What's the best printer to buy? All-purpose printers are a booming market, and you're spoilt for choice, so here's our pick of the best printers on the market right now.
In choosing the best printer your first decision is whether to go for a standard printer, or a multi-function device which includes a scanner and which can also work as a standalone copier.
These aren't much larger than regular printers, but they're a whole lot more versatile, especially when you need to keep a copy of a letter, a bill or any other important document, so our first list includes the best inkjet printers and best multi-function devices.
You should also think carefully about whether to invest in an inkjet or a laser. Lasers are usually associated with office environments, where they produce sharp, smudge-free printouts quickly, quietly and economically, but this can be just as useful at home or in a home office.
And don't imagine that mono laser printers are the only option - colour laser printers are now very affordable, and you can even get get multi-function laser printers, too. So we've also come up with a list of the best laser printers, and not just for office users with budgets to burn, but home users looking for value, quality, compactness and ease of use.
20 best laptops in the world
Best injet printers
So let's firstly look at the best inkjet printers around before looking at the best laser printers. Please remember that the prices shown here are for guidance only.
1. Brother MFC-J4620DW - £95
The Brother MFC-J4620DW packs some features missing from similarly-priced models in the company's range. They include A4 and A3 scanning, copying and faxing, in addition to the ability to connect directly to a range of cloud-based services such as OneDrive and Dropbox.
One of its bigger plus points versus rival printers is its simple operation. It has a big, tilting 9.3cm touchscreen, a range of connection options and supports double-sided scanning. With a mixture of ivory and black, the MFC-J4620DW is less bulky than some of its peers without skimping on performance: printing goes up to 6,000 x 1,200 dpi with speeds of up to 35ppm in mono and 28ppm in colour.
2. Brother DCP-J4120DW - £80
You might not always want to print on A3 paper, but when you do, many conventional inkjet printers aren't up to the task. Brother's DCP-J4120DW can, in addition to being able to do duplex and colour printing without breaking the bank.
Currently on sale for a fair chunk below its official £120 price tag, this printer comes with an impressive feature set. It can scan, copy, connect via Wi-Fi and print directly from SD, SDHC, SDXC, memory sticks and flash drives. Its touchscreen might not be the best, but it's a quiet, fast and consistent little performer that's well worthy of your attention.
3. HP DeskJet 1000 – £30
How do they do it for the money? It's not just that this printer is cheap, because with most budget printers you get stung later on with high-priced consumables, but the black and tri-colour ink cartridges for the DeskJet 1000 are pretty reasonably priced, and you can get XL high-capacity versions too.
And for a budget printer, it's pretty fast, with a quoted maximum of 16ppm mono, 12ppm colour. There are no fancy extras - you even have to supply your own USB cable - but it does exactly what it says on the box, providing low-cost, fuss-free printing for as little money as possible.
4. Epson Stylus SX425W - £60
The SX425W gives you a a lot for your money, with built-in memory card slots, wi-fi printing and multi-function scanning and copying. It uses Epson's DURABrite inks, which means that the paper is dry as soon as it emerges from the printer, and you get exceptionally clean, bright and smudge-proof output on plain paper.
Photo output is slightly dull by comparison, though, and like a lot of low-cost printers, the SX425W does cost quite a bit to run. It's perfect though, if you want a versatile yet inexpensive document printer for light or occasional use.
5. HP Photosmart 7510 - £120
With print quality very high and prices ultra-low, what can multifunction printer manufacturers do to improve on previous models? This new HP Photosmart 7510 sets itself apart by offering a huge range of features, but it also leaves a few behind.
The HP Photosmart 7510 uses five ink tanks: CMYK, plus a pigmented black for clear, waterproof text. It connects to your Mac through USB or to your home network using Wi-Fi b/g/n, and has AirPrint for printing from iOS devices.
6. Lexmark Genesis S815 - £120
Lexmark's Genesis S815 is full of fresh ideas. Instead of a standard flatbed scanner, this multifunction device uses an image capture system based on a digital camera. It can capture an entire page in three seconds. It boasts a range of integrated mini-applications too. Downloadable apps include a calculator, clock, Facebook and Twitter integration, graph or music paper printing and there's even an app to display news and sports feeds from Apple, ESPN and the BBC. Overall print quality is good, too.
7. Canon Pixma MX870 - £150
If you're looking for a stunning printer for your small office or home office, the Canon PIXMA MX870 is for you. Like most recent Canons, it uses a five-tank system with pigmented black for crystal-clear and waterproof text printing. It can't print directly onto optical discs, but its fax facilities and 35-sheet document feeder are probably more use for a small-office machine.
Connectivity is through USB, Ethernet and WiFi. It took almost five minutes to print our 20-page text document, which is a little slow for an office printer, but its print quality is fantastic.
8. Kodak ESP 9250 - £160
Kodak's top multi-function printer has a much stronger business slant than its cheaper consumer models. Kodak's drive to reduce running costs means both documents and photos could cost you less in the long run, even though the 9250's initial asking price is quite high.
And because it uses just two separate ink cartridges, it's simple to maintain. Photo output is, actually, a tad disappointing, but if the built-in fax machine, 30-sheet automatic document feeder, wi-fi and Ethernet connectivity make up for that.
9. Canon Pixma MG8150 - £193
You can sum up this amazing Canon printer in two words; 'no compromises'. It doesn't compromise on print quality. In fact, it has arguably the best print engine of any multiformat inkjet, with stellar photo printing and crystal-clear text. It makes no compromises on speed either. Our 20-page text document printed in just over four minutes, which is entirely acceptable for a home printer. And nor is its feature set compromised. It can do disc onbody printing, automatic Duplex and more. It's an excellent all-round printer.
10. Canon Pixma iP100 - £200
It's fine using a laptop when visit friends, customers or colleagues, but that's a fat lot of good when your printer's back at the office. The portable Pixma iP100 is the answer, printing anything from photos and business cards to regular A4 documents, and at a decent speed, too.
The rechargeable battery's good for up to 300 prints, which is remarkable in itself, and the quality is fine, both for photos and regular documents, so you could even use it as your everyday desktop printer too.
Best laser printers
1. Samsung ML-1665 - £70
Laser printers have a lot going for them. They're cheaper to run than inkjets, they produce sharp, dry, smudge-free printouts, they're civilized and they're quiet. They've also got a reputation for being too expensive for anything but office use, but the the ML-1665 changes all that.
You might expect a cheap laser to be crude and slow, but the Samsung is neither. It also has a really smart 'screen print' button that outputs whatever's on your computer screen at the time - perfect for grabbing a quick hard copy without all the fuss of print dialogs and page setup.
2. Brother DCP7030 - £115
With the Brother CCP7030 you get the advantages of a laser printer combined with the flexibility of a multifunction device. The printer might be mono, but the scanner is full-colour, which means mono prints and copies but colour scans.
You get good-quality 600dpi output and the running costs are about average for a mono laser, so the low purchase price doesn't doesn't mean more expensive consumables. It won't be as quick as a more expensive office laser, but given the price, the print quality and the multi-function capability, it's a great buy.
3. Xerox Phaser 6125 - £133
How much? For a colour laser? The Phaser 6125's low purchase price is by far its strongest selling point, though, and while the print quality and print speeds are acceptable for light and undemanding home/SOHO use, it could soon prove out of its depth in a busier environment.
And as with many other cheap printers, you face higher running costs, thanks to the cost of replacement cartridges. But if both your printing needs and your budget are modest, the Phaser 6125 is a steal.
4. HP LaserJet P2055d - £157
If you want colour printouts, networking and built-in scanning and copying, you're going to have to look elsewhere, because the HP P2055d is an old-school mono laser built solely for quality, speed and efficiency.
It can churn out pages at up to 33ppm, it has an 'instant on' feature which means you don't have to wait for it to warm up, and it offers automatic duplex printing too. The 1200dpi resolution generates super-sharp text, and the 250-sheet feeder means you're not constantly having to shovel in more paper.
5. Samsung CLX-3185FW - £290
The CLX-3185W is a multi-function printer that combines a colour laser, scanning and copying and faxing, and includes networking capability via Ethernet or wireless network - it even comes with a 15-sheet document feeder.
For a machine which does so much, it's surprisingly compact. If it has a flaw, it's the single-drum design, which means that colour documents have to go through in four passes, and this has an impact on the colour print speeds, but you have to set this against the Samsung's features and sheer value for money.
6. Brother HL-4150CDN - £380
Colour lasers were once very expensive, but the HL-4150CDN shows just how far prices have fallen, even for well-specced business models. You get a lot for your money, here, including very good print quality (though photos aren't quite so good), decent print speeds, duplex printing and Ethernet connectivity.
This is ideal for small offices or workgroups, and the Brother also has a neat PIN protection scheme that means sensitive documents won't be printed until you go over and enter a PIN on the printer itself.