Choosing the best printer for your needs is a lot like buying a phone. You find a brand you like, select the features you want, and try not to get crushed by the hidden costs. But that can be hard. On average, printer ink—which many models gobble up—will set you back $50 per ounce.
That's just one of the reasons why it's wise to do some research before you make your purchase. Laser printers are generally known for low printing costs and fast printing speeds, but they're not ideal for photos. If you want crisp images, you're better off with an inkjet printer, which sprays dots of ink onto the page, but those tend to be slower.
To help you make a more informed choice, here are four of the best printers in Consumer Reports' Ratings. Before breaking out your credit card, you may also want to check out our printer buying guide and our report on the high cost of wasted printer ink. This piece on cheap printers for people who simply want black-and-white text is worth a look, too.
Canon Pixma MG7720
Inkjet printers excel where laser printers struggle: image quality. And, in our testing, Canon’s Pixma MG7720 did an excellent job of printing photographs. It even has a special tray for snapshot-size photo paper.
The built-in scanner is another strong point, particularly for anyone interested in archiving pictures.
This model also offers wireless printing from a PC or mobile device, and auto-duplex printing, which is a fancy way of saying it prints on both sides of the paper. One tip: Be sure to keep extra cartridges on hand; the moment one color runs out, printing is disabled. Overall, it's one of the best printers for amateur photographers who don't want to bust their budgets.
Epson Expression Premium XP-830
Home Office Upgrade
Some inkjet printers are more business-friendly than others. In addition to quick text printing (10 pages per minute, at five cents a page), for example, Epson’s Expression Premium XP-830 has a touchscreen display, a document feeder for copying and scanning, and functions that let you send faxes from a PC and receive them without using up paper.
This model also spits out very good photos. And, if you want to print text or images from a mobile device using a WiFi connection, it can do that, too.
Great Call for the Startup Phase
It's a bit bulky for the kitchen or the den, but the Dell E525w is a wise investment for a small business owner. A very capable color laser printer, it copies, scans, and faxes documents; connects to a network router via WiFi and Ethernet; and delivers excellent text at a brisk 11 pages per minute. It's great for printing graphics, too.
And your resident graphic designer will appreciate the very good image reproduction, though it's worth noting that this model does not print 4x6 or borderless photos. And, at 12 cents per page, it’s fairly expensive to use.
HP Envy 4500
College Student’s Best Friend
If you're looking to save money for, say, food and books, the $99 all-in-one inkjet HP Envy 4500 will fit the bill. Its printing quality is above average all-around, making photos and documents look crisp. It’s got a high quality scanner and copier if you want to store or reproduce photos and documents. It also has an auto-duplex feature, letting you print on both sides of a page without hassle. On the downside, printing costs are a little high—five-cent text pages could add up in the long run—so get your roommate to kick in some ink once in awhile.
You can print over WiFi as well as through your mobile device. You can even email your printer the file you want it to print when you’re on a new machine. You shouldn’t make photo printing a common occurrence on the Envy 4500 however, or you’ll be buying its single multicolor cartridge more frequently, especially since it can’t function if one color runs out.
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