Best Home Printer of 2021
$350 at Amazon
|$450 List||$300 List||$200 List||$200 List|
|Pros||Excellent text quality, fast, great interface, easy setup||Great text and graphics quality, great interface||Great text and graphics quality, great interface||Low ink costs, intuitive interface, good graphics quality||Excellent photo quality, good text, user friendly|
|Cons||Very large, expensive||Can be expensive, relatively slow for a laser||Relatively slow for a laser||Relatively poor text quality, somewhat slow||High non-photo color costs|
|Bottom Line||A great, print-only model for small offices with frequent printing needs, but it may be overkill for some home users||This multi-function printer offers a great balance of quality and versatility for any home office||A great model if you want high end performance and don't need a built-in scanner||A good choice if you want to print a lot of graphics, but drawbacks in text quality and speed hurt its versatility||An excellent device that excels at printing both good text and great photos|
|Rating Categories||Brother HL-L8360CDW||Color LaserJet Pro...||HP Color LaserJet P...||Brother MFC-J995DW||Canon TS9120|
|Text Quality (25%)|
|Operating Cost (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|Graphics And Photos (15%)|
|Printing Speed (15%)|
|Specs||Brother HL-L8360CDW||Color LaserJet Pro...||HP Color LaserJet P...||Brother MFC-J995DW||Canon TS9120|
|Type||Single function color laser||All-in-one color laser||Single function color laser||All-in-one color inkjet||All-in-one color inkjet|
|Capabilities||Print, Scan, Fax, Copy||Print, Scan, Copy||Print, Scan, Copy|
|Resolution (Black)||2400 x 600||600 x 600||600 x 600||6000 x 1200||4800 x 1200|
|Resolution (Color)||2400 x 600||600 x 600||600 x 600||6000 x 1200||4800 x 1200|
|Supported Paper Sizes||Letter, Envelope, Custom Sizes (3.0-8.5" (w), 5.0-14" (l)), Legal, Executive, A4, A5, A6||A4, A5(L), A5(P), A6, B5, B6, 16k, 10 x 15 cm, Post Cards (JIS); Envelopes (DL, C5, B5)||A4, A5(L), A5(P), A6, B5, B6, 16k, 10 x 15 cm, Post Cards (JIS); Envelopes (DL, C5, B5)||Letter, Legal, Executive, A4, A5, A6, Index Card (5" x 8"), Envelope (C5), Envelope (DL), Envelope (Monarch), Photo (4" x 6"), Photo (5" x 7")||4x6, 5x5 Square, 5x7, 8x10, Letter, Legal, U.S.#10 Envelopes|
|Dimensions (excludes extensions)||17.4" x 19.1" x 12.3"||16.5" x 16.4" x 12.7"||15.4" x 16.4" x 9.3"||17.1" x 13.4" x 7.7"||14.7" x 12.8" x 5.6"|
|Weight (lbs)||48.1 lb||35.9 lb||27 lb||19.2 lb||14.6 lb|
|Paper Handling Input (sheets)||300 sheets||150 sheets||150 sheets||150 sheets||100 sheets|
|Monthly Duty Cycle||60,000 Sheets||30000 sheets||30000 sheets||5,000 sheets||N/A (Canon doesn't have this specification for inkjets)|
|Warranty||1 Year Limited||1 Year Limited||1 Year Limited||1 Year Limited||1 Year Limited|
|Ink Cost per Ream: B/W||$8.89||$14.46||$14.46||$5.50||$28.33|
|Ink Cost per Ream: Color||$47.63||$56.09||$56.09||$21.67||$101.92|
|Estimated Lifetime Cost of Ownership||$550||$768||$642||$320||$659|
|Claimed Pages Per Minute||33||22||22||12||15|
|Measured Pages per Minute: Single-Sided B/W||16||14||15||9||12|
|Connectivity||WiFi, Ethernet, USB 2.0, NFC||WiFi, USB 2.0, 10/100/1000 Base-TX Ethernet, Front Host USB||WiFi, USB 2.0, 10/100 Base-TX Ethernet, Walkup host USB||WiFi, Ethernet, USB 2.0, SD Card, NFC||Wifi, Ethernet, SD Card|
|Operating System Compatability||Windows/Mac OS||Windows/Mac OS||Windows/Mac OS||Windows/Mac OS||Windows/Mac OS|
|Google Cloud Print||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes|
The Brother HL-L8360CDW has enough firepower to keep the print jobs rolling off the press, even for those that might be running through several reams of paper on a monthly basis. This printer can handle big jobs — it has an internal capacity for 300 sheets (or up to 1300 if you purchase additional trays) and a respectable speed of 16 pages per minute. The graphics are good quality for any tables or charts you need to present, and the text quality is superb. On top of all of that, the large color touchscreen allows for easy navigation of settings and makes connecting to WiFi Networks a cinch.
The most blatant setbacks of the HL-L8360CDW would have to be its size and cost. This mammoth of a printer tips the scales at almost 50 pounds and is big enough that it probably necessitates its own table or stand. It will set you back a pretty penny, too. This model doesn't quite lend itself to those shoppers looking for a small, affordable home printer. Still, if you have a paper-hungry home office or a small business office, this is a great choice due to its high capacity and awesome print quality.
Read review: Brother HL-L8360CDW
HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw
The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw is great for small offices that need one workhorse to knock out multiple tasks. This laser color printer is a manageable size and is super versatile — in addition to printing, it can scan, copy, fax, and it has the capacity to digitize long documents with the automatic document feeder feature. It boasts excellent text quality and great-looking graphics for every job, from tax forms to quarterly reports. The machine has quite a number of functions to navigate, but they are all easily managed with the large controls on the touchscreen. Though not the fastest out there, the measured speed of 14 pages per minute works sufficiently for most purposes.
It's probably not a surprise that all of the M283fdw's functionality comes at a high price. You may be able to find it cheaper online at times, but it's without a doubt a significant investment. Also, some may be disappointed that the automatic document feeder can only scan one side at a time. Because of that, lengthy, two-sided documents will require an additional scan for each page. If these aren't dealbreakers for you, your small office will probably be very happy with the functionality of the M283fdw. Plus, if you already have a scanner, you can save some money with the single function M254dw.
Read review: HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw
Best Laser for a Tight Budget
The Brother HL-L2350DW is a great option if you have minimal at-home printing needs but still want a printer for those odd times when you have to print out a form at a moment's notice. You get an impressive 20 sheets per minute speed and good text quality for a relatively low price. The laser technology also holds up better than inkjets to long periods of dormancy. This means you can leave this printer sitting for months and still get a good print on the first go around.
The one big annoyance of the HL-L2350DW is its tiny, one-line display and spartan controls. This can make things such as typing in a WiFi password a hassle. However, those sorts of one-time annoyances don't significantly detract from the HL-L2350DW's usefulness as an inexpensive home printer.
Read review: Brother HL-L2350DW
While we've come across many inexpensive inkjets that would be great values for particular situations, none have offered the kind of all-around performance that would win one of our awards. The Brother MFC-J995DW is an excellent choice if you're looking for something that can produce lots of graphics with impressively low operating costs, though it struggles a bit to render crisp text.
Best for Photo Printing
The problem with many photo printers is that they are either incapable of or downright awful at rendering text. The Canon TS9120 is an exception to the rule; it's capable of printing photos you'd be proud to put in a frame and producing text that is clear, bold, and easily legible. We think the text quality is in line with that of other high-performing inkjets. The photo quality is slightly better than what you'd get from most online and convenience store printing services (and, depending on the composition of your photos, it can be less expensive as well). Top that off with a built-in scanner, and you have one of the most versatile consumer printers around. Plus, it lists for a fairly reasonable price and often sells for considerably less than advertised online.
The one real weak point of the TS9120 is the non-photo color printing costs (think charts, graphs, and images printed on standard paper). For these applications, we found the TS9120's costs to be astronomical at $0.20 a page, more than double the average and 30% higher than the next most expensive model. Luckily, the black and white printing costs are only slightly above average, and photo printing costs are reasonable, if not cheaper than most alternatives. If you print a lot of color graphs and figures, this isn't the printer for you. But this is a great and relatively economical option if you want something that can handle both text and putting your favorite memories in frames.
Read review: Canon TS9120
Why You Should Trust Us
For half a decade, authors Max Mutter and Steven Tata have personally purchased and tested more than 100 small home office products, ranging from scanners and printers to Chromebooks and paper shredders. Thus, they have spent countless hours obsessing over how these types of devices can best serve home offices, small offices, and personal users. They bring that borderline over-the-top attention to detail and a wealth of knowledge to this review.
To find the best printer for every situation, we printed more than 1000 pages of graphs, text, and photos and carefully examined all of the results with the help of a digital microscope. We also carefully measured ink usage and printer speed so that we could calculate lifetime ink costs. Perhaps most importantly, we connected these printers to every device imaginable in every way possible, including computers, tablets, phones, via USB, over WiFi, Bluetooth, and through cloud services, to see how often we ran into infamous printer connectivity issues.
Analysis and Test Results
Ahhh, the infamous printer. In general, they tend to be disproportionately anger-inducing. In fact, one of the most relevant films of our time has a plot that is almost entirely driven by stapler and printer-related frustrations. Many people don't buy a printer because they want to. Instead, they buy one because their repeated trips to the library or local Staples have become too frequent to be considered efficient, and they need a print at home option. This purchase is rarely driven by excitement or desire, but by the cold, callous logic of a cost-benefit analysis.
You've probably come to this review thinking, "this is the age of boundless technological advancement and unlimited information; surely with enough research, I can find a model that is a pleasure to use, and that will free me from this purgatory of error messages and paper jams!" Unfortunately, we won't be able to help you find that ideal model. Not because we don't want to — trust us, we want to find that unicorn just as much as you do — but because it doesn't exist. What we can do is lead you to the model that will cause the least amount of irritation for your intended use. We've purchased 10 of the most popular models, spent weeks fighting all of the metaphorical dragons they could throw at us, and have figured out which ones were the easiest to slay.
Depending on how much you print, different printers present different levels of value. If you print less than 100 pages per year, you needn't look further than the list price to assess value. However, ink costs become a much more significant factor in determining value if you print frequently. In that case, you should take a look at our ink cost calculations.
While we didn't specifically score the scanning/faxing/copying capabilities of the all-in-one models we tested, we did use all of these functions. In general, we feel that the scanners on all-in-ones are more than adequate for most office work, but if you regularly scan 100+ page documents or want to scan high-quality photos, you're going to want a dedicated scanner.
Printing clear, legible text is the top priority for the vast majority of people. If you're like some of us, you may even tend to print things that most people would write out by hand, simply because your handwriting quality hasn't progressed since the 3rd grade. We printed multiple fonts in various sizes with each of our testing models in the quest for the perfect text. We then examined and took photos of those test sheets using a digital microscope, specifically looking for any patchy areas within the characters and imperfections along the character's edges. We also took a more holistic approach, reading all of those test pages with the naked eye in both dim and bright lighting to see if any of those imperfections translated into real-world reading difficulty. Have you ever wondered whether 14-point Helvetica looks better printed with a laser or an inkjet? Well, get ready for some clarification because we can settle that once and for all.
We saw widely varying text quality in our printing test. Tying for the top score in this metric are the Brother HL-L8360CDW, the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw, and its single function sibling, the HP LaserJet Pro M254dw. All of these models produced near-perfect borders on characters, creating very crisp text. The only reason we didn't award a rare perfect score to any of them was that they all left some areas looking slightly dull when viewed under the microscope, especially when printing italics in a small font. This is a minor issue, though, and you can count on any one of these models to produce outstanding text. You may have noticed that all of these models are lasers. In general, we found that lasers produce better quality text than inkjets.
Very few models could come close to the leaders in our text quality test. The Brother HL-L2350DW came the closest, producing excellent-looking text but was knocked out of the top tier because it occasionally left small blotches that made the edges of characters look less crisp. The Canon TS9120 performed well, with bold and dark text and fairly good clarity, but it did tend to bleed some ink around the edges or characters, particularly when printing in tiny fonts.
The mid-scoring Brother MFC-L2750DW was able to stay out of the text quality basement — it didn't have any glaring issues, but there were enough white blots within characters to make smaller fonts look faded and the edges look somewhat blurry. This model manufactured decent quality text that wasn't quite as good as the top-scoring models, but its text quality shortcomings probably would not be noticed by most people.
After our text quality tests were said and done, the Brother MFC-J995DW displayed a weak showing. Like most inkjets, it produces bold and blotchy text, though it embodies the latter quality more than most. When printing in small fonts or italics, it has particular issues with blotches becoming more noticeable and prominent. No matter the situation, the text never becomes illegible; it just displays many notable imperfections.
Most people want a printer because they don't want to leave the house every time they need to print something (or pay high prices at libraries and office stores). It can be very tempting to get a very cheap model, but depending on how much you print, the higher ink costs of the inexpensive models may cause you to spend more in the long run. Therefore, we calculated per-page, per-ream, and lifetime printing costs for our printers. We considered an 80/20 ratio of black and white to color pages (for non-color models, it was all black and white) for the lifetime cost. We also assumed an average of 2500 printed pages per year and an operational life of 3 years. This latter calculation gives a good idea of which expensive models make up for their initial costs in more economical printing and which cheap models waste ink, costing more in the long run.
In general, if you print fairly regularly, inkjets print text more economically than laser models. However, if you tend to leave your printer sitting idle for long periods, the ink nozzles of inkjets can dry out and become clogged. These clogs require extra ink to be pushed into the nozzles to clear them, resulting in a lot of wasted ink. If you tend to print sporadically with multiple weeks elapsing between printing sessions, laser printers' toner technology is more amenable and likely more economical in the long term.
Taking many of the top slots, Brother dominated our operating cost testing, with the first being the MFC-J995DW. It can print monochrome text for just a penny per page, and color pages for only $0.04, leading to a field-leading calculated lifetime cost of $275.
Printing black and white text at a rate of just $0.03 per page, the Brother HL-L2350DW is nearly as good as its sibling. It doesn't print color, so its lifetime estimated cost came out to $314.
The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw and the HP Laserjet Pro M254dw both print monochrome at a reasonably economical $0.03/page or $14.46/ream, but print color at the expensive rate of $0.11/page or $56.09/ream. The M283fdw's higher initial cost gives it a high estimated lifetime cost of $768, compared to the M254dw's $64.
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Solely because of its color printing costs, the Canon TS9120 earned a meager score in this metric. This model's rate is double the average at $101.92 per ream or $0.20 per sheet. However, the black and white printing costs are a more reasonable $28.33 a ream or $0.06 a page. Calculating photo printing costs is a bit more difficult because the actual photo composition significantly affects ink costs. Still, on average, we found ourselves paying slightly less when printing photos with the Canon TS9120 than printing them at CVS. It's worth noting that most models that print good text generally can't print high-quality photos as well, so this model is in a bit of a different class here. Nevertheless, combining all this with a meager list price, the TS9120's estimated lifetime cost comes out to a slightly above average $650. However, this calculation doesn't take into account potential savings from printing photos at home.
Ease of Use
Printers are notoriously unpleasant. A quick Google image search for 'paper jam meme' will reveal that almost every pop culture icon has been used to express the frustration inherent in trying to get these machines to put ink onto paper. You might be wondering why we can't seem to produce a printer that is as easy to use and intuitive as a smartphone in this age of technological advancement. For the most part, the answer is cost. Printing technology involves many moving parts that must operate with high precision to render crisp images and readable text. That technology is not cheap, so to keep prices down, very little is invested in research and development in things outside of actually printing, such as WiFi connectivity bugs. To determine which models were the least rage-inducing, we connected each one to numerous computers and mobile devices using multiple WiFi networks and/or cables and printed every type of document we could imagine. We also made a few calls to each manufacturer's tech support line to evaluate the quality of help you'll receive if (and possibly more accurately when) you run into a problem.
You're probably eagerly reading this section looking for a model that locks into its WiFi connection like a golden retriever chasing a tennis ball. Unfortunately, we haven't found such a printer. Even the very best of the bunch mysteriously dropped WiFi or just stopped paying attention to print jobs sent to the queue wirelessly multiple times. We must face the sad reality that wireless printing still requires occasional fiddling with printer drivers and WiFi settings to make it work.
All of the WiFi-enabled models we tested had connectivity issues, so we didn't take this into account in our scoring. Think of these scores as relative rather than absolute, as we wouldn't call any of these models, even the top scorers, particularly pleasant to use. That said, we had three models tie for the top score. Two HP models did particularly well, mainly because of our positive experiences with HP's customer service. We were never kept on hold for long and always talked to knowledgeable and helpful representatives. The HP LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw earned this top score due to its easy setup and large, well-designed touchscreen controls. Because it shares the same controls, its single function sibling, the HP LaserJet Pro M254dw, earned a top score for the same reason.
The Brother HL-L8360CDW is a relative pleasure to use. It has a large touchscreen interface, and we only ran into a few issues when switching between WiFi networks. Our single, minor complaint is that the digital keyboard is quite small, making typing in WiFi passwords feel tedious.
We like the touchscreen interface of the Brother MFC-J995DW; it makes adjusting settings fairly straightforward. We also found it to be easy to get set up and running. However, it had slightly more WiFi connectivity issues than some of its competitors in the course of our testing.
The Canon TS9120 offers some of the best cloud features of all the models we tested. These features include the ability to easily and quickly print documents from Google Drive or scan a document to your Google Drive right from the printer. We also appreciate the SD card slot that makes it easy to print photos quickly without using a computer as an intermediary.
The Brother MFC-L2750DW ran through its initial setup smoothly, but we had some trouble connecting to WiFi networks. Once we reset the WiFi network a couple of times, it worked seamlessly, but this suggestion was not made by customer service, nor was it in the manual. It has a touchscreen interface to control its many functions, but we felt it was less intuitive and a bit clunkier than those on the HP multifunction models.
At the bottom of our ease of use table was the Brother HL-L2350DW. USB printing worked immediately. The WiFi setup was straightforward but took a while due to the clunky interface. One tester equated typing WiFi passwords with the handful of buttons and tiny LCD screen to trying to write a novel with an Etch A Sketch.
Many people want a printer that can handle text and produce eye-catching graphics to make their reports or essays pop. Some may even want to toss in a picture or two to spruce up the family holiday letter. We printed multiple charts, graphs, and images with all of our printers in both black and white and color (where applicable) and gave them the once over with the same digital microscope we used to examine text quality. There are some models now hitting the market that can print both text and high-quality photos on proper photo paper. For those models, we compared their photos to those printed at stores like Walgreens and CVS.
The Canon TS9120 was the leader in this metric due to its impressive photo printing quality. After comparing photos printed on the TS9120 to the same photos printed at CVS, we feel the TS9120 can produce a better overall color profile, detail in particularly light and dark areas, and better contrast. When it comes to color graphics printed on standard stock paper, the TS9120 is right on par with other inkjets, producing bright and bold graphs. However, printing images on standard paper often bring a bit of graininess.
The Brother MFC-J995DW produced very sharp and vivid images and graphs. It can also print reasonably good photos but lacks some of the top performers' color accuracy.
The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw scores above average. Its charts and graphs are superb, but its photos look oversaturated with some noticeable pixelation. The Brother HL-L8360CDW generally produced crisp-looking photos and graphics in our testing, but the colors tended to come out somewhat dark. This usually wasn't a huge deal, but it could be confusing for graphs with lots of subtle color shades.
While we still wouldn't consider the graphics produced by it to be terrible, the MFC-L2750DW is the last printer we'd choose to use if we knew we'd frequently need to print charts and graphs. It keeps everything legible and understandable, but even simple figures and graphs display noticeable pixelation. Photos look even worse, taking on a borderline block quality.
For most people who print a few pages here or there or generally print short documents like forms and plane tickets, printing speed probably isn't going to be a limiting factor. However, if you print lots of 100+ page documents, the difference between 6 pages a minute and 25 can be a world of difference. We did various speed tests, including duplex and photo printing, but the most meaningful was printing a standard, single-sided, 10-page text document. This allowed us to compare the models' speed overall, regardless of whether or not they have color or double-sided printing capabilities.
The Brother MFC-L2750DW was able to churn out 18 pages a minute. We're still in print-a-novel-before-the-coffee-is-ready territory, but it might have to be a shorter novel. Maybe The Alchemist, or something like that.
The Brother HL-L8360CDW and the Brother HL-L2350DW both produced 16 pages a minute. The HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw was just behind with a speed of 15 pages a minute. However, it printed duplex a bit faster than other models in this range, so we bumped its score. We're starting to leave the novel-before-the-coffee-is-ready range here. Maybe these machines could handle Of Mice and Men, but let's be honest, as great as it is, it's more of a very long short story than a novel. The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw printed 14 pages per minute. We gave the M283fdw a slight score bump because it printed duplex just a bit faster, just like its sibling.
The Canon TS9120 only managed to print 12 simplex monochrome text pages per minute in our testing, making it one of the slowest models. The Brother MFC-J995DW was even slower, churning out just 9 pages per minute. While these speeds start to feel taxing if you print lots of 30+ page documents, they are probably more than adequate.
While we still haven't found that perfect printer that ensures hassle-free connection and use every time, we feel we've at least weeded out the worst offenders. We hope that this review and in-depth testing have helped you find the perfect printer for your budget with all the functionality you need.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata