Our expert guide reveals the best printers that deliver high-quality prints at a pleasingly low cost. Whether you want a basic black and white printer, or a colour all-in-one printer that can scan and copy, our tests uncover the best printer for you and your budget.
The most important question to consider when buying a new printer is whether you should buy an inkjet or laser. Inkjet printers are typically cheaper up front, but cost more to run, while laser printers are pricier to buy but can produce quality prints faster and more cheaply. Other key questions include whether you want to scan and copy as well as print. Are you happy with just black and white or do you want to print in colour?
What type of printer should I choose?
Printers can generally be split into two main categories, based on the ink technology they use: inkjet or laser. They’re also referred to in terms of their features, such as wireless printers, or the tasks their best suited to, such as home office printers. Below we’ve explained the key characteristics of the different types of printers to decide which will suit you best, whether you’re looking for a simple printer to churn out black and white documents quickly, or want to print high-quality images. We’ll also highlight the types of printer that will help you keep printing costs down in the long run.
How much should I spend?
You can buy a new inkjet printer for less than £50, but our Best Buy printers start at around £130. You can get a Best Buy inkjet printer for £140, or a decent all-in-one, colour laser printer for under £200. Perhaps the most important cost to consider is upkeep, as some cheaper cartridge inkjets cost considerably more to run than ink tank and laser printers.
Picking a cheap, ink thirsty model could easily cost you hundreds of pounds more over the lifetime of the printer. As well as ink and toner costs, it’s worth considering the features you need from a printer. An all-in-one printer/scanner with wi-fi and Apple AirPrint could set you back as little as £40. For premium features like an automatic document feeder, or automatic double-sided printing, you can expect to pay upwards of £100. tests printers for every budget, ranging from affordable inkjet printers to business-ready laser printers.
We assess their quality, speed and running costs, and go deep into their features and ease of use. Each has its place and purpose. We help you narrow down your search so you find the right printer for you. Just need a decent printer that won’t cost a fortune in ink? See all tested models in our full printer reviews.
What is an inkjet printer?
Inkjet printers are great all-rounders. They can handle text-heavy documents such as a student’s coursework or minutes from a meeting, but they can also print photos – and do a better job of it than a laser printer. They’re quiet and unobtrusive, and they also take up less desk space than a laser. However, cartridge inkjets are usually more expensive to run than laser printers, costing you more in ink per printed page than you would pay for laser toner. That’s not necessarily the case with ink tank printers (explained below), but as a rule of thumb, inkjets cost you less up front, but more in the long term.
Smaller and cheaper than laser printers, can produce good-quality colour prints
More expensive running costs, slower to print black text pages than a laser
Colour laser printers cost more to buy than inkjets, but printing costs are lower, which could save you money in the long run.
Get a great inkjet printer with our round-up of the best inkjet printers.
What is a laser printer?
Laser printers shine when it comes to printing a lot of black text, and while colour models are more expensive than colour inkjets, they also produce professional-looking business graphics. They’re normally faster than inkjets when it comes to this kind of job, and can handle a heavier workload if you’re planning to print a lot of pages every month. What’s more, while the toner cartridges are expensive, most print a lot more pages than an inkjet cartridge, so the actual cost per black-and-white or colour page is usually much less. However, laser printers are usually bulkier and noisier than the equivalent inkjet printer and will take up more space on your desk. While they can produce good graphs and charts, colour laser printers aren’t much good at printing photos. Stick to an inkjet if you’re likely to print off your holiday snaps.
Fast prints and good-value printing for black-and-white pages
More expensive to buy, bulkier and often noisier than inkjets Choose a model from our round-up of the best laser printers.
What is a tank printer?
Tank printers do away with cartridges. Instead they have refillable tanks of ink, which you replenish with a special kit. As they’re often inkjet models, you’ll find colour tank printers, as well as some mono ones which just print in black and white. They have little windows into the tank on the front of the printer, which you can easily monitor to see whether the ink is running low. There are only a couple of tank laser printers: HP’s Neverstop Laser range are the first laser models to use cartridge-free technology. Tank models tend to be more expensive to buy up front than a traditional inkjet model – but they’ll make up for it with print-cost savings, costing as little as a few pounds a year to run. Tank printers tend to be extremely economical to run and can save you hundreds over the course of a couple of years.
Extremely low running costs, inkjet models can produce good colour prints
Can be expensive to buy Find out which printers have the lowest running costs in our guide to the best cheap printers to buy and run.
What is an all-in-one printer?
You can buy straightforward inkjet or laser printers, but a device that scans and copies as well won’t cost you a whole lot more. Most have wi-fi connectivity so that you can print from several PCs or laptops, not to mention tablets or smartphones. Some include a fax function, too. Some all-in-one printers have an automatic document feeder (ADF) on top, which is handy for scanning and copying multi-page reports.
Can scan, photocopy and fax as well as print
Tend to be larger models that take up more space See the best all in one printers, and other models, in our printer reviews. Or, get the lowdown on wireless printing in our wireless printing explained guide.
What is a photo printer?
The term ‘photo printer’ covers a wide range of devices. Commonly, photo printers are A4 all-in-one inkjet models, with more precise ink nozzles and additional colour cartridges or tanks. To others, it’s a dedicated compact photo printer that only prints small photos. Or perhaps you want an A3 specialist model with dedicated photo cartridges and high-resolution print heads for lab quality photo prints. Photo printers usually have memory card slots and a USB connection on the front, so you can plug in your camera’s memory card or connect the camera itself and print away, with or without a PC.
Optimised for photo printing
Can’t guarantee better print quality than a more flexible regular printer Read more about the best photo printers. Some A4-sized all-in-one printers can print great small photos, and are more versatile than a compact photo printer.
What is an A3 printer?
If you want to print large office documents, posters or photos to hang on your wall, then an A3 printer is the one for you. They cost more money and take up more desk space, but they can print on larger sheets of paper than a standard A4 printer. Some have a strong photographic or design focus.
Ideal if you need to print at poster-size
Take up significant space compared with regular printers We’ve rounded up the best A3 printers to help you quickly find the model for you.
Black and white or colour: what should I go for?
Black-and-white inkjets are a dying breed, but you can still save a little money by opting for a ‘mono’ (black-and-white) laser printer. These are cheaper to buy than colour models, and if you’re mostly printing black text on white pages, you’ll also find them nice and cheap to run. Colour makes your printer much more versatile, however, so you’ll need to weigh up the savings against the likelihood you’ll want to print photos or colour documents.
Should I consider a wireless printer?
Wi-fi is an excellent feature to look for in your new printer. It enables you to connect it to the internet without needing a cable, meaning you can place your printer where you like in your home. Once you’ve connected your wireless printer to the internet, you can access a range of online services, such as the free mobile printing apps offered by the big printer brands – HP, Epson, Canon and Brother. If you’re an Apple user, look out for AirPrint, which enables you to print from Mac, iPhone and iPad devices wirelessly without any drivers. Find out more in our in-depth guide to wireless printing.
Where to buy a printer
When buying a printer, make sure you’re handing your money over to a reputable seller. Check the retailer’s returns policy and pay attention to customer feedback and reviews. For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty products, see our advice on shopping online. Amazon, Argos, Currys and John Lewis are some of the most searched-for printer retailers at the time of writing. We’ve included links to these retailers handpicked because of their stock availability, best value price or warranty options.
Amazon – has hundreds of printers in stock, but try to stick to models that are fulfilled by or sold by Amazon if you can – it’s much easier to resolve issues if something goes wrong.
Argos – offers a wide range of inkjet and laser printers. Great if you’re on a budget – prices start around £30 and you can get free same day in-store collection at selected Sainsbury’s stores. Brands include HP, Brother, Epson and Canon.
Currys – stocks a reasonable range of home printers. Prices start as low as £25 and go up to a few hundred pounds for high-end printers. But remember, if you find the printer you want cheaper elsewhere Currys promises to match or beat the price of all other retailers.
John Lewis – stocks lots of different types of printers including inkjet, colour laser, mono laser and all-in-one models. You’ll get a free-of-charge two-year warranty when you buy your printer and you’ll also be offered technical support from their in-house team.
How to secure your printer
By default, most home printers are configured for convenience rather than security. That leaves you to personally decide how to secure your printer. This is no secret to hackers – an Epson printer was the most commonly targeted device by real hackers in our 2021 hackable home study. The good news is that the risk of a breach can be greatly reduced with a few straightforward changes to your settings. Hackers are typically interested in easy pickings, so even small tweaks like these can make your printer a significantly less appealing target.
Set a strong password
If you haven’t already set a strong password to use your printer, you should. Devices with weak passwords are a soft touch for hackers who could potentially eavesdrop on, or even alter, what you’re printing. A good password manager, which creates and remembers strong passwords so that you only need to remember a single memorable one, can help with this. See our guide to the best password managers for more advice on setting strong passwords.
Update your firmware
You may not notice a difference to operation when you update your firmware, but these updates often contain important security patches. If your printer can update automatically, switch this setting on. Otherwise you’ll find the latest updates on your printer company’s website. In the past, manufacturers have used these updates to disable third-party inks. This has led some printer users (and third-party ink sellers) to suggest turning them off. We don’t recommend this approach – security should always come first.
Secure your network
Many devices lack robust security features, and look to your network for protection. That gives potential hackers free reign once they’re inside, though. If you still use the password printed on the bottom of your wi-fi router, that could include anyone that’s ever been inside your home. Start by changing the default password and updating the firmware if this doesn’t happen automatically. This can all be done in your settings menu by typing your router’s IP address into any browser. You’ll usually find this printed on your router, along with your settings password (which you should also change if you haven’t already). Looking to upgrade your router? See our router reviews.
Set up a guest network
While you’re logged in to your settings page, it’s worth setting up a guest network. This allows guests to access your wi-fi without giving them full permission to change your settings or install anything they shouldn’t. It’s fine to give this guest network a simpler password for ease of sharing.
Turn off unnecessary permissions
If you use an app to print, your printer manufacturer might know more about you than you’d like. For example, many brands ask for your location data. This is technically anonymous data, since it’s not tied to your name or a user account, but could still contain data that could give away your identity, like where you live or work. This data could also be used or sold on to other companies. We believe that tech companies should only ever ask for permissions essential for their products’ everyday use. On Android phones, you can fix this going to settings, then apps. Select the app and then go into permissions to see and change your settings On iOS, simply select the app under settings and untick any permissions you’re not comfortable with. Alternatively, to see which permissions you’ve allowed across all apps on Android, go to settings, biometrics, security and then app permissions. On iOS you’ll find this information under settings, then privacy.
Factory reset your printer before you dispose of it
Many printers store a small amount of data between jobs. That could include your most recently printed or scanned documents, which could contain personal information. Your username and password data could also be accessible. To be safe, we recommend factory resetting your printer before you sell, donate or recycle it. The process for this varies by brand and model, but it’s usually done by pushing or holding a combination of buttons on the printer itself. Check your printer’s manual or manufacturer’s website for guidance on how to do this. Be sure to remove any SD cards too if your printer has a built-in memory card reader. And don’t forget to check the print tray or scan bed for any documents. Your printer’s manual, or the manufacturer’s website, will have more detailed guides to bolstering your security, but following these steps is a good place to start.
Printer ink cartridge recycling
Ink and toner cartridges account for a huge amount of waste plastic – with tens of millions going straight into landfill every year in the UK alone. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce this.
Recycling printer ink cartridges for charity
Services like Recycle4Charity allow you to send in your used cartridges for recycling – including some third-party models – free of charge. Depending on the cartridge, they’ll then donate an amount (usually between 10p and £2) to a charity of your choice. That doesn’t sound like much, but so far the charity’s raised more than £1.5m and saved more than 375 tonnes of cartridges from landfill.
Recycling printer ink cartridges by post
Most printer manufacturers offer some form of free recycling service – although they’ll only recycle their own brand of cartridges. This usually involves either putting your cartridges in a pre-paid envelope or printing off a Freepost label using your own printer (a real Catch-22 if you haven’t got a new cartridge yet). Some schemes require that you save up several ink cartridges before sending them back. That cuts transport emissions, but it could also mean ink cartridges rattling around your home for years if you don’t print very often.
What happens when I recycle printer ink cartridges?
When you send cartridges back to the manufacturer, they’re broken down into raw materials, which are sold on and made into other products. So, your used cartridge could soon be living a second life as a water bottle or clothes peg. HP is currently the exception, as it uses these raw materials to make new ink cartridges.
Recycling printer ink cartridges near me
Many supermarkets and office supply stores have designated recycling points for ink cartridges, so you can drop off cartridges if you’re in the area shopping already. Similarly, many local recycling centres will accept ink cartridges of all kinds. Recyclenow has a useful search filter to help you find somewhere in your local area.
Ditching printer ink cartridges altogether
Another way to reduce ink cartridge waste is to stop using them altogether. Ink tank printers, which use refillable ink reservoirs instead of cartridges, have stormed our Best Buy tables in recent years. They’re often much more efficient with ink – some models cost just a few pounds a year to run, where cartridge models could cost over £100 to print the same amount. The catch is that they’re usually expensive to buy, though they often work out cheaper over the lifetime of the printer.
Saving printer paper
When it comes to reducing paper waste, the feature to watch is ‘duplex printing’. This allows for automatic double-sided printing, potentially cutting your paper budget in half. If you don’t have duplex printing, you can often manually flip the page, but that can be a pain for larger documents. Recycle your paper where possible.