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? When similar-looking printers cost anywhere between £30 and £300, 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 round-up 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 printer 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
Printers are once again in exceptionally high demand, and stock is starting to fly off the virtual shelves. To make things easier for you, we’ve picked out all of the in-stock printers on our main roundup in a quick list below and added some other highly rated in-stock printers as well.
Be aware that the following printers are experiencing price inflation that matches the scarcity of the product – we’d recommend waiting until stock replenishes if you can. We’ll be updating this list regularly.
- Epson EcoTank ET-M3180: The best mono office MFP | Buy now (our pick)
- Xerox VersaLink C400DN: The best colour office printer | Buy now (our pick)
- HP OfficeJet Pro 8024: An all-in-one wireless inkjet colour printer | Buy now
- HP Envy Photo 6230: A wireless colour photo printer | Buy now
READ NEXT: The best printer deals this month
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.
READ NEXT: Our pick of the best printer deals
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. We explain the strengths and weaknesses of scanners, and their software, in our reviews.
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. We test each device on a PC and at least one mobile platform (Android, iOS), and we’ll mention any connectivity or usability issues.
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 it’s unlikely that you’ll need to replace, say, a fuser unit rated at 100,000 pages, we’ll mention this in the review.
READ NEXT: Best PCs you can buy
The best printers to buy
1. Canon Pixma TS205: The best budget printer
Price: £53 | Buy now from Amazon
The Pixma TS205 is one of the cheapest printers you can buy, and when you look at what it’s missing – no Wi-Fi, no scanner, no cloud or smartphone-friendly features – it’s really not hard to see why. All you get is a compact inkjet printer that connects via USB, printing black text pages at a slow-ish 7.5ppm, and pages with colour graphics at a painful 1.6ppm. To make things worse, it’s noisy while doing so.
However, that doesn’t mean the TS205 doesn’t have its plus points. It works perfectly well for basic, low-volume home printing and ink costs are lower than for some more expensive printers. Most importantly, print quality is surprisingly good, with bold, punchy graphics, crisp black text and even decent-looking photos – despite a slightly warm colour bias. It’s both capable and cheap as chips.
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 4,800 x 1,200dpi; Scan specifications: N/A; Recommended monthly duty cycle: N/S; Dimensions (HWD): 255 x 426 x 131mm; Weight: 2.5kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
£48.59 Buy now
2. Epson Expression Premium XP-6105: The best printer under £150
Price: £125 | Buy now from Amazon
There are some great mid-range all-in-ones around but it’s the Epson Expression Premium XP-6105 that earns our recommendation. This is the white version of the Epson Expression Premium XP-6100 but is otherwise identical, with the same great combination of features, print quality and performance. However, you can currently pick it up for a little bit cheaper than the XP-6100, if you don’t mind its pale colour scheme.
It’s compact but still packs a 100-sheet A4 paper tray and a separate tray for photo media, while its five-colour pigment ink system produces strong, black text, great-looking photos and even high-quality colour copies.
Speeds are equally impressive, with black text prints arriving at a rate of 15.6ppm and colour graphics prints at 4.4ppm. Ink costs are higher than we’d like, and the scan interface could be more user friendly, but if you want a good colour printer that won’t break the bank, you won’t do better than this one.
Read our full Epson Expression Premium XP-6100 review for more details
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 5,760 x 1,440dpi; Scan specifications: 1,200 x 4,800dpi (24-bit); Recommended monthly duty cycle: N/S; Dimensions (HWD): 142 x 349 x 340mm; Weight: 6.6kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
Epson Expression Premium XP-6105 Print/Scan/Copy Wi-Fi Printer, White, Amazon Dash Replenishment Ready
£123.95 Buy now
3. HP OfficeJet Pro 8022: The best office MFP under £150
Price: £119 | Buy now from Amazon
The HP OfficeJet Pro 8022 is an inkjet multifunction printer that’s ready to tear down the established mindset that inkjets are for homes and laser printers are better for offices. It can print and scan at resolutions of up to 1,200 x 1,200dpi and it’s fast, too, printing at up to 17.4 pages per minute. It also has a generous 225-sheet paper tray and a 35-sheet automatic document feeder for making copies of multi-page documents and is well set up to be shared between colleagues, as it can hook up to an Ethernet network, alongside the normal Wi-Fi and USB options.
Mono prints cost 2.6p per page, rising to 5.5p when printing in colour, which is good for an inkjet. Prints are good quality, too, with dark, crisp mono text and decent quality colour. It’s not brilliant at photo printing but does a fair job of printing colour business documents such as presentations.
Best of all, HP has built this printer to withstand the rigours of pretty much any print load you can sensibly throw at it with a quoted duty cycle of up to 20,000 pages per month. It’s a printer that ought to be more able to handle the workload of even the busiest small office.
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 1,200 x 1,200dpi; Scan specifications: 1,200 x 1,200dpi (24-bit); Recommended monthly duty cycle: 20,000 pages per month; Dimensions (HWD): 233 x 511 x 460mm; Weight: 8.2kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
HP OfficeJet Pro 8022 All-in-One Wireless Printer, Instant Ink Ready with 2 Months Trial Included, Print, Scan, Copy from Your Phone and Voice activated (Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant)
£115.45 Buy now
3. Canon Pixma TS8350: The best all-round A4 inkjet printer for documents and photos
Price: £120 | Buy now from Amazon
Canon’s high-end Pixma printer is the versatile home printer to beat, not only because it’s a surprisingly stylish MFP, but because both its speeds and print quality are so good. It’ll reach speeds of over 15ppm in black-and-white and over 5ppm in colour, and output 10 x 8in photo prints in under 30 seconds. It’s just as speedy with its scanning and copying functions too.
Meanwhile, print quality is excellent across the board, with text that wouldn’t disgrace an office laser printer and some of the best quality photo prints we’ve seen outside a specialist photo printer. Business graphics can be dark, with the ink saturating the paper, but nothing too disastrous, while printed illustrations look fantastic. With rock-solid wireless connectivity and a practical approach to paper handling, the only problem here is high running costs, but if you’re not printing large amounts of colour documents and photos, this is one of the best printers around.
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 4,800 x 1,200dpi; Scan specifications: 2,400 x 4,800dpi (24-bit); Recommended monthly duty cycle: N/S; Dimensions (HWD): 141 x 373 x 319mm; Weight: 6.6kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
£119.99 Buy now
4. Epson EcoTank ET-2750: The best MFP for low running costs
Price: £260 | Buy now from Amazon
There’s a bewildering array of ink tank printers available, with subtle differences in the features they have making choosing a particular model tricky. So let us help you out: the Epson EcoTank ET-2750 is a great balance, with all the benefits of an MFP, along with the long-term cost saving and hassle elimination you get with a tank-based printer.
Although it looks expensive to buy, it comes with enough ink to print 15,000 mono and 6,000 colour pages for each of its three colour inks. When they eventually run out, you purchase more ink in bottles and pour it into the tanks. It’s vastly more cost efficient than cartridges, with mono prints costing just 0.2p per page and colour costing 0.4p per page. There’s a convenience factor here, too, as you rarely have to think about ordering and replacing consumables.
Printing isn’t as high quality as you’ll get from the best cartridge-based inkjet printers, but the ET-2750’s photos and documents remain impressive, particularly if you take into account how affordable they are.
Read the full Epson Ecotank ET-2750 review for more details
Key specs – Technology: Piezo inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 5,760 x 1,440dpi; Scan specifications: 1,200 x 2,400dpi; Recommended monthly duty cycle: N/S; Dimensions (HWD): 187 x 375 x 347mm; Weight: 5.5kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
£259.99 Buy now
5. Canon Pixma G5050: The best printer for low running costs
Price: £347 | Buy now from Amazon
The Pixma G5050 is a refillable inkjet printer that compensates for its relatively high price with exceptionally low running costs. Buy it, print 7,200 full-colour pages and you’ll have paid just 2.7p per page – there will still be around 10,000 pages’ worth of black ink left too. When you have to buy more ink, it works out at just 0.4p per full-colour page.
In terms of performance, the G5050 excels at producing crisp graphics, and rich blacks when printing text. We even found that it could handle the odd photo print, although we’d suggest looking elsewhere if that sort of thing is a priority. If you can overlook the odd quirk – the non-touch mono LCD and rather archaic print heads spring to mind – and the lack of a built-in scanner, the G5050 is a fantastic choice for anyone printing on a regular basis.
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 4,800 x 1,200dpi; Scan specifications: N/A; Recommended monthly duty cycle: N/S; Dimensions (HWD): 403 x 369 x 166mm; Weight: 6.5kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
£342.05 Buy now
6. Epson Expression Photo XP-8600: The best A4 photo printer
Price: £139 | Buy now from Amazon
Sitting at the top of Epson’s A4 photo printer line, the XP-8600 is one of the few photo printers that also functions as a great all-rounder, producing good-quality black-and-white text prints at 11ppm and high-quality graphics with accurate colours at speeds of nearly 6ppm. It’ll also scan and copy with the best.
Yet what really matters is what its six-colour, 5,660 x 1,400 dpi print engine can do with photo prints – and the results are pretty spectacular. There’s richer tone and more detail than with your average inkjet printer, with smooth graduations and vibrant but never over-saturated colours. Ink costs are high – though not astronomical – and it’s no speed demon, but when photo prints are your priority, this is the mid-range MFP that you want to buy.
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 5,660 x 1,440dpi; Scan specifications: 1,200 x 4,800dpi (24-bit); Recommended monthly duty cycle: N/S; Dimensions (HWD): 142 x 349 x 340mm; Weight: 6.7kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
£119.99 Buy now
7. HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw: The best home office colour laser printer
Price: £368 | Buy now from Amazon
For those looking for a smaller colour laser printer, suitable for a small or home office, there’s the HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a printer designed for a large-scale office but it doesn’t scrimp on the essentials.
With a 250-sheet paper tray and an output tray that holds up to 100 sheets, it doesn’t need constant attention and, should you need to take control, all its functions can be accessed through a 2.7in smooth-scrolling colour touchscreen.
Its black and white prints are excellent with sharp, crisp text that can take close examination. These prints cost 2.6p each and are churned out at a rapid 17 pages per minute. However, colour prints are slower to produce, at 9.3 pages per minute, pricey at 13.5p each and quality is okay rather than amazing. If you’re expecting to print lots of photos rather than the occasional bit of spot colour or report-style graphics and charts, consider an inkjet instead.
Read our full HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw review for more details
Key specs – Technology: Laser; Maximum print resolution: 600 x 600dpi; Scan specifications: N/A; Recommended monthly duty cycle: 40,000 pages per month; Dimensions (HWD): 297 x 392 x 297mm; Weight: 14.8kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
£303.60 Buy now
8. Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000: The best A3 photo printer
Price: £300 | Check stock at Amazon
If you need to go bigger with your photos than an A4 print, step up to the Expression Photo HD XP-15000. With a six-colour, 5,660 x 1,440dpi print system and Claria Photo HD prints, it’ll print sensationally sharp and detailed photos with perfect skin tones and precise shade control, along with high-contrast monochrome stills. Black text and colour graphics lack the punch you’d get from the best office printers, but none of them are going to give you such great photo prints – and particularly not at A3+ sizes.
Needless to say, it’s not especially quick, though photo printing speeds remain competitive, and costs are as high as you’d expect from a specialist photo printer. You also have to live without scan or copy features. Still, to get a printer this compact and this inexpensive that delivers such high-quality results is quite extraordinary. Keen photographers need look no further.
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 5,660 x 1,440dpi; Scan specifications: N/A; Recommended monthly duty cycle: N/S; Dimensions (HWD): 159 x 479 x 370mm; Weight: 8.5kg; Maximum paper size: A3+
9. HP Tango X: The best photo printer for phones and tablets
Price: £179 | Buy now from Currys PC World
The Tango X is a reinvention of the home printer, designed to work not just with PCs, but with mobile devices. You can set it up from your phone using HP’s excellent HP Smart app, and it works brilliantly for printing snaps directly from a smartphone. Use photo paper, and you’ll get high-quality results which look as good as professional prints from sites like PhotoBox, and the Tango X also does well with black text and colour graphics.
It’s a little slow – real-world speeds are around three to four pages per minute – and you’re dependent on a Wi-Fi connection, which seems a little fussy about where the printer sits. Still, the other big selling point around the Tango X is that it’s a better fit than your average printer for a modern home, not just because it’s quiet and very compact, but because HP supplies it with a textured, wraparound cover that keeps the printer camouflaged when not in use. It’s not perfect, but the Tango X feels like a printer for the future.
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 4,800 x 1,200dpi; Scan specifications: N/A; Recommended monthly duty cycle: Up to 500 pages per month; Dimensions (HWD): 91 x 389 x 246mm; Weight: 3.4kg; Maximum paper size: A4
10. Epson EcoTank ET-M3180: The best mono office MFP
Price: £510 | Buy now from Amazon
While it’s based on inkjet technology, the EcoTank ET-M3180 is a serious alternative to office mono lasers. True, it’s more expensive than some of them, but the two 120ml ink bottles provided will see you through at least 11,000 pages, out of the box, while replacement bottles work out at less than 0.2p per page. If you’re looking to minimise your running costs that’s a major plus.
It doesn’t fall behind the lasers when it comes to speed, either, producing pages of black text from standby in just nine seconds, and hitting speeds of over 20ppm in our tests. It’ll rattle through multipage photocopies, handling 10 pages in just under two-and-a-half minutes, and the output is every bit as good as from the laser-based competition. Throw in lower power consumption and reduced plastic waste and the EcoTank ET-M3180 makes a brilliant office workhorse.
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 2,400 x 1,200dpi; Scan specifications: 2,400 x 1,200dpi; Recommended monthly duty cycle: 1,000 pages per month; Dimensions (HWD): 346 x 375 x 347mm; Weight: 7.3kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
£513.79 Buy now
11. Xerox VersaLink C400DN: The best colour printer for big offices
Price: £308 | Buy now from Amazon
As a home or home office printer, the VersaLink C400DN doesn’t make much sense; it’s too big, too packed with features and too complex to set up and use. As an office printer, though, it’s unbeatable for the money, with built-in Gigabit Ethernet (wireless connectivity is £50 extra), two massive paper feeds and high-speed duplex printing. It also has business-grade security features and apps to connect to the biggest business-friendly cloud services.
It’s fast as well. Black and white pages start appearing after just 14 seconds from standby, with colour pages needing just a second longer, and once it gets going the VersaLink will print at speeds of up to 32.6ppm monochrome or colour. What’s more, the print quality is exemplary, even with tiny text, photos and complex business graphics. Add running costs of 1.3p per page in black and white and 8.6p per page in colour, and you’re looking at one formidable office printer.
Key specs – Technology: Thermal inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 600 x 600dpi; Scan specifications: N/A; Recommended monthly duty cycle: Up to 80,000 pages per month (maximum); Dimensions (HWD): 399 x 491 x 488mm; Weight: 26kg; Maximum paper size: A4/legal
£307.90 Buy now