Printers: How to buy the best printer Choosing the best printer
We've tested more than 100 printers, from inkjet and laser printers to all-in-ones and A3 printers. Some are better than others at certain jobs, so if you're looking for a new printer, there are two key things you need to ask yourself:
- What do I want to use it for? Do you need to be able to scan and copy as well as print? Which types of document will you print most? Is speed more important than quality, or are both important to you?
- What devices do I want to print from? Will the printer sit in one room attached to one computer, or do you need to be able to print from laptops, tablets and smartphones?
In this guide we'll take a closer look at the different types of printer to help you narrow down your search to find a printer with the features you need.
We've tested printers from every category, assessing their quality, speed and running costs, so you can find the best printer for you.
Take a look at our latest printer reviews to see the most recent models rated and reviews.
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What type of printer do I need?
An inkjet printer will suit you if you print a bit of everything.
You can buy inkjet printers that will only print, or all-in-one inkjet printers that can also copy, scan and fax.
Most people opt for inkjet printers because they're better all-rounders. They tend to be better at printing photos than laser printers, and they take up less desk space.
You can expect to pay anything from £25 to £250 for an inkjet printer depending on the features. You'll need to factor in ink costs outside of that.
Read more about buying the best inkjet printer, including the features to look for and those you can save on.
If you print a lot, want fast print speed and don't need top-quality photo prints, a laser printer will suit you.
Laser printers tend to be quite bulky, although there are some smaller ones around. Most lasers print great-looking black text pages, and they're quick to print text.
If you only want black-and-white prints, a mono laser printer is the way to go, and they're cheaper to buy. You can also get colour and all-in-one laser printers, but they tend to cost upwards of £100.
Toner cartridges are expensive, but produce a lot more prints than inkjet cartridges.
Find our more about buying the best laser printer, including more about what you can expect to pay for certain features.
If you want to be able to print, copy and scan, this is the printer for you.
You can get inkjet or laser all-in-one printers. Some will have wi-fi connectivity so you can print from a range of devices and some include a fax function too. Faxes may seem a little outdated to come now, but the some of the additional features that accompany a fax can still come in useful when scanning and copying.
Find out more about buying the best all-in-one printer and the features to look for in our advice page.
Families with more than one device to print from, or anyone who wants to print from a smartphone or tablet should consider a wireless printer.
There are inkjet and laser wireless printers, and inkjet wi-fi printer prices start at around £30.
You can leave a wireless printer in one room and print to it from anywhere in the house using your home wi-fi connection. Some wi-fi printer now have features that let you print remotely, email prints to the printer, or print using Apple's AirPrint for iPads and iPhones.
Find out more about buying the best wireless printer and the different wi-fi features to look out for.
If you need big prints in larger than usual sizes, an A3 printer is the one for you.
A3 printers take up quite a bit of desk space. You can get all-in-one A3 printer that can also copy, scan and fax.
Other A3 printers tend to have a strong photo focus, and they're good for printing small posters.
Find out more about buying the best A3 printer and how to choose the best one for you.
If you want to print photos at home, you can buy printers which only specialise in this.
Although you can still buy compact photo printers that only print 6x4 photos, you're better off getting an A4-sized printer.
They're far more versatile and there are plenty of A4 printers that are aimed at people who want to print photos as well as emails and webpages and so on.
Each of the big printer brands have dedicated 'photo' ranges. Photo printers usually have memory cards and a USB connection on the front of the printer which is useful for more than just printing photos.
Find out more about buying the best photo printer and how print costs vary from printer to printer in our advice page.
Home office printers
Would suit those printing lots of text and reports.
A home office printer could be a laser printer or an inkjet printer. Lasers tend to produce the quickest prints and the sharpest looking text.
A lot of home office users opt for a black-and-white laser printer because they mostly print text. Inkjet printers targeted at home office use tend to focus on faster text print speed and include a fax function as well as a scanner and copier.
Find out more about buying the best home office printer and the additional features of home office printers in our advice page.
Short on features and low in price, a cheap printer may appeal if you don't want to spend much and don't print often, but you may be better off looking for a mid-priced printer in the long run.
A large part of the cost of a printer is the cost of the ink, and if you buy a £30 printer you can easily end up spending the same again on just one set of ink cartridges. Inkjet printers are generally the cheapest to buy, but that doesn't mean they're cheap to run.
Find out more about cheap printers before you buy in our advice on buying a cheap printer and ink.
To find the very best printers, take a look at our Best Buy printers.