The Best Home Printer for Most People

The Best Home Printer for Most People
Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo

What is the best printer for most people? Let’s face it: most people don’t need a printer. At this point, putting ink to paper pretty pointless and barring a few specific cases you’re going to dust off your printer once a month at best. That said, if you want maximum resolution and to ensure your ink tanks won’t try out, a laser printer is the way to go. Inkjet and other cheaper technologies just don’t stack up to the speed and quality of a good laser printer and prices have fallen so low that it makes no sense to pick up a sub-$150 inkjet printer when these printers are far faster, better, and won’t see their cartridges drying out and needing a refill every six months.

The goal, then, was to find the best laser printer that would meet most of a person’s printing needs while balancing price and quality. Finding the best one is difficult, primarily because these printers are all quite fine and offer prints that handily beat most inkjet printers for document reproduction.

The printers I tested were:

Editor’s Note: The two Canon devices and the HP printer are currently out of stock in Australia.

These are printers regularly picked by publications like CNET, Wirecutter, and PC Mag, and they all, at minimum, do fantastic and fast black and white printing. But how do they actually compare? Which is the one you should buy?

The testing process was simple: I connected each one to my Wi-Fi network and ran through two print test pages – colour and black-and-white – and a mixed 10-page document. I timed the prints as soon as the print drum began spinning and stopped the timer when the last page came out. I tested duplex and single-page prints as well and then ran about thirty pages through each one to ensure there were no glaring issues.

Best Printer For Speed and Quality

Testing printers all day long. (Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo) Testing printers all day long. (Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo)

Print quality was approximately the same on all of these models. They’re good! The one standout was the HP M255dw in that it displayed an excellent colour reproduction in my test images as well as excellent B&W performance. Which is why quality matters just a little less in a laser printer than speed. You want your printer to do a good job and spit out your document quickly.

Here the two colour printers, the Canon Imageclass LBP622Cdw, and HP M255dw, showed the major downside of their ilk. They’re slow compared to printers that only have to handle black toner. They were the slowest printers in every test, with the HP taking 14 seconds to print a single black and white test print. Of the two, the Canon was, on average, faster.

Graphic: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Graphic: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Graphic: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Graphic: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Graphic: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Graphic: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Graphic: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Graphic: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo, In-House Art

If speed is your passion, then the real performer was the Canon LBP226dw which printed a single black and white test page in a mere 2 seconds and 10 pages double sides in just 30 seconds.

In terms of absolute print quality, however, the M255dw offered the best colour and BW reproduction. The test prints were noticeably superior and even though the speed sometimes lagged, quality is job one when it comes to a laser printer. Yet because it was the slowest overall this one is going to the Canon LBP226DW which has good enough quality and lightning-fast print speeds.

Winner: Canon LBP226dw

Best Printer For the Price

HP might have produced the best looking test pages, but it also took the longest. (Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo) HP might have produced the best looking test pages, but it also took the longest. (Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo)

Regardless of quality and speed, if a printer is too expensive it’s going to go to waste gathering dust on your desk or in a cabinet. The printers test were all under $400 but range in price for as low as $150. If we looked at price of the printer alone the two Brother printers, the HL-L2395DW and HL-2350DW, would take the lead at $214 and $149 respectively.

So we also factored in price per page — which is the average cost of printing a page. Price per page is fairly easy to determine. In this case, we took the smallest replacement toner cartridge and divided it by the number of pages it promises to print.

Printing in black and white costs between 4 and 5 cents per page while the two colour printers both cost around 7-8 cents per page when printing in colour. And, ok, yeah that didn’t simplify anything! The Brother printers both costing just 4 cents per page when printing are neck and neck with the Canon imageCLASS LBP226dw for printing the cheapest black and white pages.

So let’s factor in the actual price of a toner cartridge — and again let’s look at the cheapest per printer. That super cheap Canon loses its appeal as you’ll have to drop around $160 for a cartridge. That will give you a whopping 3,100 printed pages, but that’s still a major commitment. The HP and the colour Canon call for around $88 and $95 respectively for black and white cartridges, while the colour cartridges are both around $98.

And here is where the two Brother printers really shine. While you’ll only get 1,200 pages per cartridge in the cheapest Brother toner cartridge, they still only have an upfront cost of about $60.

With the Brother HL-2350DW starting at just $149 and a $60 toner cartridge netting you a mere 4 cents per pages, its the absolute winner if you’re looking to spare your wallet.

Winner: Brother HL-2350DW

Best Printer By Design

A printer’s physical design is fairly subjective but given the large footprint, it’s important to get a model that is small enough for a desk but has room enough for plenty of paper and toner.

When it came to overall size, the Brother HL-2350DW was small and compact although it did have an almost comically small LCD window on the top. This isn’t terrible except when setting the printer up without a computer or phone. Typing in the Wi-Fi access point password was a frustrating experience, but not impossible and it was definitely the smallest and lightest of the bunch. Still, even minor imperfections count against you in a competition this close.

Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art

The Brother HL-2350DW. In an era of colour LCDs, what is this? A screen for ants?

Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art

The Canon Colour imageCLASS LBP622Cdw. That little readout is probably the greatest printer feature ever.

The larger multi-function Brother HL-2395DW also features a scanning plate for copies and at $214 it’s an excellent little printer. It also had the best interface with a great colour touchscreen on the front panel, but the Canon Colour imageCLASS LBP622Cdw featured one of the best CMYK level indicators I’ve seen on a printer. It had four LCD displays over four coloured boxes that showed how much toner was in each cartridge and you could see the cartridges empty in real-time. The LCD itself was black-and-white but it was big enough to read without glasses.

Still, the most pleasing design overall came in the HP M255dw and, although though it was much larger than the other printers we tested, it was ready to go out of the box with a full set of cartridges pre-installed and an extremely readable colour LCD touchscreen that made it super easy to set up. One peeve? HP, out of all the models, had the most popups offering to sell you toner and paper. All of the printers had some form of auto-ordering system built-in and obviously, it’s an excellent deal to have your printer phone home for supplies. That said, HP was the most adamant.

Because the HP and the Canon LBP622Cdw were both strong contenders, I was torn. The HP, however, was surprisingly well-appointed – it even came with a USB cable in the box – so it looks like Mssrs. Hewlett and Packard win again.

Winner: HP M255dw

Bottom Line

While inkjet printers can still be found for cheaper than a good laserjet they’re just not a smart buy unless you’re printing weekly or daily. Laserjet printers won’t win any awards when it comes to printing out your favourite photos, but you should spend the money to get a professional to do those anyways — especially because pro ink will fade a lot slower than what’s found in a standard inkjet. And when it comes to a laser printer that will give you a good balance of affordability, quality, and speed…we have to tip our hat to the $149 Brother HL-2350DW. It was one of the fastest printers we tested, the cheapest both for upfront and maintenance costs, and small and pretty nice looking to boot. While we absolutely adore the HPM255dw, especially for its excellent print quality, gorgeous display, and ability to do colour, it just was too slow and costly to be the best choice for most people.

If you absolutely need colour definitely give it a shot, but for those of us just looking to print out tax returns and the odd ticket or shipping label, the Brother HL-2350DW is our top choice.