We test 30 standard printers priced from under $100 to over $1000, including inkjet, and colour and mono laser models to help you decide what's best for your budget and needs.
The machines in this test don't scan or copy. For those tasks you'll need a multifunction printer – see our latest multifunction printer review.
Here we'll help you:
- decide which standard printer you should buy
- check how the top brands compare on printing speed and quality
- estimate your running costs.
Half of the printers on test cost less than $250, but don't let that fool you: the purchase price is a small proportion of the cost of ownership. Printer ink for inkjet printers is one of the most expensive fluids on earth, and the toner used by laser printers is expensive too. That's why we look at the total cost over three years.
We also include an assessment of the ink used by inkjet printers in their cleaning cycle - the results may surprise you.
Modern printers are sophisticated pieces of technology and they can produce impressive results, but that comes at a cost. When not in use, inkjet printers can accumulate air in the ink cartridges and dried ink or dust on the print heads, so if they've not been used for a while they perform a cleaning cycle before printing which itself uses ink. For most of the inkjets in this report (except those we tested before we introduced this test) we've measured this extra ink used in cleaning cycles over a three-week period of low use.
Laser printers don't have a corresponding cleaning cycle and our measurements show no significant increase in the amount of toner used when the printer is used infrequently. But there may be other costs associated with lasers that we haven't included in the three-year calculation.
Brands and models tested
An inkjet is your best choice for printing good-quality pictures. They can produce good quality text and graphics as well, but if you're printing a lot of plain text without colour, a mono laser is a much cheaper option.
If you need colour a laser is a faster option than an inkjet, but both inkjets and colour lasers can be expensive to run.
Mono lasers tend to cost less over time and can produce good-quality prints, as long as you don't need colour.
Looking for advice on what to look for in a printer, or how to get the best out of the one you have? Try our new buying guides
and expert tips here