How to choose a printer

There are more printers available, at a wider range of prices than ever before. Here’s what you should consider when trying to choose the right one for you

Inkjet or laser?

Laser printers want to convince us that they’re as home-friendly as their inkjet counterparts, while some inkjets are as fast as laser printer. So which of these very different animals is right for you? Laser printer toner cartridges last several thousand pages but cost a fortune. Color models tend to slowly use up the color toners even if you only print black, then refuse to print at all when any of them is empty. This makes color lasers awkward if you only print occasionally, and even for higher volumes they don’t necessarily work out cheaper to run than inkjet to run. They do offer crisper text and solid color graphics, but aren’t great for photos.

For most of us an inkjet is the best choice, or a budget mono laser for black only.


It’s more common than ever to find printers with a scanner stuck on top.

There are differences in quality and speed between scanners, so always read our reviews. For everyday occasional photocopying and digitizing paper documents, any ‘multi-function printer’ (MFP) should be fine. A few models still support faxing.

Paper handling

Most printers can accommodate 250 A4 sheets in their main tray, but others only fit 100 (sometimes in a vertical hopper on top, which isn’t as neat). Many MFPs now have an automatic document feeder (ADF, see image above right) for the scanner, typically taking 25 sheets, which is great for multi-page copies. It’s rarer to find a ‘straight-through’ rear paper feed, which avoids the need for thick card to wrap around rollers, so most printers are limited to about 300gsm (grams per square meter) paper. A few A4 printers, notably made by Brother, can print single sheets of A3, but full A3 and larger printers are much pricier.

Laser and inkjet printers have things in common, but are very different animals

Getting connected

A printer can connect to a PC via a USB cable; to a PC or router via an Ethernet cable (meaning you can share it with other devices on your network); or to PCs and mobile devices via built-in Wi-Fi.

Most Wi-Fi models support AirPrint (Apple’s technology that allows printing from iOS apps) and Mopria (for compatible Android apps). A few rely on the printer manufacturer’s own app, which will also let you scan pages from an MFP to your phone or tablet.

The Xerox Phaser 6022V color laser printer, but a full set of refills is well over.

Until all printers fill up from bottles like Epson’s EcoTank, cartridges will remain pricey

Ink and toner costs Our reviews always work out the cost per page for you based on current prices for official ink or toner cartridges. Roughly, expect around 2.5-4p for black text or 7-10p for color. These figures are useful for comparison, but the industry standard definition of a ‘page’ assumes there’s not much on it, so in fact a fullpage photo could use dozens of pages’ worth of ink or toner. Printers also waste ink/toner in maintenance tasks.

Larger ‘XL’ cartridges save money.

Tank systems such as Epson’s EcoTank can work out even cheaper, as well as creating less waste. With HP’s Instant Ink option you pay a monthly fee and ink arrives in the post whenever you’re running low, but to be sure of saving money you’ll need a clear idea of how many pages you’re likely to print.

Unofficial ‘compatible’ cartridges often work fine, and can save money.

But printer manufacturers hate you using them, so expect your printer to harangue you about using an unapproved cartridge. Heavy users of color laser printers, for example, can easily save hundreds of pounds by finding a reliable brand of compatible toner.




An automatic document feed, which typically sits on the top lid of the printer, saves a lot of time for scanning and printing documents that are more than one page. Even better if it supports two-sided scanning and printing.


There are certain industries where faxes are required as a legality for transmitting certain types of information electronically.

As such, several MFCs designed for work use continue to offer this function.


Wi-Fi is pretty much standard on a modern MFC, but it’s also worth checking whether mobile device printing is supported for iOS and Android. Other things to look for are support for connecting USB drives, an SD card slot and Ethernet.


If you don’t have a wireless network to connect the printer to, you may need to revert to an old-school wired connection, in which case, it’s worth checking whether a USB cable Is Included. Alternatively, some printers support Wireless Direct, which allows fora wireless connection without a Wi-Fi network.


Check whether each colour (black, cyan, magenta and yellow) has its own separate ink cartridge, otherwise you’ll have to buy a whole new pack every time a single colour runs out.


The speed specs listed for printers typically use the ‘fast and dirty’ draft quality, which is why they’re typically a lot faster than what you can achieve day-to-day using the normal print quality.


MFCs can balloon in size due to all of the functions they combine, so you’ll need to factor this size in when purchasing – will you have enough space to house it in your home office or workspace?


If you use one of the main cloud services for file storage such as Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive, it’s worth checking whether the MFC can print and/or scan directly to these services.

Multi-function inkjet printers

Inkjet printers

Top 15 printers

How to choose the perfect printer

Pragmatic printers for the smartphone age

Editor choice 1 Brother MFC-J4540DW XL Review

Brother MFC-J4540DW XL Review

DAVE MITCHELL As businesses increasingly transition to remote working, Brother’s A4 Mini Business series of inkjet MFPs aims to provide home workers with all the print, scan, copy and fax features they’d expect in the workplace in a ...
Editor choice 2 Brother DCP-J1140DW Review

Brother DCP-J1140DW Review

Brother is best known for business printers that serve the needs of offices, rather than consumer printers designed for the home. However, with the recent changes in the way many people work, the company has shifted the focus of its inkjet range, ...
Editor choice 3 Epson WorkForce WF-110 review – Small print

Epson WorkForce WF-110 review – Small print

Epson lists this under ‘Inkjet printers for home’, which is the one place you wouldn’t plan to use it. The point of it is that if your work takes you out and about - lockdown permitting - the WF-110W can go with you. Its built-in battery should last ...
£187.90 £219.99 Buy It Now
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Best price 4 Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C5290DW Review – Incredible Bulk

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C5290DW Review – Incredible Bulk

This colour inkjet is bulkier than most, despite having no scanning, copying or fax capabilities. What makes it interesting is the way you refill it, using neither conventional cartridges, nor the bottled ink of Epson’s pricier EcoTank models. ...
5 Lexmark C3224dw Review – Zap your wallet

Lexmark C3224dw Review – Zap your wallet

Colour laser printers are traditionally in a different class from affordable inkjets, but Lexmark’s new laser range promises business-level performance at a low price, and on paper - quite literally - the C3224dw delivers. It’s rated at 22 pages ...
Best value 6 Canon pixma ts6250 Review – Common touch

Canon pixma ts6250 Review – Common touch

Not to be confused with the completely different and much weirder-looking TS6350. this inkjet sits in the middle of Canon's current Pixma TS range, and while we haven’t been convinced by some of its stablemates, the TS6250 achieves a happy medium. ...
7 Canon Pixma TS9550 Review

Canon Pixma TS9550 Review

Canon Pixma TS9550 A3 stars Almost every printer you can buy is designed to take paper up to A4 or US Letter size. That's fine for everyday documents, but on the small side for a poster or photo enlargement, and no use if you want to print ...
8 Remembering Dot Matrix Printers

Remembering Dot Matrix Printers

David Hayward recalls the cacophony of the print room Back in the mid-nineties, I remember sitting in the IT Support office of a college when the Director of All Things (I can’t recall his exact title, sorry) burst through the door and ...
Best price 9 Epson Expression Home XP-452 Review

Epson Expression Home XP-452 Review

Epson Expression Home XP-452 Buy now, pay later The old story: girl meets printer, printer costs 50 quid, girl takes printer home, printer chums out a few dozen pages and demands £’s worth of ink. We don’t condone the version in ...
10 HP Tango Review: Future of printing is not orange

HP Tango Review: Future of printing is not orange

You can buy a printer with a built-in scanner nowadays for 25 quid. But that’s not the future. The future is the HP Tango. No, it’s not orange. They don’t have that kind of Tango in Silicon Valley. Nor is it a dance, because the dance is for two ...
11 Brother MFC-L2710DW Review

Brother MFC-L2710DW Review: Master of none

Brother's model names are reliably explanatory. MFC stands for a multifunction centre. L is for laser. D means duplex, so it can print both sides of the paper, although in this case it can only scan or copy one side at a time. W stands for ...
Best price 12 Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C5790DWF Review: Lowering the toner

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C5790DWF Review: Lowering the toner

This is pricey for an inkjet, but competes on speed with mid-range office laser printers. Compared with colour lasers, it also gives you much smaller bills. Epson’s inks come in 3,000 or 5,000-page packs, looking more like astronaut ...
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