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Unlike smartphones and laptops, not everyone has an opinion on printers. It’s a useful technological tool that doesn’t get much love. But when you need to buy an all-in-one with a scanner and a copier, how do you choose the best? What are the features to look for?

There’s a surprising amount of variety (and jargon) in the printer world, so knowing what you need helps. For example, the terms “printer”, “printer-scanner-copier” (PSC), “multi-function device” (MFD), and “all-in-ones” are used interchangeably in this world.

Plus, it’s important to buy the all-in-one that’s right for you, even if it’s not the best. And if you’re using it at home or in a home office setup, you can get a decent device on a budget.

Should You Buy Inkjet or Laser Printers?

There are two main printing technologies. Inkjets use ink on paper to create the images and text you see. Laser printers have no ink; they use a laser beam to create images and text on paper. The technicalities don’t matter to you. What matters is how they perform and what they cost.

  • Color — This is the first thing you need to distinguish. Color laser printers cost an arm and a leg, so forget about them as a home/home office user.
  • Papers — Inkjet printers work with different types of paper, including photo paper or special stationery. Laser printers only work with standard white paper.
  • Speed — Laser printers are faster to print. As a thumb rule, if you will print more than 15 pages per day on average, laser printers are better. But most homes and home offices don’t have such requirements, so an inkjet does the job just fine.
  • Price — Laser printers are cheaper in the long run, but expensive when you buy. Inkjets are cheap when you buy, but the cartridges are expensive to refill How To Save Printer Ink & Make It Last Longer How To Save Printer Ink & Make It Last Longer Read More .

For most homes and small offices, an inkjet printer is better than a laser printer. The only such people who should go for a laser printer are those who would print over 500 pages of text a month, and not particularly need images or graphics.

What Should You Look For in a Printer

The days of comparing dpi (dots per inch) and ppm (pages per minute) are over. Most PSCs for home usage have similar features, so these specifications don’t set them apart. But if you’re buying one in 2017, then here are a few things that will make your life much easier.

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  • Wi-Fi — We live in the age of IoT, the Internet of Things. You need to connect your printer to Wi-Fi and the internet The 3 Easiest Ways to Share a Printer Over a Network The 3 Easiest Ways to Share a Printer Over a Network You can share your one printer with multiple PCs across a local network. We explain how to set this up in Windows. We also show you alternative ways to share your printer. Read More . Most MFDs support it, but it’s best to make sure. That said, it’s still recommended to use a wired connection for scanning or large tasks.
  • Duplexer — Duplex printing often called a “duplexer” in the specification sheet. This feature lets you print on both sides of a paper without manually reloading the paper yourself.
  • ADF — Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) technology lets you place a whole bunch of papers in the printer at once, and then carry out actions on them one by one. For example, if you want to create a copy of 15 documents, put them all in at the same time, and issue a command to copy them. The machine will do the job of loading pages one at a time.

Which Features You Can Avoid Paying More For

Naturally, if a printer comes with every single feature possible, it’s better. But every feature increases the price. While Wi-Fi, duplex printing, and ADF can greatly change your experience, some other features might not. So it’s nice if a printer you’re eyeing has them, but don’t spend more to get any of these.

  • Touchscreen — A lot of MFDs now come with a touchscreen, but it’s not essential. And spending more for a larger touchscreen, or for a full-color touchscreen, makes no sense.
  • USB — It’s a tempting idea. A simple USB port that you can stick a thumb drive in, and automatically print all the documents in the drive. You’ll never end up using this though, especially when you have Wi-Fi already.

Now that you know what to look for and avoid 4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a New Printer 4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a New Printer You don't have to spend a ton of money to get a reliable and versatile new printer Read More , here are our recommendations for the best printers you should buy.

Best Inkjet: HP OfficeJet 4650

HP OfficeJet 4650 Wireless All-in-One Photo Printer with Mobile Printing, Instant Ink ready (F1J03A) HP OfficeJet 4650 Wireless All-in-One Photo Printer with Mobile Printing, Instant Ink ready (F1J03A) Main functions of this HP color inkjet photo printer: copy, scan, fax, wireless printing, AirPrint, two-sided duplex printing, touchscreen, Instant Ink ready so you'll never run out of ink, and more Buy Now At Amazon Too low to display
  • Full Color
  • Printer, Scanner, Copier
  • Duplex (2-Sided Printing)
  • Automatic Document Feeder
  • Wi-Fi with Wireless Direct

hp officejet 4650

The HP OfficeJet 4650 is the balanced choice. For only $60, it gives you all the must-have features of a modern MFD. It’s no wonder that this is the most-recommended item on Amazon.

The PSC also comes with Wi-Fi Direct technology The Differences Between Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi Direct You Need To Know The Differences Between Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi Direct You Need To Know If you take a peek into the future, it's hard not to envision an always-on society that features a multitude of connected devices that work in unison to make your life more convenient. Read More , which means it can connect directly to any smartphone or tablet without needing a Wi-Fi connection. And one of my favorite parts is the “scan to email” feature, which will send a scan directly to your inbox.

The OfficeJet 4650 is also compatible with the Instant Ink subscription service, which starts at $3 per month. I highly recommend you use this — it’s cheaper than what you would end up spending on cartridge refills otherwise. The printer keeps track of how many pages it has printed and automatically sends a notification to HP through the internet. Before you need a new cartridge, it will show up at your doorstep.

Best Laser Printer: Samsung SL-M2875DW

Samsung Electronics SL-M2875DW/XAC Wireless Monochrome Multifunction Printer Samsung Electronics SL-M2875DW/XAC Wireless Monochrome Multifunction Printer High speed print, copy, and scan capability in one device. Buy Now At Amazon $129.99
  • Black and White
  • Printer, Scanner, Copier
  • Duplex (2-Side Printing)
  • Automatic Document Feeder
  • Wi-Fi with Wireless Direct

samsung sl m2875dw

For a small office or home office, you might not need color printing. A laser printer can give more bang for the buck, especially if you are going to print mostly text and black-and-white graphics. The Samsung M2875DW is the best-reviewed MFD among the budget-friendly options.

It has all the features you should demand of a printer, and then some. The all-in-one supports Google Cloud Print to print documents from any device Google Cloud Print and Alternatives for Printing On-the-Go Google Cloud Print and Alternatives for Printing On-the-Go Google Cloud Print allows you to print from a remote location. Here we also show you several Google Cloud Print, alternatives for your desktop or mobile device. Read More , anywhere, anytime. The Wirecutter also found that the M2875 scanned a 54-page document in an impressive five and half minutes. There’s a handy Toner Saver mode when you are printing non-essential documents, which reduces the toner used and makes it last longer.

One warning though. A couple of buyers have mentioned that setting up Wi-Fi was a hassle, especially if you use a Mac. It’s a bit strange since the M2875DW supports AirPrint too, but we figured it’s worth noting since there were multiple mentions of this.Similarly, you might want to keep a few things in mind to choose the right printer if you’re on Linux Printing on Linux: Choosing The Right Printer and Getting It To Work Printing on Linux: Choosing The Right Printer and Getting It To Work One of the few pieces of hardware that may cause the most trouble on a Linux system is a printer. If it's supported, it'll take a few steps to get it to work. Read More .

Are You Happy With Your Printer?

While the HP and the Samsung are the best choices based on expert reviews, it’s always good to hear from regular consumers too.

Which printer-scanner-copier do you use? Are you happy with it and would you recommend it to others?

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  1. John Smith
    May 30, 2017 at 1:53 am

    My problem using HP inkjet printers is the weird behavior of having their ink nozzles dry if not used for few days, and you have to run the clean process, which is nothing but a lengthy annoying and results are not guaranteed.
    Also HP installs a huge bloatware garbage, even browser extensions that you have to chase and remove. They lost me as a long time customer.
    I dropped HP, and went with one Samsung Ms620 laser printer for the low end printing and Canon MF620C, and never looked back. Both are printing with 0 problems. Your experience might be different than mine.

  2. Doug
    May 11, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    One other consideration for some people would be SIZE. Some of these multi printers are real behemoths. If you have the printer on your desktop, as I do, their 'real-estate,' that is, footprint, can be crucial to where you work and want to work with your computer and office set-up.

    • Mihir Patkar
      May 16, 2017 at 10:47 am

      Great point, Doug. Size does matter :D Any printer with an ADF will usually be larger than a standard all-in-one. But the convenience of an ADF and duplexer cannot be beat.

  3. David Faulkner
    May 10, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    I have one additional requirement for a home printer: the ability to print out reasonably good photos, preferably on photo paper. I've found the Canon PIXMA series very good for this. I'm currently on the MG7750, which is an MFD. It doesn't have ADF (which would be nice), and it is more expensive than the HP, but I like it, and I mitigate some of the costs by shopping around for inks, as Colin suggests in his comment.

    • Mihir Patkar
      May 16, 2017 at 10:49 am

      The PIXMA series is easily the best for photo printing, so you made a great choice there. It consistently tops every review comparison. I'm not sure how helpful an ADF would be for printing with photo paper though, unless you are batch-printing a large number of images at the same time. Do you do that often? An ADF might be worth overlooking to get better picture print quality, imho, and I think you made the right choice :)

      • David Faulkner
        May 16, 2017 at 10:55 am

        Thanks for the reply, Mihir. I wouldn't use ADF for photo printing, I'd use it for other conventional office tasks.

  4. Colin
    May 10, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    I would suggest checking on ebay for inks and/or toner for the printer you are thinking of buying. Sometimes you can get inks for about 10% of retail, I think toners might be similar, just search by printer model. If printing needs are minor there are some printers that cost about the same as the cost for the ink cartages retail.

    • Mihir Patkar
      May 16, 2017 at 10:47 am

      What a fantastic tip, thanks for sharing this Colin! Have you purchased these inks yourself? Are they genuine and reliable?

      • Colin
        May 16, 2017 at 11:33 am

        These inks worked well for me. If you wanted to print hi-def photos, I do not know if they would be good enough, but for the price you can always test. For regular printing they work well. Used them with an Epson stylus printer. Most Ebay sellers will let you know if their inks will work with your printer.