something for everyone

12 Printers, Vetted 12 Ways

Photo: Courtesy NBC Universal

During quarantine, your home may have suddenly transformed into a makeshift office, complete with a comfortable desk and chair, a wireless keyboard, and a wireless mouse. But one thing most of us don’t think about having until we actually need it is a printer. Unless you’re a lawyer or an author, or in some other profession that relies on printing a lot of documents, you probably don’t need one of those gargantuan grey rectangular printers. For most of us, a small and discreet printer that can handle the occasional online form or shipping label will be plenty.

It’s not particularly hard to find a printer that will suit your day-to-day needs. Most at-home, nonprofessional printers are all-in-one units, which means they include some form of scanner and fax machine, but if you don’t need those features, you can save a little money by finding a print-only machine. The biggest thing to consider is whether you want an inkjet or laser printer. Inkjet printers use liquid ink, while laser printers use a powder ink that’s melted on the page. And while inkjet printers can be much cheaper, they don’t tend to last as long as laser printers, and you do have to factor in the cost of more frequent ink refills. Plus, laser printers are faster and have superior print quality, with text that looks much more precise and clear. The other issue to consider is color. If you want to print in color, you probably want to stick with inkjet printers. There are color laser printers, but they’re often prohibitively expensive for personal use.

With that in mind, we’re rounding up the best at-home printers, according to the people. (See our introduction to this series here.) Our recommendations range from our deputy editor’s beloved minimalistic laser printer to something called the EcoTank, which saved a Hollywood screenwriter from his nightmare with ink.

People’s Choice: Best-rated laser printer according to Amazon Reviews

This small black-and-white Wi-Fi-enabled printer is good for printing basic things like shipping labels and documents, and it can print up to about 30 pages at a time (more than that will overwhelm the paper feed). More than 300 of the five-star reviews call it “little” or small, and even more users mention its “very small footprint.” One reviewer, who has “used HP LaserJets for over 30 years and never had a bad experience,” says, “This is by far the most compact HP (or any other brand) laser printer I’ve come across, yet it does everything I need, and produces excellent print quality, which to the naked eye is undistinguishable from any other quality laser printer.” The one issue people mention is a challenging setup process (it’s done through the app), with one particularly disappointed customer saying, “I rate the Instructions as ZERO. Lots of You Tube and Googling to figure out downloading the correct software, procedure to running the software for connecting to wifi.”

People’s Choice: Best-rated inkjet printer according to Amazon reviews

Although some reviewers report issues with the printer’s compatibility with their Wi-Fi, others point out that if you run into the same problems, you can use the printer’s USB connection as a backup. One woman calls it “nice for the price.” Another, who’s had this printer for over a year, reports, “I have had no problems with it at all except for one paper jam which I easily fixed. It notifies me when my ink is low and I’ve changed both color and black no problem. It connects to my wifi and the canon app with no issues. It prints photos in color or b/w but you’ll have to order the 4’x6’ canon photo paper. Its inexpensive and gets the job done. I’ve printed/scanned/copied countless of documents and photos with no issues. It does everything I need it to do and I hope it lasts me for a long time!!”

Snooping: A Hollywood screenwriter’s favorite printer

In an episode of the ScriptNotes podcast, hosted by two Hollywood screenwriters — John August (Big Fish and Frankenweenie) and Craig Mazin (Cherynoybl and Hangover Part II) — Mazin talks about his new favorite printer: “I came across this Epson brand called EcoTank and honestly they had me at EcoTank. The brilliance of this thing is it doesn’t use the freaking toner cartridges,” he says. “Oh, what a joy. You just — they give you ink like it’s a bottle of ink. And you just go glug-glug-glug into the little ink holder and that’s it. That alone is so — because the cost of those toner cartridges, it’s like they’re made of plutonium or something. And they’re terribly wasteful to the environment. And lo and behold I said, Hey Epson, print. And it went, Okay, no problem man. Here you go. That’s what I’m here for. So, so far so good. Very pleased with the Epson EcoTank ET-4760.”

Ask a Professional: The B&H salesman’s pick

For a cheaper version of Mazin’s printer, Michael M at B&H Photo Video recommends the Epson EcoTank ET-2760, which uses the same EcoTank technology for ink refills. It’s “an ideal, versatile choice for any small or medium office use case,” he says. Although it lacks the auto document feeder, touchscreen display, and fax capabilities of Mazin’s 4760, it can handle two-sided printing, has an SD memory card slot for easy photo prints, and it comes with nearly two years worth of ink (for most people).

Editor’s note: This printer is currently back-ordered at B&H, but it’s available for immediate shipping at Office Depot.

Expert-approved: Best minimalist home printer

Nicole S. Young, a photographer and writer who has worked from home for several years, swears by the HP Tango Smart Printer. “I sometimes need to print labels, tax paperwork, or other items (both for business and personal use) and it’s an essential part of my business,” she says. “I used to have a large Brother fax-printer-scanner machine, but I recently moved into a small apartment and needed to get something that took up less space.” She loves the Tango’s compact design, saying that it’s easy to fold away and store when not in use. “The selling point on this printer for me was that I could print directly from my iPhone and iPad as well as wirelessly from my computer, which has already proven to be very helpful.”

Ask a Cool Person: Artist and author Leanne Shapton’s favorite photo printer

When we asked writer Leanne Shapton what she couldn’t live without, she mentioned the Epson PictureMate PM-400. “This is a printer that prints four-by-six prints, which I love because their object value is so rare. I love sending my family prints of things I’ve taken photos of, and if I need to have something I’ve taken a photo of within reach, I’ll just make a print of it and stick it behind me so it’s not just in digital form. It objectifies and solidifies it like a Post-it Note, only it’s on glossy Epson paper.”

According to Reddit: Best home office printer

Amid the (heated) debate on Reddit, the one printer to find any sort of consensus was the Brother MFC-L2700DW, which was recently updated to this version. Fans liked its “high-yield toner,” which allows the printer to print numerous pages without depleting the cartridge. One redditor, who “chose this printer for it’s reliability,” says “it seems like a well built machine, and it’s always got toner because it’s so damn cheap.”

Expert-approved: A greeting card maker’s favorite printer

Leica Lucien, a Strategist contributor who runs the Etsy shop the Sticker Bodega (and who wrote about how to make greeting cards), says: “This is the most used printer in the crafting community. The color is super accurate and the printer has many functions suitable for varied tasks. One of my favorite features is the paper feeder in the back. You can load your heavy cardstock for your card bases and it rarely ever jams! This is important if you want to print any drawings or illustrations on the base of your card as it tends to be the heaviest. You can also use paper that is longer than your typical 8-by-11 paper, which is a game changer! You can literally print a giant card if you want. Although the color quality is stellar on printed cardstock, I wish the Canon played better with the glossy sticker paper. In order to print without smudging, I have to manually go into the settings and override the auto settings every time. Despite this minor inconvenience, I’ve been able to use all types of paper from glossy and matte sticker paper to super heavy and light cardstock.”

Editor’s note: This printer is expected to be in stock by mid-April at B&H and is ready for immediate shipping at Adorama.

People’s Choice: Best-rated inkjet printer according to Best Buy reviewers

Although some people knock this wireless printer for having a complicated setup process, more than 70 percent of reviewers give it five stars. Many people make a point of mentioning how good it is at printing photos (the printer also comes with four pages of four-by-six photo paper to get you started). Even a “loyal laserjet user of 10 years” was swayed by what they experienced. “My impression of inkjet printers are that they are sloppy and slow. Not to be used for anything that really matters. Printing out a report for school? Sure. Photos or a resume? Never,” they say. “The HP ENVY Photo 7855 has completely changed my mind.” The former skeptic describes the print quality as “excellent,” saying, “I printed a full page photo and the detail was as good if not than better my professional grade office color laserjet … After purchasing some HP 4x6 photo paper, I decided to print a couple of pictures from a recent trip. The pictures could’ve been printed in a professional photo shop as far as I’m concerned!”

Expert-approved: Best printer for scanning

Matt Workman has worked from home for about six years as a director and cinematographer. “I bought this printer to scan legal documents and you can put the paper on top and it can auto feed and auto scan and put them all into one PDF,” he says. You can also use your phone to scan and print documents wirelessly, scan documents to your email, print from a USB thumb drive, and print two-sided documents to save paper.

Strategist Pick: Best low-cost printer

A search for the best low-cost printer for small spaces led Strategist managing editor Maxine Builder to the Brother L2350, which has since been updated and replaced by this model. Along with a built-in scanner and copier, this black-and-white printer has built in Wi-Fi, freeing you up to print wirelessly from your smartphone or computer. It can print double-sided pages and has an equal or smaller footprint than most other printers.

Editor’s note: This printer can be tough to find in stock, but B&H will notify you as soon as it’s available.

Snooping: The best printer for writers

In a post on her site about the ten office essentials all writers need at home, Paulette Perhach, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Vice, Slate, and the New York Times, recommends everything from Post-it Notes to staplers. She also talks about how important it can be for writers to print out their words in order to edit them. She uses the Brother HLL2300D and likes that it allows double-sided printing — a feature that helps keep supply cost (and environmental impact) down.

Editor’s note: This printer is currently back-ordered but expected to be in stock in the next two weeks.