Printers are a pretty boring section of tech, but let's face it we all need one at some point. You might want to print a calendar, a boarding pass or some photos you've taken on your phone. With 2020/21 seeing an unexpected surge in working from home, a printer might suddenly be the tech you didn't know you needed.
Many are multi-function and therefore also handy for scanning and copying, too. It's a tough job but we review and rank the best printers around.
Whatever your needs, buying a new printer can be a confusing process. Not only do you have to worry about the upfront cost and whether it can print a good photo, you've also got to consider print speeds, ongoing costs and a host of potential additional features.
We cover all these areas in our full reviews, which you can click through to if you want to read more.
It's worth bearing in mind that the printer market moves slowly, and the latest printers aren't always the best. Printer tech moves slowly so reviews might not be from this year or even the year before that but they stay on sale for a long time unlike categories like phones or laptops.
Read on below our chart for more in-depth printer buying advice on things like whether to choose inkjet or laser.
Best printers 2021
1. Epson Expression Photo XP-8600 - Best Overall
If you need an all-rounder that's compact and offers good quality without breaking the bank then the Epson Expression Photo XP-8600 is a great choice.
It might not be the fastest or cheapest printer around but the XP-8600 can do a lot for the price including regular document printing and high-quality photos with six inks - plus the ability to do CDs and DVDs if you need. And you don't have to keep changing the paper due to two trays.
The design includes a handy touchscreen and the printer is also a copier and scanner.
Read our full Epson Expression Photo XP-8600 review
2. HP Tango - Best for Smartphone Printing
The HP Tango is an excellent printer, but only for a particular type of customer.
If you want to print a lot of documents and photos quickly and cheaply then it's not the one for you. Nor is it any good if you want a screen and other features like a card reader and a built-in scanner.
This stylish smart printer is designed to be on show and satisfy those wanting to print via a smartphone or with smart assistants like Alexa. The Instagram generation wanting to print selfies and other social media posts. And for that, it's the ideal candidate.
Read our full HP Tango review
3. Canon Pixma TS3350 MkII - Best Budget Printer
If you're looking for a cheap printer to handle day-to-day tasks then the TS3350 MkII (or TS3320 in the US) is an excellent choice.
This is not only affordable but offers great quality printing for a range of jobs, including colour images. This is even a copier and scanner too so you're getting a lot for your money.
It's quite slow so isn't a workhorse and you'll want to get XL cartridges to keep running costs down. For printing the occasional letter, boarding pass or family photo without breaking the bank it's perfect.
Read our full Canon Pixma TS3350 MkII review
4. Canon i-Sensys LBP623Cdw - Best Laser
Those looking for a laser printer without taking up too much space or breaking the bank should consider the Canon i-Sensys.
Note that this isn't a multi-function printer with a scanner and copier, but focuses on doing one job really well. If you need to get through lots of printing without waiting around for it then getting a laser printer is a lot faster than cheaper inkjets.
Text and graphics are high quality and the cartridges even come pre-installed. Just make sure you buy XL toner to keep running costs to the minimum.
Read our full Canon i-Sensys LBP623Cdw review
5. Epson Workforce WF-110W - Best Portability
There's a premium cost for the portable design but with almost all printers being bulky and heavy if you need one to travel around with you then the Workforce WF-110W is the best option.
It's not particularly fast and replacement black ink is expensive but the quality is as good as a conventional rival.
There's also USB charging so you can even print when away from mains power.
Read our full Epson Workforce WF-110W review
6. Epson EcoTank ET-3750 - Lowest Running Costs
The high up-front cost of the ET-3750 might deter many people, and it won’t be suitable for home users with only modest printing needs.
But, if you’re working from home or in a small office and you need to produce colour and text documents on a daily basis, then the terrifically low running costs of the ET-3750 will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Read our full Epson EcoTank ET-3750 review
Your buying guide to the best printers in 2021
There's no single printer that will suit everyone, so while the list below is ordered it's best not to worry too much about the number beside it. We've mixed together home and business printers, multifunction, colour and mono. They're all good.
Inkjet vs laser
Printers come in two main forms: inkjet or laser, with colour and mono flavours of each. Lasers tend to be more expensive to buy, but provide better quality output, particularly where lots of text is involved. And they can be faster. Notice we said 'tend' - lasers aren't always best.
As a basic rule, if you need to print only text, and a lot of it, a mono laser printer will offer the crispest text output and the best combination of fast page-per-minute output and low ink costs. If you need to print photos, choose an inkjet printer. A dedicated photo printer with individual cartridges for each colour will suit those who print only photos.
If you're working from home and need to print a lot, a laser printer is likely going to be a better option.
You can also read our more in-depth comparison of the pros and cons of each type of printer.
When buying a printer, remember that the price you pay in the store is just the beginning. Be sure to consider the cost of replenishing toner and other consumables over the lifetime of the printer. This is particularly important if you print a lot. A set of toner cartridges can easily approach the cost of a colour laser printer.
Most manufacturers quote a 'page yield' estimate for their ink cartridges, which is the typical number of pages you can expect to print before the cartridge runs out of ink. You can use the page yield to calculate the average cost per page and you'd be surprised to find how much this can vary from one printer to another.
Of course, if output quality matters more to you than cost, scoot over to the other end of the cost spectrum where there are more specialised printers that use five or even six inks for printing photographs. Those additional inks can produce excellent results for your photo prints, but they add to the cost, sometimes pushing the cost for photos up to 10p or more per page.
Do I need a multifunction printer?
Most modern printers are multifunction 'all-in-one' devices that include a scanner too. This allows you to scan photos and other documents and convert them into digital files that you can store on your computer or share with friends or colleagues. You can also print copies of your scanned documents, allowing the printer to stand in for a photocopier too.
Some models even include a fax machine. If you require a scanner and a photocopier as well as a printer, you'll save money by buying in all-in-one - but if a standalone printer suits your needs, you may be able to spend less.
Print speed and additional features
Speeds quoted by manufacturers are almost never matched by real-world performance. If you often need to print in a hurry, look for independent reviews when choosing your printer.
Other useful features to look out for include additional USB ports and memory card slots that will allow you to print photos direct from a camera.
High-capacity paper trays capable of holding hundreds of sheets of paper, or an automatic document feeder that can handle scanning and copying work while you go and do something more important, might be worth looking out for.
Double-sided printing is handy for halving your paper usage.
It's also worth thinking about the bundled software that comes with your printer. Some printers include software that provides basic editing features, such as red-eye removal or adjusting the colour balance – some even allow you to perform simple editing tasks using controls on the printer itself.