Your buying guide to the best printers in 2017
Whatever your needs, buying a new printer can be a confusing process. Not only do you have to worry about the upfront cost and whether it can print a good photo, you’ve also got to consider print speeds, ongoing costs and a host of potential additional features.
Here you’ll find not only our recommended printers (with links to our full reviews), but also some advice for what to look for if you’re shopping for a printer.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the printer market moves slowly, and the latest printers aren’t always the best.Printer tech hasn’t evolved much recently, and some of the reviews you’ll find below were written as long ago as 2014. This doesn’t mean you should discount them from your shortlist. Each and every printer here is available to buy in the UK today. We know because we checked.
Also see: Best Printer Deals
There’s no single printer that will suit everyone, so while the list below is ordered it’s best not to worry too much about the number beside it. We’ve mixed together home and business printers, multifunctions, colour and mono. They’re all good.
Printers come in two main forms: inkjet or laser, with colour and mono flavours of each. Lasers tend to be more expensive to buy, but provide better quality output, particularly where lots of text is involved. And they can be faster. Notice we said ‘tend’ – lasers aren’t always best.
As a basic rule, if you need to print only text, and a lot of it, a mono laser printer will offer the crispest text output and the best combination of fast page-per-minute output and low ink costs. If you need to print photos, choose an inkjet printer. A dedicated photo printer with individual cartridges for each colour will suit those who print only photos.
Total cost of ownership
When buying a printer, remember that the price you pay in the store is just the beginning. Be sure to consider the cost of replenishing toner and other consumables over the lifetime of the printer. This is particularly important if you print a lot. A set of toner cartridges can easily approach the cost of a colour laser printer.
Most manufacturers quote a ‘page yield’ estimate for their ink cartridges, which is the typical number of pages you can expect to print before the cartridge runs out of ink. You can use the page yield to calculate the average cost per page and you’d be surprised to find how much this can vary from one printer to another.
Of course, if output quality matters more to you than cost, scoot over to the other end of the cost spectrum where there are more specialised printers that use five or even six inks for printing photographs. Those additional inks can produce excellent results for your photo prints, but they add to the cost, sometimes pushing the cost for photos up to 10p or more per page.
See also: home printing vs online printing
Do I need a multifunction printer?
Most modern printers are multifunction ‘all-in-one’ devices that include a scanner too. This allows you to scan photos and other documents and convert them into digital files that you can store on your computer or share with friends or colleagues. You can also print copies of your scanned documents, allowing the printer to stand in for a photocopier too.
Some models even include a fax machine. If you require a scanner and a photocopier as well as a printer, you’ll save money by buying in all-in-one – but if a standalone printer suits your needs, you may be able to spend less.
Print speed and additional features
Speeds quoted by manufacturers are almost never matched by real-world performance. If you often need to print in a hurry, look for independent reviews when choosing your printer.
Other useful features to look out for include additional USB ports and memory card slots that will allow you to print photos direct from a camera.
High-capacity paper trays capable of holding hundreds of sheets of paper, or an automatic document feeder that can handle scanning and copying work while you go and do something more important, may be worth looking out for.
Double-sided printing is handy for halving your paper usage.
It’s also worth thinking about the bundled software that comes with your printer. Some printers include software that provides basic editing features, such as red-eye removal or adjusting the colour balance – some even allow you to perform simple editing tasks using controls on the printer itself.
We’ve tried to find fault with this printer, but it really has been difficult. Print quality is strong, the design is generally fantastic, and all of the features work exactly how they should. When a laser is this effective and this thoughtfully put together, it seems churlish not to give it our highest accolade.
Read our Samsung Xpress M2835DW review.
It’s not the most elegant printer we’ve ever come across, but its strong performance, low running costs, and that handy option for A3 printing combine to make the MFC-J5330DW a good workhorse printer that will really earn its keep in any small office.
Read our Brother MFC-J5330DW review.
The initial cost of the TS8050 is quite high, but its impressive photo printing will justify that price for people who are serious about photography. We’d avoid the standard size ink cartridges, as they’re not great value for money, but if you buy the high-yield XL cartridges then the TS8050 can provide top-quality photo-printing with very competitive running costs.
Read our Canon Pixma TS8050 review.
It’s not the cheapest mono laser printer currently available, but the speed and versatility of the LaserJet Pro M227fdw make it an excellent choice for smaller offices that need to produce lots of high-quality text documents on a daily basis.
Read our HP LaserJet Pro M227fdw review.
If you only need a printer for occasional use at home then you might be better off opting for one of the many conventional inkjet printers that are now on sale for less than £100. But if you need a reliable workhorse printer for daily use at home or in a small office then the exceptionally low running costs and three-year warranty of the Ecotank ET-2500 ensure that it will save you money in the long run.
Read our Epson Ecotank ET-2500 review.
The strength of the XP-640 is its five-ink printing system, which makes it a good choice for people who want to print high-quality photos on a regular basis.
However, its running costs are a little higher than average, and there are more affordable options if you simply need an inexpensive printer for basic text and graphics documents.
Read our Epson Expression Premium XP-640 review.
Many low-cost printers end up saddling you with high running costs because of the high price of replacement ink cartridges, but that isn’t the case with the OfficeJet 7510. It’s not the fastest printer around – and designers who need to meet tight deadlines may prefer a faster, more specialized A3 printer – but its high quality, low running costs and versatile A3 printing option make the OfficeJet 7510 a great choice for any small business that needs to produce occasional A3 posters and brochures.
Read our HP OfficeJet 7510 review.
The M130nw will be a good option for any small office that needs a fast, mono multi-function printer that you can share with a few colleagues or family members. Print quality and speed are both superior to comparably priced inkjet printers, and the only caveat is that you should shop around to see if you can save some money on the replacement toner and drum cartridges.
Read our HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130nw review.
Ricoh SP 150SUw
The SP 150SUw is a neatly designed compact multi-function laser printer that provides very good performance and quality for homes or small offices that only require straightforward black and white printing. The initial purchase price is certainly competitive for such a fast printer, but toner is expensive if you pay Richoh’s recommended prices. Fortunately, you can find discounts on the high-yield cartridges if you look around online.
Read our Ricoh SP 150SUw review.