The Best Paper Shredders of 2017
Got a stack of sensitive documents? We researched 60 of the top paper shredders, then bought the 9 best and put them through 120 hours of testing. Shredders may all look the same, but our spectacular shredding shindig taught us that they are not all created equal. Where some produced indecipherable confetti, others left legible bits of valuable information sitting in their bins. So read on to make sure you get a machine that lives up to your security requirements, rather than one leaves the opportunity for industrious thieves to steal your info.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated May 2017
After closely investigating more than 20 new shredders, we still feel that the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut dominates the market with its combination of speed and security. We also still recommend the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut and the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut for budget cross-cut and micro-cut options. Finally, no new contender has been able to match the blinding speed of the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci, so it remains our top pick for high volume shredding.
Best Overall Shredder
AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut
Nothing we tested could match the impressive shredding quality of the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut. Somehow it was both one of the fastest shredders we tested, and cut the paper into tiny micro-shreds, providing top notch security. It also gobbled up thick items like junk mail envelopes and credit cards with ease. Its large drawer style bin makes disposing of paper shreds a breeze. Our only small complaint was that the small window on the bin meant you could over fill it without noticing, but this was a minor detail in an otherwise stellar product. If you want both high quality security and speed, the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut is a great machine.
Small bin window
Read full review: AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut
Best Bang for the Buck: Cross-Cut
AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut
The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut recently dethroned its little brother, the AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut, as the best inexpensive micro-cut shredder. This workhorse of a machine tore through 72 sheets per minute in our speed testing, and was able to easily gobble up junk mail envelopes and credit cards. It also has a separate CD shredding slot, so you can dispose of all your data discs without dulling the main blades. You'd be hard pressed to find another equally capable shredder for the low list price of just $45. If you only shred occasionally you can save even more by getting the 6-Sheet version, but it comes with a significant reduction in power and capacity.
Good capacity and speed
relatively small bin capacity
Small bin window
Read full review: AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut
Best Bang for the Buck: Micro-Cut
Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut
Full disclosure: the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut did not do amazingly in our testing. It was fairly slow, and the sounds it makes have a definite nails on a chalkboard quality to them. What it did do was shred reliably with the heightened security of micro-cut. With a list price of only $50, this is one of the cheapest micro-cut options out there. While micro-cut is probably overkill for most people's paper documents, one area where we did find that it made a significant difference was with credit cards. So if you're looking for the added security and greater peace of mind of micro-cut, tend to shred a lot of credit cards, don't need to shred large volumes of paper documents, and don't want to spend very much, the DocShred C165C is the perfect choice. If you want the increased security of micro-cut and tend to shred a lot of paper documents (multiple hundreds of pages per month), we would recommend forking over another $50 for the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut.
Read full review: Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut
Best Shredder for High Volume Shredding
Fellowes Powershred 79Ci
The Fellowes Powershred 79Ci won our Top Pick for High Volume Shredding award for one reason: speed. It was the cheetah of our shredding speed testing, making all the other models look like arthritic tortoises by comparison. It can pump through 140 sheets per minute, with the closest competitor clocking in at only 72. Just be forewarned that it can't quite handle its advertised capacity of 16 sheets at once. We found that 14 was its sweet spot. It provides this speed while also offering a great user interface with a full bin indicator light, and producing the most pleasant noise of any of the models we tested (ok, maybe least unpleasant would be a more accurate term). If you tend to have big shredding jobs and are satisfied with the security level of cross-cut, the 79Ci will power through your paper piles quickly and without aggravating your ear drums.
Read full review: Fellowes Powershred 79Ci
Analysis and Test Results
With all of the new and sophisticated ways that our personal information can be compromised digitally, it is easy to forget that information still exists on physical sheets of paper that can be stolen the old fashioned way. In fact, there is no law against searching through trash that has been left outside a home to be collected (see 1988 case of California vs. Greenwood). So if you have any documents that could help a potential identity thief, getting a good paper shredder is a worthwhile investment.
Our overall scores are based on a number of different tests. The majority of our testing was focused on how well each one of our models shredded. We also evaluated how quickly they shredded, how loud they were, and how easy they were to use. The sections that follow detail how all of the models performed in those individual tests.
When considering shredding quality the factor we weighted most heavily was security, as this is the sole reason for purchasing a shredder. This essentially resulted in the micro-cut models getting a significant bump up in our scoring compared to the cross-cut models. We also tested how well each model performed common tasks like shredding standard junk mail and other items, such as CD's and credit cards. To assess robustness we shoved paper into each model for 15 continuous minutes, observing how easy they were to jam and whether they struggled at all with that kind of volume. None of the models we tested overheated during this test, meaning they will all be able to handle the standard workloads of a home user or small office. We also scoured user reviews to determine whether there were any prevalent durability or manufacturing flaws. Finally, we tested each model's shredding capacity. We did not rate shredding capacity in absolute terms, but rather how close each model was able to come to its advertised shredding capacity. We found that exceeding a model's shredding capacity produced shredded paper waffles that retained legible characters and could not be fed back into the machines, meaning you would have to tediously shred them by hand. Thus we felt having an accurately advertised shredding capacity was more important for shred quality than being able to shred more sheets at once. Models with higher capacities do tend to be able to shred faster, and those models gained points in our speed metric. For more on shredding capacity see our buying advice article.
All of the models we tested were able shred effectively, so there were no scores lower than 4 in this metric. However, there were significant performance differences between models. Far and away the best contestant in our sensational shredding showdown was the AmazonBasics 12-sheet Micro-Cut, which earned the top score of 9. It handled its advertised maximum capacity of 12 sheets without emitting a so much as a squeak of protest. It also ate up full envelopes of junk mail, CD's, and credit cards with ease. To boot it does all this with the added security of micro-cut. There were only two models that could come close to competing with the AmazonBasics: the Royal HD1400MX and the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut, both of which scored a 7. The Royal HD1400MX was usually able to handle its advertised 14 sheet capacity with aplomb, but we did run into one instance where it struggled and jammed. This, and the fact that it is a cross-cut model rather than a micro-cut, is the only reason it lost points in this metric. Otherwise it swallowed junk mail and other odd items with no issue, and user reviews indicate that it has long term reliability and durability. The Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut scored highly in this metric mostly because of the added security of its micro-cutting blades. Apart from this it was a fairly mediocre performer. It was able to handle its advertised capacity of 8 sheets, but emitted a noise reminiscent of a dying weasel when doing so. Thick junk mail envelopes often caused issues as well. It utilizes a second set of blades just for shredding CD's, which are cut into three pieces. This is plenty secure unless you happen to have nuclear launch codes on your CD's, but it is both less satisfying and inspires less confidence than seeing a CD ripped into tiny bits.
Closely following the group of top scorers were the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci and the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut, both of which scored a 6. Besides having the best name of the bunch, the Powershred 79Ci was able to easily burn through junk mail envelopes and CD's and has great user reviews, indicating a high level of durability. It lost points because of the relatively decreased security of cross-cut and the fact that it jammed when loaded with its advertised capacity of 16 sheets. It did just fine with 14 sheets, but those loading it up to its advertised capacity would have to deal with jams or decreased shredding quality. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut was able to handle it advertised capacity of 12 sheets, but the motor did sound like it required some effort to do so. Otherwise it ripped through most items with ease, making fast work of junk mail and credit cards.
Three separate models scored a 5 in our shredding quality testing, the first of which was the AmazonBasics 6-sheet Cross-Cut. Like its big brother it easily shredded through its advertised capacity of 6 sheets. However, it easily jams when inserting junk mail envelopes and, while it can handle credit cards, it is not robust enough to shred CD's. Also in the 5 score club was the Fellowes Powershred 60Cs. This cross-cut model was able to shred its advertised capacity of 10 sheets, but groaned and moaned a bit while doing so. In general the Powershred 60Cs was not particularly burly, it struggled with thick envelopes and other odd items, and is only rated to shred credit cards, not CD's. The final model to score a 5 was the Bonsaii EverShred C169-B. This model was able to handle odd stock like thick envelopes and CD's with ease. It lost points due to the decreased security of cross-cut when compared to micro-cut, and the fact that its advertised capacity and the capacity we observed were significantly different. While the EverShred C169-B claims a 14 sheet capacity, we could only ever get it to effectively shred 10. This sets up the possibility of creating wads of partially shredded paper if you shred at the advertised capacity, which are barely more secure than not shredding at all.
The low scorer in this test was the Swingline Stack-and-Shred 100X, which scored a 4. The Swingline is a 6 sheet shredder that has an automatic feeding tray that can hold up to 100 sheets. We found it was able to handle its advertised capacity both when manually feeding in 6 sheets and when using the document feeder, though the document feeder was slow and had a propensity to jam. The manual feed slot also jammed more easily than any other when loading thick envelopes. It handled credit cards just fine, but is not rated for CD's.
If your career or financial strategies tend to generate lots of sensitive paperwork, or you like to let your shredding jobs build up and then do them all in one go, greater speed will vastly improve your shredding experience. As cathartic as it is to take nice, clean paper and annihilate it into tiny bits, you probably wouldn't want to spend hours doing so. We tested speed by timing how long each model took to shred its maximum single pass capacity, and then calculating a pages per minute figure from this data. We either used the advertised maximum capacity, if we found the shredder could actually handle it, or our observed maximum capacity if it was lower than the manufacturer's claim. As you get used to your shredder you get a feel for how much material it can handle at once and for grabbing stacks of paper that are roughly that size. Therefore, this test approximates the speed you would experience when completing a large shred job. We also measured speed using smaller stacks of paper, but the results did not differ greatly, and we believe the maximum capacity speed test is the most relevant to real world use.
The fastest of the bunch was the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci, which scored a 9 in our speed testing. Even though we found its maximum capacity to be exaggerated, it was still able to clock an astonishing speed of 140 sheets per minute when shredding at our observed maximum capacity. This was nearly double the speed of the closest competitor, and put it well ahead of the rest of the competition. This speed was one of the main reasons we awarded this model the Top Pick for Volume Shredding. Coming in a distant second to the Powershred 79Ci were four models that all scored a 7. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut logged a pace of 72 sheets per minute in this test. Although much slower than the top scorers, it is impressive when you consider that it shreds into much tinier pieces. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut also earned a 7, and matched its micro-cut sibling's speed of 72 sheets per minute. Just behind these models was the Bonsaii EverShred C169-B, which tore through paper at 70 sheets per minute. The Fellowes Powershred 60Cs was quick, but not as quick as its big brother. It logged a speed of 67 sheets per minute in our test. The AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut was the final model to score a 7, posting a respectable 60 sheets per minute when shredding at its maximum capacity.
The Royal 1400MX just missed out on being in the group of high scorers. It earned a 6, and was just slightly slower at 55 sheets per minute. The two bottom scorers, however, were well separated from the rest of the pack. The Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut scored a 4 with a relatively slow speed of 44 sheets per minute. This is just slightly better than half the speed of most of the high scorers, and is just a bit more than a quarter the speed of the top scorer. This sacrifice in speed is most likely due to the DocShred offering the advanced security of micro-cut at a low price. At the back of the pack, with a score of 3, was the Swingline Stack-and-Shred 100X. It went through 40 sheets per minute when using the manual feed slot. It also includes an automatic feeding tray that can hold a stack of 100 sheets, and then automatically shred them a few at a time. However, we found that this took longer than shredding manually and often jammed or didn't work, so it didn't really offer any advantage in convenience either.
Ease of Use
When shredding, the most significant ease of use related factor is emptying the bin. Some models require you to remove the shredding unit to access and empty the bin. This isn't a huge hassle if you keep your shredding machine in an easily accessible location, but can be a pain if you want to keep it hidden away under your desk. Some models have a drawer style bin that can be pulled out from the front of the unit. This makes them much easier to access and empty, especially if they're tucked away somewhere. However, if models like these don't have a good indicator of when they're full you may end up creating a confetti snowstorm when you pull the drawer out. Bin volume also relates to ease of use as the more paper shreds a bin can hold the less often you'll have to empty it. As these are very simple machines they all have correspondingly simple interfaces, but there are some noticeable differences between models. Throughout the testing process all of our testers used, abused, and emptied every single model in this review, so they had some pretty strong opinions when assigning ease of use scores.
The most user friendly model we tested was the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci, which scored an 8 in the ease of use metric. It has a couple of added features that are by no means necessary, but are certainly nice, like a sensor that shuts the machine down when a finger gets close to the slot, and a plastic guard for shredding stiff items like CDs to ensure no shrapnel flies out of the device. The clear full indicator ensures you'll know to empty the bin before it becomes a primed avalanche of paper shreds. The 6-gallon bin pulls out from the font and was the easiest to remove of any model. Just outside of the top slot were two models that both scored a 7. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut boasts a simple, intuitive interface and an easy to remove, drawer style, 6.7-gallon bin. It missed out on the top spot because its only full indicator is a small window on the front of the bin. This meant our testers often unknowingly over loaded it, resulting in confetti snowstorms during the emptying process. The Royal HD1400MX also scored a 7. Like the AmazonBasics Micro-Cut it has a nice interface and an easy to remove, drawer style, 6.2 gallon bin. However, it has no full indicator, meaning you have to periodically check the bin to avoid overloading it. This inconvenience knocked it out of the top spot.
Most models fell into the midrange in our ease of use testing, with four different models earning a score of 6. These models were neither annoying to use, nor did they offer anything that made them feel especially user friendly. The AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut is a small model that can fit just about anywhere and has a no frills interface with one switch. However, its small 3.8 gallon bin needs to be emptied frequently. Also, the shredding unit sits on top of the bin, meaning it must be lifted off the bin in order to empty it. This can be inconvenient, especially if you want to hide it away under a desk. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut has almost an identical interface to its smaller sibling, but its bin is slightly bigger (4.8 gallons) and it includes a CD shredding slot. The Fellowes Powershred 60Cs has the same safety sensor as the 79Ci, and a slightly dumbed down version of its interface. It also has a shredding unit that sits on on top of a 6-gallon bin. The shredding unit is quite heavy and requires two hands to move around.
Continuing down the list of models that scored a 6 in our ease of use testing, the Bonsaii EverShred C169-B has simple controls and a drawer style bin that is easy to remove. However, the bin is relatively small at 4.5 gallons and has only a small window at the front as a fill indicator. The final model to score a 6 in our ease of use testing was the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut. It has a balance on top shredding unit that must be removed to empty the 5.5 gallon bin, but it includes a built in handle that makes this easy to do with one hand. It also includes a window on the front of the bin to gauge how full it is. A separate shredding slot is used just for CDs, which saves the main blades if you shred a lot of CDs.
Most of the models we tested scored between 6 and 8 in our ease of use testing, meaning none of them were particularly annoying or unpleasant. The only model that fell outside of the category was the Swingline Stack-and-Shred 100X, which scored a 4. Other than its bulky and heavy build there was nothing specifically arduous about its day to day use. The interface is understandable enough and the 7-gallon, drawer style bin is fairly easy to empty. However, the clear selling point of this model is the 100 sheet automatic feeding tray, which we found to be so unreliable that it was almost useless. It was constantly jamming or thinking it was done and shutting off when there were still 50 sheets remaining. It certainly didn't live up to its labor free shredding claim, and it lost big points for that.
Noise was our lowest weighted testing metric. This is because you will probably only use your shredder infrequently and/or in short bursts, so even the noisiest models won't pose a problem for most people. However, if you're especially sensitive to noise, will be shredding in a crowded office situation, or need to hide your latest doughnut binge from your wife by discreetly shredding the receipt, you will want to look for a quieter model. We first tested noise using a decibel meter, but the results weren't very differentiating and didn't correspond to how annoying we thought each model actually sounded. So we ended up scoring each subjectively, based on how bearable/unbearable we found the screeches emanating from each model.
Lets face it, no shredder sounds pleasant. Consequently, the highest score in this metric was a 7. This honor went to the Fellowes Powershred 79Ci. It had a fairly low pitched, consistent hum that could almost fade into the background. Next up were the AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Micro-Cut and the Swingline Stack-and-Shred 100X, both of which earned a 6. The AmazonBasics had a fairly low pitch, but with some higher pitched crinkling noise mixed in, which made it a tad more annoying. The Swingline was also low pitched, but had a choppy, rhythmic sound that was much harder to block out. There were also two models that scored a 5. The Royal HD1400MX had a more bearable low pitched tone, but with some very loud accents of crinkling that start to fray the nerves after a while. The Bonsaii EverShred C169-B was very similar with a lower frequency interspersed with more frazzling crinkling noises.
All of the models at the bottom of the noise testing barrel ended up there because of grating, high pitched frequencies. The AmazonBasics 6-Sheet Cross-Cut scored a 4 in this metric. Its high pitched squeal is bearable, but would get annoying pretty fast, and definitely would not endear you to your officemates. The AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut's motor produced almost identically grating sounds, and thus received the same score. However, these models weren't wasn't quite as bad as the two bottom scorers. Both the Fellowes Powershred 60Cs and the Bonsaii DocShred C156-C Micro-Cut scored a 3 in the noise metric. Both had similar, high pitched shrieks that would probably require earplugs or some serious Zen meditation for any shred sessions lasting more than a few minutes.
Security is the sole reason for buying a shredder, so that is the main thing to consider when deciding which model is best for you. Cross-cut provides plenty of security for most people, as it leaves documents almost indecipherable. If you work for something like a law firm and think there may be some very dedicated miscreants searching through your trash, micro-cut ensures your documents will be completely unreadable. After security, you'll want to decide whether you can get away with an inexpensive, low capacity model, or if your shredding habits warrant a larger, bulkier, and faster machine. We hope the information and testing results we provided have guided you to your ideal model.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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