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- Today’s budget printers don’t skimp on features or print quality and come loaded with additional functions like copy, scan, and even fax.
- For our guide to the best budget printers, we focused on models priced under a hundred dollars.
- With its plentiful features, great print quality, and very low price, our pick for the best cheap printer is the Canon Pixma TR4520. Following close behind is our second favorite, the Epson Expression Premium XP-7100.
A printer is useful for churning out pages upon pages of a college class essay, scanning receipts, creating graphics for a scrapbook, or making copies of a business contract. Even if your printing needs are limited, many printers today can do more than just print, and they are relatively compact and operate wirelessly, so they can be tucked away in a closet or cabinet.
And don’t let a small budget hold you back: For a low price, you can get a high-quality printer that produces crisp text and colorful photos. You’ll also find that many affordable printers are multifunction units that can scan, copy, and even fax, and include useful features like an automatic document feeder, auto-duplexing (two-sided), and wireless connectivity. With these extras, a printer is a great tool for digitizing hard-copy documents, even if you never print a single page.
Budget models tend to use inkjet technology, but there are also a few good laser options. Affordable laser printers are generally barebones and print in only black and white, but our recommendation is fast and reliable, and makes great-quality prints.
Do keep in mind that while these printers aren’t expensive to buy, they can be expensive to maintain, particularly inkjet models. This is the case if you print often, or you make a lot of high-quality color prints like photos or scrapbook printables. Heavy-duty users should look at the cost of ink replacement and the page yields before investing in a unit. Also, while we tried to pick products from reliable brands, printers are mechanical — with many moving parts, they can fail.
Many of our recommendations aren’t the latest models, however, they are still in their respective manufacturers’ lineups and perform just as well as newer options. In fact, while printer makers often announce new models each year, they usually aren’t too different from previous years’ printers.
As a tech journalist who has covered printers and other computing peripherals for nearly 15 years, I have tested a variety of models, from single-function inkjet devices to wide-format photo printers and high-end, multifunction laser units. Considering pricing, features, ease of use, and reliability, these are the best budget printers.
Here are the best budget printers you can buy:
- Best budget printer overall: Canon Pixma TR4520
- Best budget photo printer: Epson Expression Premium XP-7100
- Best budget compact printer: HP DeskJet 3755
- Best budget laser printer: Brother HLL2320D
- Best budget color laser alternative: Epson WorkForce Pro WF-3730
Prices and links are current as of 2/19/2020. After an assessment, we still recommend these models as the best budget picks, but we are currently researching and testing newer options for our next update.
The best budget printer overall
With its low price, plenty of functions and features, and great print quality, the Canon Pixma TR4520 is the best choice for any budget-conscious home or small office.
The compact, cubic design of the Pixma TR4520 takes up less footprint than necessary, yet it gives you all the functions you’d need to run a home office: print, copy, scan, and fax. With support for Wi-Fi, Apple AirPrint, Mopria Print Services, and Google Cloud Print, you can print wirelessly from almost any device, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, as well as Chromebooks. Also handy is two-sided printing to save paper and an automatic document feeder to easily scan or copy.
The printer is also compatible with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. With an Echo device, for example, you can ask Alexa to check on the printer’s ink levels, print status, or print puzzles and coloring pages.
The TR4520 delivers great print quality using just two ink cartridges: black and color. While it’s designed for office productivity, it can print photos up to 4 x 6. Because it’s not a true photo printer, we wouldn’t print anything larger, but it is more than capable for smaller-sized prints. Canon sells ink cartridges in standard and XL capacities, so if you make a lot of prints, it could be more economical to get the larger-size ink tanks.
Still, as with most low-priced printers, you’ll often pay more in supplies. If you don’t print often, this is a good option, as it’s not a particularly fast printer. Heavy-duty users may want to consider a machine with lower operating costs.
Pros: Variety of functions, two-sided printing, automatic document feeder, compact design, low price, great print quality, Alexa enabled, wireless
Cons: Small-capacity paper tray, not speedy, not great for photos larger than 4 x 6, supplies can be costly for heavy-duty users, no touchscreen
The best budget photo printer
The Epson Expression Premium XP-7100 is a great multifunction printer that’s adept at printing beautiful photos.
If you print more photos than documents, invest in a printer with a multicolor ink system, like the Epson Expression Premium XP-7100 Small-in-One Printer — our close runner-up for the best overall budget printer. It uses five separate ink tanks — black, photo black, cyan, magenta, and yellow — to deliver higher-quality photos than color inkjet printers that only use two tanks, resulting in photos with more accurate colors and deeper blacks. Like the Canon Pixma TR4520, the XP-7100 has a compact, boxy design — it won’t win points for style, but we much prefer this form-factor for space-saving reasons.
In our experience, Epson’s printers are highly reliable for photos (you should use a quality photo paper). The XP-7100 also has a USB port and an SD card slot for printing photos off a thumb drive or card. We like the 4.3-inch touchscreen that lets you preview images and files and easily navigate through menus. It supports wireless printing via Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi Direct, as well as AirPrint, Android, Fire OS, Mopria, and Google Cloud Print.
The XP-7100 can also handle productivity tasks, including copying and scanning (no fax). The built-in automatic document feeder handles up to 30 pages at once and it can scan two sides simultaneously, while the flatbed scanner is useful for photo prints. The downside is that the paper tray holds only 100 sheets of regular paper, but there is a small tray that holds 20 sheets of photo paper. Print speeds are good, although not as fast as laser or the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-3730. So while the XP-7100 is great for photos, it’s versatile enough to be an office printer unless you need very fast speeds or fax.
For heavy-duty printing, keep in mind that replacement ink cartridges can get pricey since you have five to replace. Opt for high-yield cartridges, which are expensive but give you more prints; still, even the XL cartridges have lower yields than we would like, so be conservative with what you print, particularly photos.
Pros: Great photo quality, large touchscreen, capable office functions, dedicated photo paper tray, wireless, automatic document feeder with auto-duplex scanning
Cons: Small-capacity paper tray, low-yield ink cartridges
The best budget compact printer
HP’s DeskJet 3755 packs several functions into a compact printer that’s highly portable and great looking.
Billed as the world’s smallest all-in-one inkjet printer, the HP DeskJet 3755 is ideal for occasional printing at home or tight spaces like studio apartments or dorm rooms. Despite the small footprint, it can print, copy, and scan.
To achieve the compact size, HP didn’t use a flatbed scanner. Instead, the DeskJet 3755 has a Scroll Scan system that feeds paper and thin paper stocks like photo paper, similar to an automatic document feeder. However, unlike an ADF, you can’t feed multiple pages at once.
The DeskJet 3755 has Wi-Fi for wireless printing and it also supports Apple AirPrint. In our testing, we found it does a good job with color documents and photos, but it is slow. Its scanner is also subpar in image quality and speed. Copy and scan functions are really extras, but this is not a printer for you if you rely on them. As a printer, it is fine if speed isn’t a concern and you value its compact size more.
As with most inkjet printers, replenishing the ink cartridges will be costly if you print often. Because the DeskJet 3755’s ink cartridges are small — including the high-yield options — you could be replacing them a lot. HP offers its Instant Ink program with this printer, where HP automatically sends you (for a subscription fee) new ink cartridges. You could save money with this program since HP discounts the cost of ink for subscribers. If printing is not a priority, this may not be an issue.
Pros: Space-saving design, built-in scanner, good-quality prints, photo capable, wireless
Cons: Slow and low-resolution scanning, small-capacity paper tray, not ideal for busy office workflows, low page yields per ink cartridge
The best budget laser printer
The Brother HLL2320D is a low-cost monochrome laser printer for anyone who needs to output a lot of documents quickly.
Inkjet technology has caught up with laser in speed and quality, but those printers are costly. If you’re strictly looking for a workhorse printer and you don’t need color (business documents, college essays, etc.) you still can’t beat laser, like the Brother HLL2320D. You don’t get a lot of bells and whistles — there’s no scan, copy, or fax — but it can print up to 30 pages per minute and it has a low cost of ownership.
Brother makes some of the most reliable printers we have used, and the 2320D outputs good print quality. If you use a high-yield cartridge, it is rated for up to 2,600 pages; it’s only $15 more than the standard cartridge, which has a considerable lower page count (1,200). The 2320D also has auto-duplexing, so you can print double-sided with ease. Set the printer to draft mode, and you have a printer that’s fast and economical.
This particular model has no Wi-Fi, so you’ll need to connect to it directly via USB 2.0 or put it on a network by connecting it to a router. It can support AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and Brother’s iPrint app for mobile printing, but it requires an optional accessory. The 2320D also lacks an LCD, which makes it harder to determine printer status. The 2320D is very compact and lightweight — for a laser printer, that is — but its paper tray will only hold up to 250 sheets.
If you’re looking for a budget printer that’s fast and reliable, the 2320D is a good option. However, if you need color printing more than speed, or you need additional functions like scanning and faxing, this isn’t for you. The Epson WorkForce Pro WF-3730 may be a better alternative.
Pros: Good-quality prints, two-sided printing, low cost of ownership
Cons: No wireless built-in, monochrome only, no other functions, no display
The best budget color laser alternative
Epson WorkForce Pro WF-3730 offers fast, laser-quality prints, and it has a large-capacity paper tray.
If you want speed, quality prints, and color, the WorkForce Pro WF-3730 has what you’re looking for. The inkjet printer uses Epson’s PrecisionCore technology, which delivers laser-like speeds (rated for 20 paper per minute in black, 10 in color) and quality. It uses a four-color ink system (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow) to deliver better colors than a two-ink system. While photo printing isn’t the main highlight, it can ably print good-looking images on photo paper.
The WF-3730 is ideal for office users. It’s larger than our other recommendations, due to the 500-sheet paper tray and 35-page automatic document feeder. It’s suitable for small office/home office environments, but it may be overkill for general home use.
If you’re looking for a color laser printer alternative, the wF-3730 is one to consider. It is cheaper to buy than a color laser printer, but where it’ll get you is the price of supplies: If you’re replacing ink with high-capacity cartridges, it can cost more than a hundred dollars, and they don’t offer as much yield as a laser toner. The standard cartridges are cheaper (approximately 60 dollars) but the yield is paltry. Overall, it’s still cheaper to operate versus a color laser printer, but by no means is it cheap. If you desire high-quality, speedy prints and you don’t plan to print that often, the WF-3730 makes sense.
Pros: Laser-like color quality, large-capacity paper tray, fast, great print quality, 35-page automatic document feeders, wireless
Cons: Costly to operate for heavy-duty printing
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