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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 Epson L655 Review: All-in-One Printer

Epson L655 Review: All-in-One Printer

Reviewed by Robby Vaflor Epson 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 ...
Editor choice 2 Epson Workforce WF 3620 Review – Business printer, home price

Epson Workforce WF 3620 Review – Business printer, home price

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 ...
3 Epson WorkForce WF-7110DTW Review: A bigger printer that’s excellent value

Epson WorkForce WF-7110DTW Review: A bigger printer that’s excellent value

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 ...
4 Epson WorkForce WF-100W Review

Epson WorkForce WF-100W Review

Epson WorkForce WF-100W Review - Portable printers are a strange breed. They’re generally simpler, flimsier and print less well than full-size models, yet they cost more. That’s partly because they’re aimed at business users who’ll cheerfully spend ...
5 Epson ET 4550 Review – All-in-One Printer

Epson ET 4550 Review – All-in-One Printer

Epson ET 4550 - Epson kills the ink cartridge scam The only sure things in this life are death, taxes and the need to buy new printer ink cartridges every few months. Buying a set of new ink cartridges nowadays usually costs more than the price of ...
6 HP Deskjet 3630 Review: New generation of personal printers.

HP Deskjet 3630 Review: New generation of personal printers.

HP Deskjet 3630 Review - HP brings the Deskjet brand to a new generation of personal printers I first used the Deskjet Plus in 1989, and 26 years later, we’re not a long way from that original highly successful concept. HP’s new Deskjet 3630 is ...
7 Epson XP 640 – A good choice for homes where space is tight

Epson XP 640 – A good choice for homes where space is tight

 Epson XP 640 is a 'small in one' multifunction printers, a good choice for homes where space is tight, but previous models in the range have tended to be conventional four-color printers. As the name implies, the new Premium model is more advanced ...
8 Ricoh SP C250SF Review: Color laser doesn’t shade it

Ricoh SP C250SF Review: Color laser doesn’t shade it

The last Ricoh color laser printer we tested, the C250DN, distinguished itself by being very cheap. Ricoh sp c250sf doesn’t, but it’s actually very reasonably priced for a multi-function printer (MFP). The scanner on top has a 35-sheet automatic ...
Editor choice 9 Canon MF229dw review – Better than a color printer

Canon MF229dw review – Better than a color printer

Canon MF229dw - What would the world be without color? Boring, that’s what. That’s why printer adverts are full of splotches and splashes and rainbows. It’s a brilliant selling point. And we do mean selling. If printer makers had a pound for every ...
10 HP M130nw Review

HP M130nw Review

HP's LaserJet Pro range has traditionally tended to focus on the corporate market, offering high-speed workgroup printers for larger businesses. However, its new M130 range represents a slight change in direction, being aimed at individuals ...
11 Lexmark CX310DN Review: A laser printer that’s cheaper than you think

Lexmark CX310DN Review: A laser printer that’s cheaper than you think

Lexmark’s catalog says this chunky office-style color laser printer, but dealers actually only charge. By our reckoning, the original markup must have made the price of restaurant wine seem reasonable. Read our Lexmark CX310DN Review. ...
Editor choice 12 Brother MFC J5620DW Review – A serious budget inkjet

Brother MFC J5620DW Review – A serious budget inkjet

Everyone wants an affordable printer that can do everything, and the nearest you’ll get is a multi-function inkjet printer like this. However, there’s still a distinction between models designed for home photo printing and those aimed at office ...
TOP NEW Review
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