying that three times quickly) proves it's not just the cheapies that let you down. 

Despite its $825 price tag, it scored the second-lowest for print quality (44%) of the laser models in our test. It's also average at copying (51%) and rated just OK for ease of use (64%). And it'll cost you and the environment with its high power use. 

If you can forgive those big flaws, it does print super quickly and scores well for scanning and networking. Still, our experts found cheaper and far superior models in our test, so it's best to steer clear of this bottom-dweller.

Read our full HP Laserjet Pro MFP M428fdw review.

Which type of printer should you buy?

Before you start shopping around, it's vital to consider how you plan to use your new printer. 

"Printers can be quite specialised these days, from cheaper models aimed at only occasional use, to ink-tank (not cartridge) models designed for high output at low cost per page, plus models designed to print high-quality photos," says Steve Duncombe, CHOICE Computer editor. 

It's important to be realistic about what sort of printing you are likely to do most, and what features are essential for you

Steve Duncombe, CHOICE Computer editor

"Then there are the multifunction printer models that have a wide range of extra features, from scanning and copying to faxing (yes, people still do this!) and more. 

"So it's important to be realistic about what sort of printing you are likely to do most, and what features are essential for you, and do your homework to find the right sort of printer to do that job – which is where our printer buying guide comes in."

timing prints to check printer speed closeup

Need for speed: Our lab test measures how quickly a printer can print.

7 tips to save money on ink and toner

Don't just look at the upfront cost of a printer before you buy, our experts warn. 

"Ink is usually a bigger component of total cost than the printer itself," says tech content producer Ben Bridges

Ben shares seven hot tips to avoid spending too much on printer ink:

1. Remember that inkjet cleaning cycles use more ink

Inkjets have to keep the jets clear, which they do with a cleaning cycle if the printer hasn't been used recently, or has been switched off. This uses up ink, which adds to the cost of ownership. Laser printers don't have to do this.

2. Don't assume it's cheaper to buy a new printer

People sometimes look at the price of the printer and the price of ink – and think it's cheaper to buy a new printer. It generally isn't: new printers nearly always come with a reduced supply of ink, so you won't be getting the full complement. 

And of course there's the environmental impact of replacing an entire printer, rather than just buying a new ink cartridge. 

3. Check whether you can use compatible inks

Some printers prevent you from using 'compatible' inks that are generally much cheaper than the manufacturer's ones. They're now obliged to include a statement on the box that they don't work with compatible inks – you might want to avoid these printers.

4. Consider a 'bottle' printer

On a positive note, there are now plenty of 'bottle' printers that let you refill their cartridges from bottles. They're much cheaper to run, but more expensive to buy – another trade-off. 

5. Avoid single 'colour' cartridges

There are a few printers with a single 'colour' cartridge, so when one colour runs out, you have to replace the whole cartridge. These printers are best avoided. 

6. Beware false predictions about remaining toner

An inkjet printer can tell exactly how much ink is left in an inkjet cartridge (by shining a light through it). But lasers have no real way of measuring the toner left. So they just count the pages printed and tell you you're running out when the number comes up. In actual fact, you may not be.

7. Don't let your photos fade away

If you want to print photos, you really need special photo ink. Magenta and cyan both fade in the light, so if you stick your photos to the front of the fridge, for example, they'll eventually turn yellow. 

Our laser and inkjet printer reviews let you see how much a printer will cost you in toner and ink each year, plus how much ink they use for cleaning – and much more. 

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.