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Best Printer 2016: The best inkjets and lasers for the home and office



We take a look at the best printers we've reviewed, scouring our vast archive of inkjet and laser printer reviews on the hunt for the best printers for quality, running costs and features.

Printing is very much still alive, as is demonstrated by the sheer variety of printers you can buy these days. There's something for every budget, with our cheapest printer here starting at just £35. You get what you pay for and, as prices increase, so do the number of features.

As you'll see from our buying guide below, you can mix and match the features you want and usually get a great deal. There isn't a lot a £100 printer can't do, so above that point you're getting into specialist territory with exceptional print quality and more unusual features.

Read on to see what turns a good printer into a great one, and how to choose the best printer for your needs.

This Week's Best Printer Deals

Laser – Dell S2810dn at Amazon.co.uk | Was £155 | Now £85

Inkjet – Epson WorkForce WF-7110DTW at Amazon.co.uk | Was £179 | Now £114

InkJet – Brother MFC-J4620DW at Amazon.co.uk | Was £167 | Now £149

Laser – HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw at Amazon.co.uk | Was £174.99 | Now £159

Best Printer Buyer's Guide

Laser vs inkjet – As has been the case for the many years, the single biggest consideration when buying a printer for a home or small office is whether it's a laser or inkjet device.

With laser, the powdered ink (toner) is essentially melted into the paper, which makes it far more resilient and resistant to running. Laser printers are also far quicker once they've warmed up, so are better suited to high-volume work.

The downside is that they're more expensive than inkjets if you're after a model that can print in colour. While you can pick up a colour inkjet for less than £30, you’ll struggle to find a colour laser printer for less than £100.

Also, the quality of colour prints isn’t a patch on inkjet. As such, colour lasers aren't really any good for photos, but rather are useful for printing documents with colour charts and the like.

A new tweak on the laser printer is the LED printer, which works in essentially the same way but replaces the laser with an LED.

As for inkjets, their big advantage is that colour models are available for pretty reasonable prices, and even the cheap ones are capable of printing decent photos. So if you’re looking to purchase only one printer for all your household needs then an inkjet remains the best bet.

Modern inkjets are also significantly faster than ever before. The past few years has seen a rise in the market of office-orientated inkjets, which can print reasonably quickly without foregoing print quality.

Finally, there are also the very latest models that use a paper-width print head, rather than a small print head that scans back and forth. Only available in high-end machines, they're ideal for those demanding really high print speeds and top-notch quality.

Ink types – Inkjets also come in a number of different types, with different jet technologies (piezo or thermal) and ink types (aqueous dye and pigment, solvent, UV-curable and dye sublimation). However, what will matter for most home and small-business buyers is the distinction between dye and pigment-based inks. Canon MAXIFY MB2050 - Cartridges

Dye-based inks tend to be cheaper and produce good-quality prints, but they’re prone to fading with exposure to UV light. As with all aqueous (water-based) inks, they’ll also run if wet.

While pigment-based inks will also run if wet, they don’t fade as quickly. As such, they’re sometimes marketed as “archival quality”, and they’re often more expensive too.

The complication here is that it isn't always clear what type of printer uses what type of ink. For the most part, most black inks are pigmented, while most colours are dye-based. However, high-end photo printers will use only pigment-based inks to ensure long-lasting prints.

Print heads – Another thing to look out for with inkjets is whether the replacement cartridge includes the print head or whether it’s only the ink.

With the former, there's the advantage of ensuring that you get a new print head with every cartridge change. However, such cartridges tend to be more expensive.

Cartridges that are just the ink are cheaper, but with this comes the risk that the fixed print head in the printer will eventually clog up and image quality will drop as a result. In fact, you also need to consider that the head might eventually fail completely. HP LaserJet Pro MFP M125nw - Cartridge

Canon, HP and Lexmark mostly uses cartridges with new print heads, while Epson models tend to use fixed print heads.

Dedicated photo printers – While normal inkjets can print pretty decent-quality photos, they have their limitations. As such, there are also more specialised printers available on the market. These use more than the usual four inks (black, cyan, magenta and yellow), with the extra shades allowing for finer colour gradations and punchier colours.

Inevitably, such printers are more expensive up front, but they can be cheaper in the long-run since they tend to have larger-capacity print cartridges. So, if photo-printing is high on your priority list then they’re definitely worth considering.

All-in-one? – Once you’ve chosen the type of printer you want, the next question to ask is whether you want it to be anything more than just a printer. While there are a number of miscellaneous extra features that certain models may feature, the three big ones are duplex, scanning and fax.

Duplex is where the printer can print on both sides of the paper, so you don’t have to manually print only the odd pages then return the paper to the paper tray to print only the even pages. Some printers have duplex built in, while many offer it as an add-on. Either way, it tends to be a feature that's available only on the higher-end models.HP Deskjet 1510 - Open

As for scanning and faxing, they tend to appear together in what are dubbed all-in-one printers. The scanner can either be a flatbed type that allows you to scan anything, from books to bottoms, or sheet-fed models where you can feed in only fairly thin materials such as single sheets of paper. Along with a basic scan facility, such printers may also have a “photocopy” mode.

Due to their scanning abilities, many all-in-ones also include a fax facility, allowing you to scan and send off documents directly, without the need for a computer at all.

Extra features – The single most useful extra on a printer is network connectivity, whether that be via a cable (Ethernet) or Wi-Fi. That said, many routers these days include a printer server facility that allows you to plug any USB printer into the router and have it share the printer throughout your home network. Whichever way you make it work, it's really convenient to be able to print from any computer in the home.

Another feature to look out for is a card reader. These allow you to print directly from the memory card from your camera. Many of us always prefer to tweak photos before printing them, but if that doesn't interest you then an built-in reader is an easy way to speed things up. Also, some printers can even talk directly to certain cameras via the PictBridge standard.

Paper size – The vast majority of printers for home and small business deal only in A4 paper or smaller, so those wishing to print on larger paper will have to seek out such functionality. Even then, most larger format printers still only go up to A3 size, with even larger sizes requiring you to invest in serious high-end machines.

Not surprisingly, the larger paper format means that A3-capable printers are more expensive, although it's still possible to pick one up for as little as £50.

Paper type – A final bit of general advice for printers is to ensure that you buy paper that’s appropriate for what you’re printing. The basic stuff will do fine for churning out numerous black-and-white pages, but if you’re planning to send out CVs, for example, then it’s worth using decent, thicker paper.

Meanwhile, photo-printing will only work well on proper, glossy photo paper. What’s more, it's worth buying the right paper for your type of printer ink, too (manufacturers often recommend paper), since the paper is actually formulated to match the combination of ink types used in that printer.

John Tropi

May 6, 2016, 3:46 pm

That was an excellent, well written article.
Just one point though, regarding running cost comparisons of ink-jets with lasers. It is all too common that infrequently used ink-jet cartridges dry up, beyond all recovery, when not used for a while. This is not only infuriating, but horrendously expensive. The unavoidable replacement of barely used and over-priced ink cartridge can very easily outweigh other considerations in overwhelming favour of buying a low end laser model instead. I would greatly welcome a thorough discussion of this point, including point blank contradiction! But please give your reasoning. This NEEDS thrashing out.


May 8, 2016, 7:28 pm

i have had terrible luck with HP inkjets over the years - new cartridges print great and can accommodate idle periods of a few days. But after a few weeks, the ink leaving it idle causes the ink to clog the printhead resulting in blotches, streaks and missing lines of pixels. A full cleaning will waste a lot of ink and cure the problem for the immediate session, but the problem quickly returns.
I haven't personally owned an Epson in some years, but a couple friends do and have the same problem, although the deep cleaning lasts longer before re-clogging. My Canon MX850 on the other hand, has never had a problem, even when it sits idle for extended periods of time. FWIW.


June 2, 2016, 7:22 pm

Before you buy an HP printer, check the forums and see what some of the problems are. I wish I had done that. I purchased a 5530 back in November, not knowing that there has bee an ongoing issue with the printing of booklets. Customers have been contacting support for some two years now over what is clearly an issue with the design of the driver and the problem still hasn't been fixed. Just got a message from someone on another forum who let me know that driver problems exists with a lot of the more recent printer drivers, and it seems that they will no longer support the older ones that actually worked. I bought a second HP printer because the first one, a 4480 that I got back in 2009 worked so well, right up until HP decided that they would no longer support the printer and shut it down themselves through the internet, after sending me that little message (I probably shouldn't have signed up to HP support).


June 6, 2016, 4:09 pm

Thanks. Regarding the inkjet idle issue, I've had the same ink cartridges in my HP printer (which itself is the better part of ten years old) for well over a year and it's only ever used sporadically (once a week at most) and they're still going strong. That said, I'll certainly do a bit more research on this issue.

John Tropi

June 6, 2016, 6:58 pm

Cheers Ed.
Once a week isn't infrequent enough to be any kind of a problem. When I was busier, I did not have any problems either. I'm not sure what the critical timing would be. These days, ours often spends a couple of months idle and I've had cartridges dry out that had only printed half a dozen pages. That is serioUsly expensive! I think a laser would have proved a better buy in these circumstances and I'm thinking about it quite seriously.


June 6, 2016, 7:06 pm

Hmmm, did you try reinvigorating them by dabbing the print heads with water? Has worked for me in the past. Otherwise, if they're completely dried up then, as you suggest, a laser may be the only solution.

John Tropi

June 7, 2016, 4:28 pm

That's an excellent tip Ed!

I have done it - sometimes it works, sometimes, unfortunately, not.


June 26, 2016, 2:58 pm

I've had my HP Deskjet 1050 for years. Cost me about £30 from Argos and never let me down. Simple, cheap and more than adequate for a home office.

aswad manap

September 1, 2016, 1:16 am

I am glad that founded this review for choosing the right printer after all. Just to get to know that maybe you can separate it to two categories which are laserjet and inkjet for easier the comparison purpose.


September 17, 2016, 1:04 pm

One thing overlooked with extra features is that the software (interface) accompanying the printer to make good use of those features is half-baked or not intuitive nor fit for purpose. Many low end laser printers (I own a Samsung) suffer from inkjet running costs and poor software/firmware. Something for future reviews should also look into these aspects particularly when it comes to scanning.

My question is does file type make a difference in terms of running cost. For example: if I scan a letter twice and convert one into PDF and the other as a jpeg, do they use same amount of ink or does one use more. Does the printer treat both as images or applies different criteria.


September 21, 2016, 9:38 am

Clearly the 'boycott HP' campaign means nowt to you

Paul Langton-Rogers

October 12, 2016, 4:44 pm

Many people looking at buying a printer think they're limited to Inkjet or laser, but as I discovered recently that there are a few other technologies on the market if you look hard. For example Ricoh offers Geljet printers that are aimed at consumers and small businesses. The Geljet uses Sublimation print head technology which sits between a colour laser and an inkjet printer in terms of text quality and photographic print quality, and significantly faster print speeds than inkjet in colour. Whilst also offering a glossy print finish even on ordinary paper, similar to many colour laser printers. And Geljet printers are not only much more environmentally friendly than colour lasers, but the technology means the printers need none of the expensive additional consumables colour lasers need eventually before they end up being sold on eBay, or in landfill (fuser, imaging drum, wastage tank etc). Ricoh's Geljet also offer much lower running costs than typical inkjets, and comparable to mid-to-high end range colour laser printers with their high capacity cartridges offered individually. Some of their affordable printers use a black high-capacity cartridge that does an astonishing 10,000 pages. For printers that cost from £70 to £160 for all-in-ones, well worth looking at.

Paul Langton-Rogers

October 12, 2016, 6:42 pm

I think when buying a printer, it can be an absolute nightmare and very time consuming trying to figure out which printer is best from reviews alone.

There are so many models on the market competing for the same customers and rival brands have very similar and often identical features like printing and scanning resolution, that it can be difficult making a decision.

I'm currently in the market for a new printer after my colour HP CP2025 laserjet's image drum packed up.

After spending over a week reading reviews and trying to compare printer features and running costs in my own comparative spreadsheet way, I realized this is not the best way to go about finding the best printer for your needs and budget, because there's so many. As soon as you think you've found the best one, something else comes along within your budget, or a little bit more, which seems to be a better bet.

For those in the same situation, and confused about whether they'd be better with a colour laser printer or an inkjet, or perhaps something else entirely different (yes there are other printer technologies like Geljet from Ricoh), here's some advice I have learned over the last week, which may help:

1) Decide what you're going to be using the printer for. That will certainly help in determining which features you DO and DON'T need.

Think about what you be printing mostly, and what kind of print quality you need? Does it need to be glossy? Does it need to be high resolution small font text? Are you going to need speed and paper handling for lots of booklets printing? You may also still want the ability to print high-quality photographic or colour artwork and brochures etc. Then unless you can afford a fairly decent colour laser printer, you may be better off separating the two printing tasks and buying TWO budget priced printers, unless your budget will stretch to a good mid-range colour laser printer (probably looking to spend £200-£400, and a similar cost on 4 toners every 3,000-6,000 pages).

The alternative for those on a budget and concerned about the running cost of colour laser: You can pick up a cheap £60-£70 fast mono-laser with duplex and auto-document feeder more suitable for text and document printing that has cheap compatible toner, and also a cheap all-in-one Inkjet printer more suitable for photographic printing for £50-£60 which may also serve as a scanner and copier if you get an All-in-One.

When you think about it, it's not as daft as it sounds buying two printers. If one of your printers is out of ink or has any problems, you'll always be able to print still. And you'll save money on inkjet cartridges on text/mono printing, whilst avoiding the expense of running a colour laser printer. If you're printing a lot of text or black and white material, you'll be able to get much better professional quality from a mono-laser printer, and far faster and cheaper than with an inkjet.

2) Think beyond just the printer, and think about the media you'll be printing on, and whether the printer is up to this. Are you going to print booklets or greeting cards? If so you may need to to print on special papers or thick cards, so check the printer supports this. Incidentally, if you're a small business needing to print business quality product labels, there are specialist websites that sell a wide range of label media with different finishes (from glossy to heavy matt, to polyester to silver foil) which are available in both inkjet and laser printer formats. These can make labels printed on decent quality printer look like something done professionally, but giving you the flexibility of doing very small print-runs and one-off jobs instantly.

3) Think about the running costs, not just the initial purchase price of the printer. Printer prices (both inkjet and laser) are often deceptively cheap with less ink or toner than normal. They know you will need to replace them soon and OEM replacements are usually much more expensive on low-priced printers. If you're not printing high-volume, this may not be an issue for you. But it will certainly eat into your wallet, if you are.

Does the printer offer value for money? You cannot take the manufacturers (or even reviews) figures for this as an accurate guide. It depends what YOU print, how much and how often. If you're likely to be printing a lot, look for printers which offer higher capacity ink or toner (for inkjets this should be around 1,000-1,200 pages black and 700-1,000 colour, and for laser printers, 2,500 black and 2,200 colour) as standard, and optional XL (extra large high capacity) for reducing printing costs further (for inkjets these can be around 2,500 black 2,200 colour inks, and for laser, from 3,000-6,000+ pages).

If you're going for a colour laser printer, it's worth considering that most have additional costs beyond just the toner after a year or two if you're printing a lot (imaging drum, fuser unit, wastage tank, which can cost as much as buying a new printer!). HP colour laser printers often are a good choice here because they don't usually have all those extra consumables as the HP toner cartridges are designed with that stuff built-in and the printers generally always print like new over time, as you change the cartridges. This does often make HP original toner more expensive though, but if you do your homework you can often find good HP-compatible toner brands, offering just as good printing quality, at a fraction of the cost.

With inkjets, unfortunately compatible ink cartridges are usually not good replacements for original ink cartridges, unless you don't mind about ink smudging/running, and dramatic image fading on photographic prints in a few months once exposed to air. That said, if you do your homework, you can find some inkjet printers which have good continuous ink systems (CISS) that use higher quality ink mimicking the originals. Else you could just re-print all your washed out faded prints (if you have the time), considering the compatible ink cartridges are so cheap!

Consider new inkjet ink cost budgeting options: Inkjet printer manufacturers like Epson and HP are now starting to take on-board the high cost of ink being a major turn-off to consumers and are feeling the heat from ever lower cost colour laser printers (now costing as little as £50-£70!). Both Epson and HP have their own offerings for cheaper ink. Epson offer EcoTank printers which have refillable very high capacity tanks (capable of up to 7,000 pages from each set of bottles which are very cheap compared to cartridges) but these printers are not cheap to buy. Pricing starts at around £150 for an entry-level Epson EcoTank. HP offer their Instant-Ink subscription service on a range of selected affordable models entry-level and budget-priced HP printers but which often use the expensive tri-colour single colour cartridges, thereby wasting ink normally. Instant-Ink lets you avoid that wastage and high cartridge cost, by instead paying a monthly fee (£4-£8/month) and in return you get ink cartridges sent to you free of charge when you're running low. The catch is that HP monitor your page print count (using software you must run that monitors your printer), and limit you to between 100-300 pages a month (depending upon which subscription plan you're on). If you go over that page count, HP bill you £1 for each additional 20-25 pages you print. This typically works out (6-4p per page) the same cost as buying the original ink cartridges if you go over your monthly page limit. However, the good news is, if you're below the page limit the unused page print allowance gets "rolled over" to the next month. For those not doing high volume printing or using a lot of ink, HP's Instant-Ink service may be very cost effective and convenient. However, you definitely wouldn't want to be doing many misprints loads of experimental, or churning out hundreds of booklets on a HP printer subscribed to Instant-Ink else the cost could get insanely expensive if you go into 1,000's of pages per month. If going for Instant Ink, you'd want to Ideally buy a second cheap printer for doing experiments on print layout etc, and mass document printing. Once you're happy with the results, you can print the fine-quality prints work/labels etc on the Instant-Ink printer on suitable media.

If neither of these appeals, then I would look into buying an inkjet printer that supports a continuous ink system and refillable tanks to replace the cartridges. Not all inkjets support CISS so you need to select a model which does. However this can be extremely cost effective, without compromising on print quality or having the hassles which come with compatible cartridges being rejected (or worse, clogging up the print head if you don't print very often - this happens more often on Epson printers).

Another option to consider is Ricoh's unique "Geljet" SG-series which use sublimation printer technology and larger print heads across a very affordable (£70-£160) printer range. They are cheap to run with unusually high capacity (yet reasonably priced) Geljet cartridges (£7-£22) for around 1,000/700 mono and 1,000-2,200 colour pages, and an astonishing 10,000 pages from the XL high capacity black cartridge! The technology produces glossy prints on ordinary paper and sit between colour laser and inkjet comparatively speaking. Ricoh's Geljet SG series has simple colour offerings from £70, to super fast mono document-orientated, to All-in-Ones with scanner, copier and fax. These are eco-friendly printers too, and well worth considering as an alternative to inkjet and laser, depending on your needs and how well you rate the print quality, which is said to be very impressive. Another thing about Ricoh's Geljet printers is that they be used for heat-transfer sublimation dye printing directly onto a wide range of items such as t-shirts, with the right type of ink (kits are available cheaply).

Finally, I have concluded that unless you're an average home user with fairly modest printing needs, the only way you can find the ideal printer which meets your specific needs and expectations in terms of print quality on different media is by actually trying them out on that media (tip: Printerland are a great printer seller, as they will send out free actual print samples from different printer models you're interested in, so you can at least see and compare the print-output quality on ordinary paper as a guide of what to expect). You could also go along to some stores and see if they have any demonstrations or sample prints around, but many seldom do any actual printing in retail stores!

Really, the proof is in the pudding as they say. Nothing beats buying and using a printer for a few days, to see if it's suitable for your needs and prints well on the media you're using and in the way you need to print. So don't be afraid to get your feet wet and buy what you think is a good printer, and just give it a try out. If you're not happy with the printer or the printing quality, you can often return the printer and get a full refund (even with used ink). Else just sell it on Amazon/eBay as a new "open box" open printer, and then buy another one thats on offer.

I have reached that conclusion that reviews (both professional and customer ones on consumer sites like Amazon, studying and comparing printer specs, whilst all helpful in steering you into something that sits in your budget and meets your needs (on paper), they can only tell you so much and take you so far in selecting your ideal printer.

Everyones impressions, expectations and printing requirements vary. Although the reviews, videos and printer specs, and even print-outs give you some idea in terms of features, print-quality and running cost, allowing you to make a short-list of suitable candidates within your budget ...it's best to just jump in I think. Unless you're able to go test out the printers before buying, just go with your instinct. When it comes to deciding which printers should be on your short-list and in what order. Perhaps select 3 models by different manufacturers, and be prepared to test them unless you're lucky enough to get it right on your first choice!

Surely it's better to do that, and lose a bit of money and time, but end up with a truly great printer and printing results on whatever jobs you're doing and media you're using, than to end up with something you're not happy using, or which doesn't really print as well you need it to.

Paul Langton-Rogers

October 12, 2016, 7:49 pm

I've read on this review site that HP, like Canon, prefer not to use fixed print heads in the printer and instead put them in the cartridges, which may explain your good run with the Canon. I think it's hit and miss with HP, some more expensive models do that, others maybe don't.

I've heard it said of Epson inkjets too that they are notoriously bad for head-clogging if left idle for periods of a month or so.

Epson also do a lot of random clean cycles (even on daily-use printers while actively printing) which use a hell of a lot of ink (20-30%). I'm not sure this is absolutely necessary and is merely a tactic in using up ink faster.

Paul Langton-Rogers

October 12, 2016, 7:57 pm

I think there's probably a degree of user-intuition required here in determining what is the most efficient data format for a printer to print from. You can certainly research and read up on this topic though, as certain data formats are easier for certain types of printer to use. I think it does vary depending on the printing technology, however a good common sense rule of thumb is probably the smaller the data file is, the less work it's going to be for the printer to render and so actually print. There must be some trade-off between file size and quality though to be found.

One lesson I have learned and would share, is that many printer users concerned with running cost and drivers doing things to use more ink, are probably better off running Linux and using the built-in excellent CUPSD printing system which supports the vast majority of printers now. Even if there's no native driver in Linux for a specific printer, you can often use third party drivers. Some manufacturers cooperate well with Linux, share their driver source, and are so those brands are well known to be work "out of the box" pretty much exactly as they do in Windows (and often better). HP is one such brand (for laser and inkjet), Epson is another for inkjet.

Manufacturers which do not share their printer driver source-code with the Linux community are treated with contempt and much suspicion. Linux users add their hardware/models to a list of unsupported hardware and often make comments like "repeated requests for driver source refused or promised and not provided". I can't think of any particular brands that spring to mind here, but clearly some manufacturers do have a vested interested in keeping their printers Windows-only, and not allowing outside access to their driver source code, for fear probably of what Linux programmers might discover therein!

If you don't want to learn or install Linux just to use your printer, a good compromise is to install PuppyLinux on a USB pen drive, and install CUPSD there. That way you can boot off the pen drive and do any printing you need to do from Linux, which can also access Windows partitions and data files easily.

Johnny Bunnie

October 19, 2016, 10:50 am

Thank you

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