What's the best printer for students? How to choose the best printer

We all print much less these days, but as a student, you'll probably find you still need a printer. Depending on your college or university, you may or may not have to print assignments and coursework. If you do, the shared printers may be inconvenient because they're too far away, don't offer colour printouts, or cost too much money to use.

Having your own printer is convenient, especially for proofing your work, and you won't have to rely on someone else replacing the toner in time for that last-minute printout.

Which is the best printer for you will depend on where and how it will be used. Inkjet printers are usually the best choice, as opposed to lasers, because they're cheaper to buy and most have a built-in scanner for standalone copying. They're cheap, too, starting at around £50.

Although toner works out cheaper per page than ink cartridges, a set of toner cartridges for a colour laser is often more expensive than the printer was in the first place, and they tend to come with 'starter' cartridges that last a thousand pages or so, rather than the 2,000-4,000 page yields of standard cartridges. By contrast, cartridges for an inkjet will print 'only' several hundred pages, but are more affordable when funds are limited.

Laser printers are faster, but they don't print images and photos as well as inkjet printers. If you're not worried about colour prints and you don't need a scanner, a mono laser is an alternative. Prices start around £50, and you'll get page after page of crisp text in next to no time.

 What's the best printer for students? How to choose the best printer

Look out for built-in Wi-Fi, since this means you can print directly from various devices without having to share the printer via a PC or laptop. It also pays to look for a model that works with those devices. For example, if you want to print from an iPad, then you'll want a printer that supports AirPrint.

Those with a Chromebook or Android tablet or smartphone will want something that supports Google Cloud Print. If you'll be using the printer in a dorm room and don't have a wireless router, look for a printer that supports Wi-Fi direct. As the name suggests, you can send documents directly to the printer without needing a home network setup.

With inkjet printers, there are different cartridge systems. Some models have an individual cartridge for each colour, such as cyan, yellow, magenta and black. Others combine the coloured inks in one cartridge and force you to throw it away when one of the colours runs out - yellow is typically used up faster than the others.

What's the best printer for students? How to choose the best printer

However, combined cartridges also tend to have a built-in print head which means you get a new one when you buy a new cartridge. Printers which have the print head built into the printer can be a hassle as the ink nozzles can get blocked if the printer isn't used regularly.

As ever, check our printer reviews to get the lowdown on a particular printer, and also to find out whether its prints are good quality or not.

See also: what's the best laptop for students?