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The best tips for buying a printer that won’t drive you crazy


Sarah Tew/CNET

After years of swearing you did not want a printer at residence, effectively, right here you might be. Now that everybody’s been officing-in-place for occurring a yr, typically you simply must print one thing out. However, primarily based by myself historical past (and corroborated by lots of my friends), the one factor virtually each printer has in frequent is that ultimately, you just about need to throw it out of a window. Often sooner. 

However there have to be some floor guidelines for locating an excellent printer that’s much less aggravating to make use of than a medical insurance web site. I did a deep dive into options, costs and potential issues, and got here up with some basic pointers about what to search for and what to keep away from. 

Learn extra: Greatest printers for 2021 

Inkjet vs. laser

Some inkjet printers are so cheap, it is virtually like an impulse purchase. However the you-get-what-you-pay for adage nonetheless applies. Everybody’s seen low cost printers the place a set of alternative cartridges value greater than the printer itself. 

Since I converted to primarily utilizing laser printers, my frustration stage — at the least about printers — has been considerably decrease. I’ve by no means needed to take care of ink cartridges that did not work, received caught or solely printed a number of instances earlier than dropping high quality. Laser toner, even in shade, tends to final a very long time, and delivers extra constant outcomes. 

Extra importantly, as a result of so many laser printers began life as pro-level workplace merchandise earlier than going mainstream, I’ve discovered them to be extra dependable. Not completely dependable, thoughts you, however extra. 

Simply consider a laser, both monochrome or shade, as your default choose and you will be lots happier in the long term. There are some variations known as LED or digital printers as effectively. That is principally only a slight variation on how laser printers work, so think about them the identical factor. 

If you wish to know what I take advantage of, at first of the pandemic, each my mom and I received new monochrome laser printers for our residence workplaces, particularly the Brother HL-L2370DW. I’ve additionally had a really dependable shade model for a number of years, the most recent mannequin of that’s the Brother HL-L3270CDW. Another prime printer picks might be discovered right here.

However what about images? 

There’s all the time an exception. For all they do effectively, laser printers aren’t nice with images. Small photos and illustrations in paperwork, certain. However Fotomat-quality prints on shiny paper? Yeah, you may want an inkjet for that. For those who want pro-quality photograph prints, think about a specialty photo inkjet printer. However be aware these might be costlier to start out with and have very excessive ongoing prices due to really helpful specialty ink. 

Do you really want a built-in scanner? 

No. What’s it you suppose you are going to scan? Simply take an image together with your cellphone and clear it up a bit within the cellphone’s photograph app or a photo-editing app in your laptop computer. I have been doing this for all the things as much as and together with crucial authorized and monetary paperwork for years, and nobody has ever complained. 

If it’s worthwhile to scan in dozens of pages at a time, then you definitely want a sheet-fed scanner, and dependable ones are normally solely discovered on more expensive all-in-one multifunction printers or workplace printers. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Spend much less on provides 

I assumed it was ridiculous after I noticed a 3D printer producer including DRM to its machines, so it might solely use one model of filament materials. It was equally ridiculous when HP (and others) tried to DRM their printers, stopping them from working with third-party ink. These restrictions had been (rightfully) lifted after a public outcry, however it’s solely a matter of time till somebody tries it once more. 

Off-brand ink is the way in which to go, for each inkjet and laser printers. I’ve by no means bought “official” toner for my laser printer, and it is by no means been a difficulty. A full set of black and shade toner from Brother is presently $176 Now, whereas a no-name toner set is underneath $40. Learn some Amazon consumer critiques should you’re apprehensive, however it’s tremendous, get a budget toner. 

Different aggravations 

Think about spending extra to get an honest onboard touchscreen. It could not appear to be one thing you’d use usually, however when organising a brand new printer, you may need the power to punch in your Wi-Fi password with out scrolling by way of each letter of the alphabet. 

Additionally be certain that to search for a handbook feed slot — it is common, however some low-end printers could skip it. That is vital for utilizing a single sheet of shiny paper, card inventory, mailing labels or the rest with out having to open the primary paper tray and swap paper.