If you work from home or have a student in the house, you need a printer that can quickly and reliably spit out reports or photos. Your choice comes down to one of the two major types for homes and small offices: inkjet versus laser printers. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses but have made major feature advancements that save you time and cash. These include automated functions like self-troubleshooting and automatically ordering more ink or toner to your door when you’re running low.
Check out quick info on the best inkjet versus laser printers from our testing below, then scroll down for buying advice and in-depth reviews.
The Best Printers
- Best Printer Overall: HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e
- Best Laser Printer: Brother MFCL2710DW
- Best Inkjet Printer: Canon Maxify GX5020
- Best Budget Printer: HP Envy Inspire 7955e
- Best Printer for Photos: Canon Pixma TR8620a
- Best Color Laser Printer: Brother HLL3270CDW
Inkjet Versus Laser Printers—The Pros and Cons of Each
Inkjet printers are more popular than laser printers for home use because they’re smaller, more affordable, and create richer graphics and color photos. If you don’t print that often or that much, say the occasional school report or photo, save yourself some money and buy a quality inkjet. But if you churn out text-heavy documents like reports daily, then spending a few more bucks up front on a laser printer will get you much faster print speeds with sharper, fuller text at a lower cost per page.
Inkjet printers use small nozzles to emit liquid black or color ink or dye from cartridges directly to the paper. This liquid ink mixes to create photos and documents with richer colors, though it’s more likely to smudge when printing fine text. Ink is more expensive than toner cartridges (used by laser printers) but creates undeniably higher-quality images that can smoothly blend gradients. Unfortunately ink is used passively for printer maintenance, which means you can find yourself purchasing refills more frequently. Consumer Reports found that intermittent use—a few pages a few times per week—used more ink for routine maintenance than printing in larger batches. Laser printer toner won’t dry up between uses, but it also won’t match the saturation and lifelike images of ink either.
Pro Tip To Reduce Ink Usage: You can save your ink by leaving the printer on between uses to prevent surges that drain faster. Buying extra large ink cartridges in bulk bundles can also help your bottom line. Inkjet printers may be more attractive for their compact bodies and lower initial investment, but a laser printer can save you money over time compared to the cost of replacing ink, especially so if you plan to use the printer less frequently for higher quantities of black-and-white documents like text-heavy reports.
Inkjet Cartridge Cost: While most inkjet printers themselves are affordable, their cost of ownership has become more expensive over time due to rising ink costs. You can expect to pay an average of $35.25 per cartridge based on the lowest ($19 and $25) and highest ($33 and $64) priced genuine black and color ink cartridges at the time of this publication. While generic third-party cartridges can save you a few bucks, they often set off warning messages and tend to clog more frequently. The brightest colors and clearest images are going to come at a premium depending on how frequently you have to replace your cartridges.
Laser printers are commonly found in offices due to the fact that they can quickly print high volumes and offer large capacity trays. They cost more than inkjet models and take up more space but offer a much lower cost per page. Laser printers use a toner cartridge that contains powder instead of ink. These devices use static electricity to attract and imprint toner onto the paper through heat. Unlike ink, toner can sit unused for longer periods of time. Laser printers excel at printing sharp text and are much faster, more detailed, and more precise than most inkjets. If you often print out multiple pages of text-heavy documents or run an office with high print volumes, laser offers the best value. With that said, many laser models cannot print in color—and color-capable laser printers are significantly pricier.
Toner Cartridge Cost: Toner is generally cheaper, at $77 for a genuine high-yield cartridge capable of printing 3,000 black-and-white pages. However a generic high-yield toner like this one from E-Z Ink can print 6,000 pages (3,000 per cartridge) for just $14 per cartridge with its two-pack. Opting for laser means you’ll save on ink costs, but these printer types often suffer in printing color photos and images.
How We Test
I created a test pool of the top-rated inkjet and laser printers based on my experience and research into expert reviewers from Consumer Reports, RTings, and Wirecutter. I then cross-referenced the most highly ranked models with consumer reviews on retail sites. Narrowing down the pool to just the top ten printers, I called in and tested each printer side-by-side along a table in our office. I connected each printer to the same dedicated 2.4-Ghz Wi-Fi network, loaded each with the same copy paper and glossy photo paper (where applicable), then printed the same two test documents in both black and color.
I used a 40-page PDF version of this story to test print speeds as well as observe text and image reproduction quality. While printing, I recorded the speeds in pages per minute (ppm) using a stopwatch. I used a separate high-resolution JPEG captured by a professional photographer to test photo prints, with a priority on color accuracy and visual details like texture reproduction. The printers you see below came out on top.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e
Type: Inkjet | Functions: Print, scan, copy, fax | Print speed (ppm): 20 (black), 16 (color) | Paper capacity: 250 sheets | Display: 2.7-in. color touchscreen | Dimensions: 17 x 13 x 11 in. | Weight: 20 lb
Every aspect of HP’s 9015e inkjet printer follows the Navy’s KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle from fast print speeds to ease of use. Out of the box, I simply plugged it in, powered it on, and followed along with video setup instructions that played on the 3-inch touchscreen. The printer’s ink cartridge slots automatically slid out toward me immediately after I opened the hood. I easily inserted the included ink into its designated spot, which caused the mechanism to slide back neatly into place. HP’s Smart App makes it easy to connect the OfficeJet to your network, since it shares the Wi-Fi you’re connected to with the printer with a tap. This connected the 9015e to the internet without any undue effort on my part. I was set up with a HP+ account and kicked off my first print job in under 3 minutes.
Managing print jobs directly from the app is painless with large user-friendly icons and clear instructions. Text on our test PDF document came out sharp and filled in with defined character edges and vibrant pictures. Color pages print at a speed of 16 ppm, and black prints at 20 ppm. That rate is fast for an office inkjet printer, let alone for one meant for home use. It comes in handy when you need to quickly print multiple pages like a report or contract. Next, we printed our test photo, which looked crisp and shiny on the glossy photo paper but suffered from some light vertical banding upon close inspection. Pinks and blues popped from the well-saturated test image but those vertical line sections were still noticeable across copy or glossy photo paper.
Not once over my week of testing did I experience a timeout, print error, or headache. And if Wi-Fi were to go out, HP’s self-healing Wi-Fi feature troubleshoots and resets the connection on its own. Now you don’t have to waste time disconnecting and restarting the printer manually. The scanner bed is large, and the auto-document feeder gives multiple double-sided papers a duplex scan effortlessly—I didn’t have to flip the pages over between takes. Beyond its features, the OfficeJet is a stylish device, plain and simple. Its light grey and white color scheme feels modern, the build is sturdy, and all of the trays are easy to load and accessible. Using the 9015e feels like a virtually automated experience whether you print through the HP Smart app or use cloud printing like AirPlay or Google services. My sole beef with the printer is the lack of a separate photo tray—you have to place glossy photo paper facing down in the standard paper tray. However, for work and the occasional photo print, this is the best all-around printer to tackle a wide variety of jobs.
—BEST LASER PRINTER—
Brother MFC-L2710DW All-in-One
Type: Laser | Functions: Print, copy, scan, and fax | Print speed (ppm): 31 (black only) | Paper capacity: 250 sheets | Display: 2-line LCD | Dimensions: 12.5 x 15.7 x 12 in. | Weight: 25 lb
Brother’s MFC-L2710DW all-in-one is the fastest printer we tested, with black print speeds clocking in at a leading 31 ppm. In the battle between inkjet versus laser printers, laser printer speeds win every time. And unlike with an inkjet, you can grab print jobs fresh off the press without fear of smudging, while text comes out of the MFC-L2710DW the sharpest of any printer we tested. It also doesn’t hurt that this is one of the more affordable models we tested to boot.
Don’t let the lack of a touchscreen and overwhelming amount of physical buttons scare you away. Navigating between functions is streamlined (as much as it can be) to about three presses per feature. Since it offers all-in-one capabilities like our top pick above, that means you can print, copy, scan, and fax directly from the printer itself. Aside from the lack of a touchscreen, this laser printer only prints colorless documents in black and white. This means the Brother model is much faster, and the toner offers a cheaper cost per print. But if your reports or printouts require color graphics or images, then the Brother laser model below keeps the laser speed but adds color—for a few more bucks.
The Brother iPrint app and online PC software is easy to navigate and makes controlling the printer from another device seamless. I printed out the 40-page test story in a bit over 1 minute with crisp legible text. The MFC-L2710DW is an absolute workhorse—pages continuously pump out one after the other once a job is underway, and there’s no ink to worry about so you can grab them and go. If you print text-heavy reports or colorless shipping labels often then you’ll appreciate this level of hustle, but pictures and ads on each test page had some soft pixels creating blur in the center of some images. I found myself gravitating toward this printer the most for my everyday work, during which I most often have to print shipping labels and rough drafts, which lend themselves to monochromatic colorless prints.
The laser printer excels in my needs, and since it runs on toner I don’t feel as bad about wasting ink. While the MFC-L2710DW is a tad bulky at 25 pounds, the matte black helps it appear slimmer. Its 12 x 16-inch body can still fit into a variety of different setups but not as easily as most inkjets. Laser printers also stumble when printing photos compared to the rich colorful details of inkjets. If you plan to print high-quality images for photo albums, family members, or your work, then you’ll want to check 0ut the Pixma below.
—BEST PHOTO PRINTER—
Canon Pixma TR8620A
Type: Inkjet | Functions: Print, copy, scan, and fax | Print speed (ppm): 12 (black), 7 (color) | Paper capacity: 100 sheets | Display: 4.3-in. LCD touchscreen | Dimensions: 17 x 14 x 7.5 in. | Weight: 17 lb
The Pixma TR8620A inkjet printer is Canon’s compact champion. It’s 7.5-inch-tall body is small enough to fit on an apartment-friendly desk or inside of a hutch yet offers a large touchscreen. It’s easy to navigate the Pixma app, and the price is surprisingly low at just $200. While it can print your paperwork with ease, it’s the five-ink pigment and dye system that steals the show. This system creates detail and color-rich photos for those who want to print the highest-quality images.
A rear photo-loading tray provides a separate space for your print jobs, so I was able to store copy paper in the normal feeder and glossy paper on the back to switch between tasks as needed. An 8.5 x 11-inch borderless photo print job took just 2 minutes on average, blowing away other printers while using the full page. This pronounced little details like the raised texture on the checkmark on a shirt or flyaway hair strands. There was even a lifelike swirl to my hair to show texture detail on the scale of a professional print. When it comes to everyday printing, this Pixma fell on the slower end of our test pool. We clocked average speeds of 7 ppm for color and 12 ppm in black. Households that occasionally print and primarily want a photo printer will benefit from this model. But if you print multiple pages daily, the two previous models offer much faster speeds.
I made a genuinely exciting discovery when I accidentally spilled black ink all over an 8.5 x 11 test print. The Pixma’s pigment-based ink is highly water-resistant and doesn’t fade in the sun like other prints. I soaked the glossy photo paper in a mixture of water and soap then held it up in direct sunlight to dry. A normal picture print would smudge or fade, but the glossy print from the TR8620A retained the same level of detail and color vibrance post-accident as it did before it. This level of durability makes the TR8620A the best choice for filling up a photo album or wall frame with images that will still look freshly printed for years.
—BEST INKJET PRINTER—
Canon MAXIFY GX5020
Type: Inkjet | Functions: Print | Print speed (ppm): 24 (black), 17 (color) | Paper capacity: 350 sheets | Display: 2-line LCD | Dimensions: 15.8 x 25.2 x 12.9 in. | Weight: 20 lb
Canon’s Maxify GX5020 inkjet is meant for small offices, with the sharpest print quality and speeds of any inkjet we tested. The $400 price can seem a bit steep up front, but its high-yield MegaTank printer is much cheaper to fill over time if you print multiple pages every day. Instead of cartridges, the system uses color-coded bottles filled with ink. A single set of these inks will run you just $40 but last longer than cartridge-based counterparts—up to 14,000 color and 6,000 black pages.
To my surprise, refilling ink using a bottle was even easier than inserting a cartridge. You simply uncap each ink, unscrew the plastic bottle tips, and align the ink bottle within plastic slots that guide and secure the tip. Only once properly inserted does each bottle dispense ink into a reservoir, which you can monitor from visible gauges. Not only is this helpful for seeing levels at a glance, the colorful inks brighten up the admittedly sterile white aesthetic.
Compared directly to a print from our magazine, the lines, boxes, and text were as vibrant and sharp coming from the Maxify, even on basic copy paper. Pictures came out the second best in the pool, behind just Canon’s own TR8620A. Sharp details—like individual chain links, mesh holes, and even hair—were on par with that model, but for some reason the Canon Print app locked these to bordered prints only. The difference is that this printer is faster at 16.5 ppm in color and 24 ppm in blacks, which makes it more capable in high-demand scenarios like an office that needs to print reports and graphic design work or photos. With that said, the GX5020 isn’t perfect if your office relies on either scan or fax functionality since it lacks a scanner bed. While you can use the Canon Print app to scan individual documents from your phone, that doesn’t work for multiple users who need to scan pages of documents. These hiccups aside, this offered the strongest print quality we saw from an inkjet printer with text that rivals the sharpness of a laser model.
—BEST BUDGET PRINTER—
HP Envy Inspire 7955e
Type: Inkjet | Functions: Print, copy, and scan | Print speed (ppm): 11 (black), 7 (color) | Paper capacity: 125 sheets | 2.7-inch color touchscreen | Dimensions: 18 x 15 x 9.2 in. | Weight: 18 lb
HP’s Envy Inspire 7955e is an all in-one printer that combines all previous efforts’ best aspects—a compact body, a versatile feature set complete with copies and scans, and a relatively affordable price—into the best affordable printer we tested. It’s smart like the 9015e with a painless one-tap setup, self-healing Wi-Fi that automatically reconnects to your router when a connection is lost, and automatic ink refills delivered direct. Plus it doesn’t eat up a ton of vertical space at 15 inches tall.
Given it’s a jack of all trades, you do lose some slight detail in photo reproduction. While the text is sharp at first glance, if you bring it close enough to your eyes, you can see that it isn’t as full, with lighter edges around characters. Colors are slightly lighter hues compared to a print from a photo-centric model like the Pixma or even the OfficeJet. In our test photo, that meant the neon blues fell more toward powder blue and some cloud wisps from the background disappeared due to being too light. This is fine for casual use, since you would need both a comparison print to compare to in addition to a trained eye to pick up on these things. The all-in-one functionality for the price more than makes up for it.
But if you plan to print through multiple pages every day, you’ll want to spend the extra money on the OfficeJet 9015e above. That’s because you will be waiting longer on your prints at a speed of 7 PPM and 11 PPM in blacks. The 7955e takes about three times as long to print. This is a great home printer for when you occasionally need a physical copy of a report, photo, or label while offering a sharp document scanner to boot.
—BEST COLOR LASER PRINTER—
Type: Laser | Functions: Print, copy | Print speed (ppm): 29 (black), 23 (color) | Paper capacity: 250 sheets | 2.7-inch color touchscreen | Dimensions: 18 x 17.3 x 9.9 in. | Weight: 40 lb
Unlike the Brother LD2710DW above, this color laser-class LED printer supports color printing while adding a screen to the experience. Its fast print speeds are just one page per minute behind, at 29 ppm for blacks, with color prints coming in at a rapid 23 ppm. Images look surprisingly good for a laser printer, especially in the reproduction of neon blue and pinks without any ink. Sure, the colors aren’t as vibrant as with an inkjet, but reports, documents, and other text files offer unmatched laser printer clarity.
Unlike the MFC, the HL-L3270CDW solely prints. It lacks a fax or scanning bed despite being much heavier than the Brother above. Inserting toner is easy, but those cartridges can feel bulky—it’s a very similar experience to inserting a VHS tape into a player back in the day. If you have a need for laser printer speed but want to print in color, this is the best laser printer. Ultimately it gives you the sharpest text and color graphics for fast documents. If you splurge a bit more up front, this will pay itself off over time.