Best Printer for Ink Cost

The 10 Best Printers of 2015

The 10 Best Printers of 2015Picking the right printer can be tough, with so many features to choose from, and individual printers with almost any possible combination of those variations available. Here are some pointers to help you find both the right category of printer and the right model within that type, along with our top-rated reviews.

What Type of Printer Do You Need?
The three most useful ways to categorize printers are by purpose (general or special), intended use (home or office), and technology. Define your needs by all three categories, and you're well on your way to finding the right printer.

Most printers, including most inkjets that manufacturers market as photo printer, are general-purpose models, meant for printing text, graphics, and photos. Special-purpose printers include portable printers, dedicated and near-dedicated photo printers, and label printers. (Even among specialty printers, 3D printers are a special case, and beyond the scope of this discussion.) If you're looking for a model to print, say, photos, consider whether you want to print only photos or want a printer that can also produce other kinds of output.

General-purpose printers tend to focus on photos if they're intended for home use or on text if they're intended for the office. Many multifunction printers (MFPs) are meant for the dual role of home and office printer (particularly for home offices), but generally favor one role over the other. Consider how you plan to use the printer, and pick one designed for that role.

The two most common technologies, laser and inkjet, increasingly overlap in capabilities, but there are still differences. The most important are that nearly all lasers (and laser-class models, such as solid ink and LED-based printers) print higher-quality text than nearly any inkjet, and almost any inkjet prints higher-quality photos than the overwhelming majority of lasers. Ask yourself whether text or photos are more important, and pick a technology accordingly.

Do You Need a Single-Function Printer or an MFP?
For general-purpose printing, additional capability means choosing an MFP, also known as an all-in-one or AIO. Those other functions include some combination of scanning, copying, and faxing from your PC, standalone faxing, and scanning to email. Office printers also typically add an automatic document feeder (ADF) to scan, copy, and/or fax multipage documents and legal-size pages. Some ADFs can handle two-sided documents, either by scanning one side, flipping the page over, and scanning the other side, or employing two sensors to scan both sides of the page on a single pass.

Some MFPs offer additional printing options as well. Web-enabled printers, both home and office models, can connect directly to the Internet via Wi-Fi to access and print out selected content without needing to work through a computer. Many Wi-Fi-enabled MFPs let you print documents and images from handheld devices. Some models let you email documents to the printer, which will then print them out.

Do You Need to Print in Color?
For a home printer, you probably need color, but for an office model, if you never print anything except for documents, there's no reason to spend money on color output. Keep in mind, however, that many color lasers can print at high enough quality to make your own advertising handouts and trifold brochures, which could save you money compared with printing small quantities at your local print shop.

How Much Space Do You Have for Your Printer?
Be sure to look into the printer's size. Even some home models can be uncomfortably large to share a desk with, and even a printer with a small footprint can be tall enough to feel like it's towering over you. At the other extreme, we're seeing a growing number of compact versions that can fit in tight spaces in apartments, home offices, and dorm rooms.

How Will You Connect?
In addition to a USB port, most office printers and an increasing number of home printers include Ethernet ports, so you can share the printer easily on a network. Many also include Wi-Fi capability. Even if they don't, if you have a wireless access point on your network, you can print wirelessly to any printer on that network, whether the printer itself offers a wireless connection or not. Printers that support Wi-Fi Direct (or its equivalent) can connect directly to most Wi-Fi-enabled devices, even if your computer or handheld isn't designed to support Wi-Fi Direct. We're also seeing printers that can connect to and print from a mobile device via near-field communication (NFC) by merely tapping the phone or tablet to a particular spot on the printer.

What Level of Output Quality Do You Need?
Printers vary significantly in output quality. Check out text, graphics, and photos separately, since high quality for one kind of output doesn't necessarily mean high quality for the others. Read reviews for the details.

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