Printer

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.

Multi-function

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.

MULTIFUNCTION CENTRE BUYER’S CHECKLIST

WHAT YOU NEED TO KEEP AN EYE ON WHEN SHOPPING FOR A MULTIFUNCTION PRINTER.

ADF

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.

FAX

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.

CONNECTION OPTIONS

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.

USB CABLE IN THE BOX

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.

INK CARTRIDGES

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.

SPEED

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.

SIZE|

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?

CLOUD PRINTING

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

RECOMMENDED 1 Kyocera Ecosys P5026cdn Review: A quieter color laser

Kyocera Ecosys P5026cdn Review: A quieter color laser

This is one of the more compact color laser printers, but has a full 250-sheet A4 tray plus a 50-sheet multi-purpose feed. It ’s not a scanner , copier or fax, and there’s no Wi-Fi, just USB 2.0 and Gigabit Ethernet to connect to a PC or network. ...
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RECOMMENDED 2 Brother MFC-J5330DW Review: Multifunction printer that handles A3

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Brother MFC-J5330DW Review - This is a great multi-function inkjet printer, which is what you could have bought it for the day we tested it. At the time of going to press. This happens a lot with printers, and it makes it very difficult to pass ...
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RECOMMENDED 3 OKI MC 573 Review: Business Partner for the Small Office

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Easy reloadThe design of the machine means all the stuff you need is in convenient reach.Tray, ports, interface – no fumbling needed. Connect and go in minutes Don’t worry about downloading any software – it’s already all there. Just scan ...
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RECOMMENDED 4 Brother MFC-J6930DW Review: It’s great value

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MFC-J6930DW Review - Brother’s MFC-J6930DW is well-connected device. This A3 inkjet MFP comes with USB, a Ethernet, 802.11n wireless and NFC – plus it supports WiFi Direct and AirPrint, and works with a good range of cloud and mobile services. ...
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RECOMMENDED 5 KYOCERA Ecosys P5026cdw Review

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THESE DAYS, EVERYONE likes to put ‘eco’ in their product names, but Kyocera’s Ecosys printers have a fair claim to being slightly better for the environment. Their photoconductor drums are made from ceramic (hence the ‘cera’ in Kyocera), giving them ...
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RECOMMENDED 6 CANON Pixma TS5050 Review

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THE PIXMA TS5050 is another of Canon’s new additions to its home color MFP range. The curved edges and attractive squat design make it look more like fancy audio-visual kit than something as mundane as a multifunction peripheral, but an MFP it is: ...
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7 CANON Pixma TS8050 Review: Sleek, swift, flexible and produces great creative results

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THE Pixma TS8050 is almost the top model in Canon’s revised range of Pixma inkjet multifunction peripherals (MFPs), and it has the price to prove it. Read our Review. For the money you get a highly specified device with a creative bias: its scanner ...
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GREAT PICK 8 Ricoh SP 150SUw Review: All you need, with a scanner/copier built in

Ricoh SP 150SUw Review: All you need, with a scanner/copier built in

A laser printer for less. Read our Ricoh SP 150SUw ReviewYou'll never regret owning a color inkjet printer... until the day you need 50 copies of a 20-page Word document at short notice. The tool for that job is a mono laser printer, and here’s ...
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RECOMMENDED 9 Epson L655 Review: All-in-One Printer

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Reviewed by Robby VaflorEpson L655 Review - There are a lot ot printers out there: different manufacturers, different strong suits. Epson is a tried and tested brand that offers printers with great quality output and pretty low costs.The ...
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RECOMMENDED 10 Epson Workforce WF 3620 Review – Business printer, home price

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This isn’t a photo printer. It’s important to say that first, because we’re all used to thinking of inkjet printers as the machine on our desk at home that’s a bit slow and eats ink but, fed a packet of photo paper, delivers prints just as good as ...
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11 Epson WorkForce WF-7110DTW Review: A bigger printer that’s excellent value

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If they sold printers by the pound, this would be an amazing deal. More than half a meter wide and weighing two and a half stone, it takes paper up to A3 size. In fact, it goes a bit further , up to A3+ (483x329mm), and a rear slot accommodates ...
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12 Epson WorkForce WF-100W Review

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