The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of tech gear

The Best Home and Office Printers of 2019

Tuesday September 3, 2019
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After sorting through hundreds of models online, we bought 9 of the most promising printers of 2019 and brought them into our lab for some exacting, side-by-side tests. After printing everything from long text documents to photos, examining those prints under a microscope, and connecting these printers to all manner of wired and wireless devices, we have an in-depth understanding of where each model excels and falls short. Whether you're looking for a powerful behemoth that can handle spitting out thousands of pages a month, a simple and cheap printer for those rare times when you need to print a form or plane ticket ASAP, or anything in between, our top picks have you covered.


Top 9 Product Ratings

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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   Top Pick Award 
Price $400 List
$349.50 at Amazon
$430 List
$349.00 at Amazon
$300 List
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$169.99 at Amazon
$200 List
$104.00 at Amazon
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Pros Excellent text quality, fast, great interface, easy setupGreat text and graphics quality, great interfaceGreat text and graphics quality, great interfaceLow ink costs, intuitive interface, good graphics qualityExcellent photo quality, good text, user friendly
Cons Very large, expensiveCan be expensive, relatively slow for a laserRelatively slow for a laserRelatively poor text quality, somewhat slowHigh non-photo color costs
Bottom Line A great choice for small offices that print a lot, but overkill for most at home usersGreat balance of functionality and quality for any home officeA great model if you want high end performance and don't need a built-in scannerA good choice if you want to print a lot of graphics, but drawbacks in text quality and speed hurt its versatilityAn excellent device that prints both good text and great photos, but color pages do cost quite a bit
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Rating Categories Brother HL-L8360CDW Color LaserJet Pro... HP Color LaserJet... Brother MFC-J995DW Canon TS9120
Text Quality (25%)
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Operating Cost (25%)
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Ease Of Use (20%)
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Graphics And Photos (15%)
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Printing Speed (15%)
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Specs Brother HL-L8360CDW Color LaserJet Pro... HP Color LaserJet... 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 Print, Scan, Fax, Copy Print 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)
2-Sided Printing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
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

Best Single-Funtion


Brother HL-L8360CDW


Editors' Choice Award
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$349.50
(13% off)
at Amazon
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Text Quality 9
  • Operating Cost 6
  • Ease of Use 9
  • Graphics and Photos 6
  • Printing Speed 8
Duplex?: yes | Color?: yes
Excellent text quality
Fast
Great interface
Easy setup
Very large
Expensive

For those that find themselves going through multiple reams of paper a month, the Brother HL-L8360CDW offers enough firepower to keep your printing jobs moving. With an internal capacity of 300 sheets (expandable to 1300 with the purchase of additional trays) and a respectable speed of 16 pages per minute, this laser can handle your biggest printing tasks. The text quality is excellent, and the graphics quality is more than good enough to make your charts and tales look presentable. To top it all off the large, color, touchscreen makes navigating settings a breeze, and lets you easily connect to WiFi networks.

The biggest knocks against the HL-L8360CDW are its size and price. This behemoth weighs nearly 50 pounds and is large enough to require its own table or stand. It is also quite pricey. If you're looking for a printer for a small office (or paper hungry home office) these drawbacks are well worth the high capacity and great print quality, but those looking for a small home printer will want to look elsewhere.

Read review: Brother HL-L8360CDW

Best Multi-Function


HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw


Editors' Choice Award
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$349.00
(19% off)
at Amazon
See It

73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Text Quality 9
  • Operating Cost 5
  • Ease of Use 9
  • Graphics and Photos 6
  • Printing Speed 7
Duplex?: yes | Color?: yes
Great text and graphics quality
Great interface
Can be expensive
Relatively slow for a laser

If your small office is in desperate need of a do-it-all workhorse, look no further than the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw. This reasonably sized color laser printer can also fax, scan, copy, and even has an automatic document feeder for digitizing long documents. IT backs up this versatility with top-notch text quality and great graphics, handling everything from tax forms to quarterly reports with aplomb. We also love the large, touchscreen controls, which make navigating all of this machine's various functions a breeze. We measured its speed at 14 pages per minute, which certainly isn't blazing, but is more than enough for most applications.

The biggest hurdle the M281fdw presents is its price. It is certainly quite an investment (though it can sometimes be found for significantly cheaper online). Also, some may be disappointed that the automatic document feeder can only scan one side at a time, so longer double-sided documents will have to be fed through twice. But, if you can swallow these downsides, the M281fdw can satisfy almost all the paper-paper based needs of a small office. Plus, if you already have a scanner, you can save some money with the single function M254dw.

Read review: HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw

Best Laser for a Tight Budget


Brother HL-L2350DW


Best Buy Award
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$99.99
(17% off)
at Amazon
See It

57
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Text Quality 7
  • Operating Cost 7
  • Ease of Use 4
  • Graphics and Photos 2
  • Printing Speed 7
Duplex?: yes | Color?: no
Inexpensive
Low operating costs
Poor interface

If you've managed to keep you at-home printing needs to a minimum, but still want a printer for those odd times when you need to print out a form at a moment's notice, the Brother HL-L2350DW is a great way to go. For just relatively low price you get good text quality and an impressive 20 sheets/minute speed. Also, the laser technology holds up to long periods of dormancy better than inkjets, meaning you can leave this printing sitting for months and then 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 like typing in a WiFi password a hassle. However, those sort of one-time annoyances don't significantly detract from the HL-L2350DW's usefulness as an inexpensive home printer.

Read review: Brother HL-L2350DW

Looking for an inexpensive inkjet?
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. If you're looking for something that can produce lots of graphics with impressively low operating costs, the Brother MFC-J995DW is an excellent choice, but it does struggle a bit to render crisp text. If you're looking for better text quality in a graphics-oriented inkjet, the HP OfficeJet 3830 or the Epson XP-640 Expression would serve you well, but much higher ink costs make both a bad value in the long run if you print more than a few pages a week.

Top Pick for Photo Printing


Canon TS9120


Top Pick Award
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$104.00
(48% off)
at Amazon
See It

58
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Text Quality 7
  • Operating Cost 2
  • Ease of Use 8
  • Graphics and Photos 8
  • Printing Speed 5
Duplex?: yes | Color?: yes
Excellent photo quality
Good text
User friendly
High non-photo color costs

The problem with many photo printers is that they are either incapable of or very bad at rendering text. The Canon TS9120 is an exception to the rule, being capable of both printing photos you'd be proud to put in a frame, and producing text that is bold, clear, and easily legible. Overall we think the text quality is in-line with that of other high-performing inkjets, and 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, 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 graphs, charts, 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 nest 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. So if you print a lot of color graphs and figures, this isn't the printer for you, but if you want something that can handle both text and putting your favorite memories in frames, this is a great and relatively economical option.

Read review: Canon TS9120



Why You Should Trust Us


Since 2016 authors Max Mutter and Steven Tata have personally purchased and tested more than 100 small and home office products, ranging from printers and scanners to paper shredders and Chromebooks. They have thus spent countless hours obsessing over how these types of devices can best serve small offices, home offices, and personal users. They bring that wealth of knowledge and borderline over-the-top attention to detail to this review.

To find the best printer for every situation we printed more than 1000 pages of text, graphs, and photos, and closely examined all of the results with the help of a digital microscope. We also carefully measured printing speed and ink usage so that we could calculate lifetime ink costs. Perhaps most importantly, we connected these printers to every device imaginable in every way imaginable, including computers, phones, tablets, via USB, over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and through cloud services, to see how often we ran into infamous printer connectivity issues.

The USB port on the front of the printer provides convenient access for printing and saving documents.
Investigating text quality with our digital microscope.

Analysis and Test Results


Ahhh the infamous printer. Let's be honest, no one really likes them. 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 completely driven by printer and stapler related frustrations. Nobody buys a printer because they want to, they buy one because their frequent trips to the local Staples or library have become too frequent to be considered efficient, and they need a print at home option. This purchase is not 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 unlimited information and boundless technological advancement, surely with enough research, I can find a model that is a pleasure to use, and that will free me from this purgatory of paper jams and error messages!" 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, and require the lowest dosage of high blood pressure medication, for your intended use. We can do this because we've already 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.

Even the best models  like the M254dw pictured here  can be a pain sometimes...
Even the best models, like the M254dw pictured here, can be a pain sometimes...

Value


Different printers present much different levels of value depending on how much you print. If you print infrequently (less than 100 pages per year) you needn't look further than the list price to assess value. If you print frequently, however, ink costs become a much bigger factor in determining value. In that case, you should take a look at our ink cost calculations.

How Well do All-in-Ones Scan?
While we didn't specifically score the scanning/copying/faxing 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 want to scan high quality photos or regularly scan 100+ page documents, you're going to want a dedicated scanner.

Text Quality


For the vast majority of people, printing clear, legible text is going to be the top priority. If you're like some of us, you may even tend to print things that most people would write out by hand, simply because the quality of your handwriting hasn't progressed since the 3rd grade. In the quest for perfect text we printed multiple different fonts in multiple different sizes with each of our testing models. We then examined and took photos of those test sheets using a digital microscope, specifically looking for any patchy areas within the characters and any imperfections along the edges of the character. We also took a more holistic approach, reading all of those test pages with the naked eye in both bright and dim light to see if any of those imperfections we found translated into real-world reading difficulty. Have you ever laid awake at night wondering whether 14 point Helvetica looks better printed with an inkjet or a laser? Well, get ready for some restful slumber, because we can settle that once and for all.


We saw widely varying text quality in our printing test, with scores ranging from 3 to 9 out of 10. Four separate models received the top score of 9: the Editors' Choice Award-winning Brother HL-L8360CDW, the EC winning HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw, 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 10 to any of them was that, when viewed under the microscope, they all left some areas looking slightly dull, especially when printing italics at a small font. This really is a minor issue. You can count on any one of these models to produce outstanding text. You may have noticed that all of these models are lasers. We found that lasers, in general, produce better quality text than inkjets.

While all of the models we tested produced perfectly legible text  there was a stark difference between the top performers (like the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw  left) and the worst performers (like the HP Envy 4520  right).
While all of the models we tested produced perfectly legible text, there was a stark difference between the top performers (like the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw, left) and the worst performers (like the HP Envy 4520, right).

Very few models could come close to the three leaders in our text quality test. The Brother HL-L2350DW came the closest with a score of 7 out of 10. It produces great 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 also earned a 7. Its text is dark and bold with fairly good clarity, but it did tend to bleed some ink around the edges or characters, particularly when printing in very small fonts.

Two inkjets were able to render text in our testing that looked good, but couldn't quite match the quality of the top laser models, earning them scores of 6 out of 10. The Epson XP-640 Expression produces bold text, but has some problems with very jagged and blurry edges. The HP OfficeJet 3830 also creates very bold characters, but has a tendency to impart a slight waviness to the text. This blemish isn't readily noticeable in larger fonts, but can easily be seen when printing point 8 font and below.

The HL-L8360CDW produced crisp black and white text.
The HL-L8360CDW produced crisp black and white text.

The Brother MFC-L2750DW and the Canon PIXMA MX922 were able to stay out of the text quality basement with a score of 5. The Brother MFC-L2750DW didn't have any glaring issues, but there were enough white blots within characters to make the edges look somewhat blurry and smaller fonts look faded. The Canon PIXMA MX922 produced rich, dark text, but the edges of characters were significantly more blurry than the top scoring models. Also, it tended to create small blotches when printing in italics. These mid scoring models were all able to manufacture decent quality text. While not quite as good as the top scoring models, the text quality shortcomings of these models probably would not be noticed by most people.

The M254dw's produced some of the best text in our testing.
The M254dw's produced some of the best text in our testing.

The Brother MFC-J995DW fell into the below average class in our text quality testing, managing only a 4 out of 10. It follows the inkjet pattern of creating very bold but also very blotchy text, though it leans into the latter more than most. This is especially noticeable when printing in italics or in smaller fonts. In these cases the characters look noticeably blurry, though still plenty legible for most uses.

While we were quite critical of the text that all our printers produced, we'd like to point out that every model was able to create legible text. While the higher scoring models definitely induce a bit less eye strain when reading their pages for hours, you shouldn't think of a poor score in this metric as a total dealbreaker.

Operating Cost


If you only print a few pages here and there you're not going to be able to beat the $0.10 per black and white page or $0.25 per color page rate offered at most print centers. However, if you print more frequently, or live far from a print center, investing in your own device can be more economical in the long run. Printing costs include the upfront investment in purchasing the actual device and the cost of replacement ink or toner cartridges. Often times cheaper models that seem like a great deal end up gobbling expensive ink and having higher costs in the long run. We evaluated cost in two ways. First, we calculated how much it would cost to print a ream of paper in monochrome (and color, where applicable) for each model. We used this cost per ream figure because we feel most people probably have a good idea of how often they have to order a new ream of paper, so it is easy to use this figure to estimate your own costs over time. We also conducted a lifetime cost calculation. For this calculation, we assumed an average operational life of three years, an average printing workload of 2500 pages per year, and an 80/20 split of monochrome/color pages for the models that could print in color. We made these assumptions based on research into average printer usage statistics and the patterns of our own usage.


Are inkjets really cheaper than lasers for text printing?
In ideal circumstances, this is generally true. However, if you tend to leave your printer dormant for long periods between printing sessions, the nozzles of inkjets can dry up and become clogged. This requires extra ink to be pushed through the nozzle to clear the clog, resulting in higher ink costs. Therefore, if you print mostly text in sporadic bursts, the toner technology of a laser is likely to serve you better, and cost less in the long run.

Brother dominated our operating cost testing, taking many of the top slots, the first being the MFC-J995DW. It can print monochrome text for just a penny per page, and color pages for just $0.04, leading to a field-leading calculated lifetime cost of $275.

The Brother HL-L2350DW is nearly as good as its sibling, printing black and white text at a rate of just $0.03 per page. It doesn't print color, so ti's lifetime estimated cost came out to $314.


Both the HP Laserjet Pro M254dw and the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw earned a 5 out of 10 in this metric. These models both print monochrome at a fairly economical $0.03/page or $14.46/ream, but print color at the expensive rate of $0.11/page or $56.09/ream. The M281fdw's higher initial cost gives it a high estimated lifetime cost of $768, compared to the M254dw's $64.


Earning a 4 out of 10, the Canon PIXMA MX922 is a model we would caution against buying unless you only print occasionally. with somewhat high monochrome and color printing costs of $0.05 and $0.10 per page, respectively, and an upfront cost of $180, we estimate its lifetime cost at a fairly high $643.


The Canon TS9120 earned a very low score in this metric, strictly because of its color printing costs. At $101.92 per ream or $0.20 per sheet, this model's rate is double the average. However, the black and white printing costs are a more reasonable $28.33 a ream or $0.06 a page. Calculating photo printing costs are a bit more difficult because the actual photo composition has a big effect on ink costs, but on average we found ourselves paying slightly less when printing photos with the Canon TS9120 than printing them at CVS (most models that can print good text can't also print high-quality photos, so this model is in a bit of a different class here). Combining all this with a very low list price, the TS9120's estimated lifetime cost comes out to a slightly above average $650, though this calculation doesn't take into account potential savings from printing photos at home.

The HP OfficeJet 3830's tantalizingly low price of $100 is somewhat cancelled out by high ink costs, especially for those that print with any regularity. It posted the highest black and white costs of any model we tested, at $0.09 per page ($46.88/ream). Color costs are also relatively high at $0.12/page ($60.61/ream), pushing its estimated lifetime cost all the way up to $820.

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 in this age of technological advancement we can't seem to produce a printer that is as easy to use and intuitive as a smartphone. The answer, for the most part, is cost. Printing technology involves a myriad of moving parts that must operate with great precision in order to render readable text and crisp images. That technology is not cheap, so in order to keep prices down very little is invested in research and development in things outside of actually printing, such as wifi connectivity bugs. In order to determine which models were the least rage inducing we connected each one to numerous different 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.


Wi-Fi Headaches
You're probably eagerly reading this section looking for a model that locks into its Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi or just stopped paying attention to print jobs that were sent to the queue wirelessly multiple times during our testing. The sad reality we must face is that wireless printing still requires occasional fiddling with Wi-Fi settings and printing drivers in order to make it work.

Scores in our ease of use test ranged from 4 to 9 out of 10. 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 particularly pleasant to use, even the top scorers. That being said, we had three models that received the top score of 9. Two HP models earned this top score, largely because of our experiences with HP's customer service. We never kept on hold for long, and always talked to helpful and knowledgeable representatives. The Editors' Choice Award-winning HP LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw earned this top score due to its large, well-designed touchscreen controls and easy setup process. Its single function sibling, the HP LaserJet Pro M254dw, shares the same controls and earned a top score for the same reason.

The Brother HL-L8360CDW is a relative pleasure to use, earning a coveted 9 out of 10 scores in our user friendliness testing. It has a large touchscreen interface, and we ran into relatively few issues when switching it between WiFi networks. Our only minor complaint is that typing in WiFi passwords can feel a bit tedious as the digital keyboard is quite small.

Navigating menus using buttons  like you must on the Epson Expression  can feel somewhat cumbersome if you're used to touchscreens.
Navigating menus using buttons, like you must on the Epson Expression, can feel somewhat cumbersome if you're used to touchscreens.

Also in the 8 out of 10 runner-up spot is the Brother MFC-J995DW. It offers a well designed and intuitive touchscreen interface, along with quick and easy setup. However, it had just slightly more frequent Wi-Fi connectivity issues than the top scorers.

The Canon TS9120 also earned an 8 out of 10 in this metric, largely thanks to some of its cloud features. While we did run into some hiccups trying to connect to this model wirelessly, once we did everything worked quite smoothly. We especially like the ability to print directly from and scan directly to your Google Drive account. We also like that there is an included SD card slot, so you can print photos without having to upload them to a computer first.

We love the touchscreen controls of the HL-L8360CDW.
We love the touchscreen controls of the HL-L8360CDW.

The Canon PIXMA MX922 scored a 7. Its initial setup was seamless and even after multiple calls, we were impressed with Canon's customer service. The only annoyance that kept it out of the top score is its print tray. It's really not so much of a tray, but just a single plastic arm that is less than two inches wide. This proved to be inadequate as every time we printed a document of more than ten pages we ended up with papers on the floor. Also in the 7 out of 10 group, the HP OfficeJet 3830 offers easy setup and a nice touchscreen interface, but we think its menu design leaves a bit to be desired.

Touchscreen controls  like those on the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw (left)  offer easier navigation and troubleshooting capabilities than simple controls  like those on the Brother HL-L8350CDW (right).
Touchscreen controls, like those on the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw (left), offer easier navigation and troubleshooting capabilities than simple controls, like those on the Brother HL-L8350CDW (right).

Next up in our ease of use testing results was the Brother MFC-L2750DW which scored a 5. The Brother MFC-L2750DW ran through its initial setup easily, but we had some trouble connecting to wifi networks. It worked seamlessly once we reset the wifi network a couple of times, but this suggestion was not made in the manual or by customer service. It has a touchscreen interface to control its many functions, but we felt it was a bit clunkier and less intuitive than those on the HP multifunction models.

Interface design is especially important to consider for more complicated  multi-function machines. Touchscreen controls  like those on the Brother MFC-9130CW pictured here  best facilitate using mutli-function machines.
Interface design is especially important to consider for more complicated, multi-function machines. Touchscreen controls, like those on the Brother MFC-9130CW pictured here, best facilitate using mutli-function machines.

At the bottom of our ease of use tables was the Brother HL-L2350DW. USB printing worked immediately, wifi setup was straightforward but took a while due to the HL-L2350DW's 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.

Graphics/Photos


Many people want a printer that can handle text and produce some eye-catching graphics that can make their essays or reports really pop. Some may even want to be able to toss in a picture or two to spruce up the family holiday letter. We printed multiple graphs, charts 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 CVS and Walgreens.


Due to its impressive photo printing quality, the Canon TS9120 was the leader in this metric. After comparing photos printed on the TS9120 to the same photos printed at CVS, we feel the TS9120 is able to produce a better overall color profile, better 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 bold and bright graphs. However, printing images on standard paper often bring a bit of graininess.

The TS9120 produces great photo prints.
The TS9120 produces great photo prints.

The HP OfficeJet 3830 is the only non-photo printer in our tests that could match the TS9120's score. It renders impressively bold and crisp graphics and photos with impressively accurate colors. However, it does lack the TS9120's ability to print on photo paper.

Scoring a 7 out of 10 in this metric, theBrother MFC-J995DW, produced very vivid and sharps graphs and images. It also can print fairly good photos, but lacks some of the color accuracy of the top performers.

The OfficeJet 3830's graphics look bright  bold  and crisp.
The OfficeJet 3830's graphics look bright, bold, and crisp.

The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw fell just outside the top groups in this metric with a score of 6 out of 10. Its graphs and charts are superb, but its photos look oversaturated with some noticeable pixelation.

The Brother HL-L8360CDW earned a score of 6 out of 10 in this metric. It generally was able to produce crisp looking graphics and photos in our testing, but the colors tended to come out somewhat dark. This generally wasn't a huge deal, but for graphs with lots of subtle color shades it could make things a little confusing.

High performing models created graphics with bold  solid colors  like those from the HP Officejet Pro 8720 (left)  while low performing models made graphics that looked grainy and pixelated  like those from the Brother HL-L2350DW (right).
High performing models created graphics with bold, solid colors, like those from the HP Officejet Pro 8720 (left), while low performing models made graphics that looked grainy and pixelated, like those from the Brother HL-L2350DW (right).

The Canon PIXMA scored a 5 on our graphics and photos test. It rendered reddish skin tones in photographs and showed slight but noticeable pixelation in both photos and simple graphics. Rounding out the middle pack was the MFC-L2750DW, which scored a 4. It had very noticeable pixelation when printing photos, and displayed graininess when printing simple graphics. While none of these lower scorers produced illegible graphs, the quality was low enough that most people would take notice.

While no model we tested could print frame worthy photos some  like the HP Officejet Pro 8720 (left) at least produced reasonable looking photos  while others  like the HP LaserJet Pro M402n (right)  just aren't suited for photos at all.
While no model we tested could print frame worthy photos some, like the HP Officejet Pro 8720 (left) at least produced reasonable looking photos, while others, like the HP LaserJet Pro M402n (right), just aren't suited for photos at all.

Printing Speed


For most people that print a few pages here or there, or that generally print short documents like plane tickets and forms, 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 one was printing a standard, single-sided, 10-page text document. This allowed us to compare speed over all models, whether they be color or not, or could handle double-sided printing.


The Brother MFC-L2750DW, which scored a 7 and 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.

After the three medal winners we had the Brother HL-L2350DW and the Brother HL-L8360CDW. Both produced 16 pages a minute and scored a 6. 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 up to 7. 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 M281fdw also scored a 7 and printed 14 pages per minute. We gave the M281fdw a slight bump because it printed duplex just a bit faster, just like it's sibling.

The Cannon LBP151dw all loaded up for a speed test. It was one of the fastest models we tested.
The Cannon LBP151dw all loaded up for a speed test. It was one of the fastest models we tested.

A slew of different models earned a 5 out of 10 in our speed testing. The Canon TS9120 spit out 12 pages a minute in our testing. The Brother MFC-J995DW produced an average of 9 pages a minute. This is solidly outside of the novel-before-breakfast territory, but will still be plenty fast for the majority of documents.


The slowest models in our test was the Canon PIXMA. The Epson XP-640 also scored a 4 and also printed 8 pages per minute. The HP OfficeJet 3830 matched this rate. The PIXMA MX922 brought up the rear with a score of 3 and a speed of 6 pages a minute. These speeds aren't going to annoy you if you tend to only print a few pages at a time. However, if you're going to be printing War and Peace, brace yourself, because it's going to take some time. Even just the War and Peace cliff notes would keep you waiting for a while.

Conclusion


While we still haven't found that perfect printer that guarantees hassle-free connection and use every single time, we feel we've at least weeded out the worst offenders. We hope that this review and our in-depth testing have helped you find the perfect printer that has all the functionality you need and that fits into your budget.


Max Mutter and Steven Tata