What printer should I buy? (Or should I buy one at all?)

I need a printer for my desk. I haven’t bought a printer in years and when I bought bought the last one I didn’t know what I was doing.

Cost is way more important than quality for me with this printer; but not so important that I want to refill my own ink cartridges!

Anyone care to venture a recommendation?

Tangentially, do you think this is a) appropriate to post here and b) valuable enough that we should start threads for other common devices and hardware?


I find this query absolutely appropriate, and I thank you for posting it. I too have been thinking about a new printer, in the very same ways.


If you don’t care about color and don’t mind used a good laserjet will last forever and a day. The toner will be expensive to replace but will last way longer than ink carts.

Also look for business grade vs. consumer. It is worth the few extra $$$ for the quality.


For initial cost, consumables cost and durability, I’m a big fan of the Brother laser printers.

I’ve effectively given up on consumer grade inkjet printers for all the usual reasons but at our other house we do have an Epson inkjet/scanner we use a few times a year that is mostly reliable for what little I ask of it but is still subject to the occasional misfeed, ink splatter, and so on.


When I started grad school (and knew I’d be endlessly printing papers to read over) we got one of these, for like $100 online (ebay, I think, but I don’t remember now) and it’s still working, despite already being a used printer. As you say, you pay more for toner, but it lasts for a long time. As long as you don’t care much about printing color pages (we also have a color printer we use very rarely), then it’s indeed worth the investment.

I’ve never had one of those (although I’ve probably used one in the office). Do you think it’s better/more reliable than an HP like I have?


The modern HPs are not quite the workhorses they used to be but they are nicer than any inkjet at office despot. I peeked at the local craigslist and you can get a network capable equivalent to that for under $200 and it will probably last forever for personal use.


That’s what I heard. This one has been fantastic, though and rarely gives me any problems.


Before Boeing finally upgraded we had a lot of HP4’s and so so so many HP5’s that had printed probably 4x their engineered lifetime and were still kicking out 100+ pages a day with no problems. They were great printers.

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I would like to agree with all of this. Inkjet printers might be cheap in the beginning, but laser printers are lower cost over their lifetime, especially if you print infrequently. Toner doesn’t dry out.

Someone I know has been using an HP laserjet with the same toner cartridge since 2005. They print infrequently, like 2 or 3 pages a week, not much coverage, but that printer is a workhorse.

I had a Brother laser that worked like a charm for two years then quit. The replacement quit almost immediately. I replaced that with a xerox color laser. For me, it’s been absolutely worth it, even though the cost of a full set of toner is about what the unit costs. I don’t know anyone, except other graphic designers, who print as much as I do.


I second this seconding
I’ve been using the Xerox Phaser 3260 and I’ve been very happy with it. TBH, I have not been pushing the limits of what a good laser printer should be capable of. But this is $110 new and I have zero complaints http://a.co/5LwvTTc

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I don’t buy them at all, but then again I don’t buy computer stuff very often, I get 99.999% of what computer equipment I use from garbage cans and dumpsters.

A lot of people online claim to follow this strategy: Buy a cheap color inkjet for less than the cost of the cheapest laser cartridges. Use expensive paper whenever you need good quality output. When the ink pots run out, donate the printer to goodwill and buy a new one - for less than the cost of a new set of ink pots.

(But judging from the number of perfectly good printers in the waste stream, I don’t think they’re really donating the printers, I suspect they’re just throwing them out!)

That’s what I’ve heard. I have an HP LJ5 on our home network’s little print/media server. I like it enough that if it ever does break, I’ll probably take it to a repair shop instead of buying a latter model.

For ink-jets I agree that Epson is probably the least bad of the major manufacturers, but laser-jets are far superior. And the older models don’t brick themselves when you insert less expensive aftermarket cartridges.


That said they are still solid bits of printing hardware, just that xerox, lexmark, etc are just as good these days.


[Disclaimer- I sell printers & supplies for a living, but not for one particular brand]

If you can live with black & white, then a mono laser printer is the way to go. If you’re looking at new ones then the low end Brother printers (L2xxx etc) are good value. The low end Canon & HP models are also good, and simpler as there’s only one supply to buy.

Laser printers can cope with not being used for longer, but there can be issues with drums marking when not used for a long time.

Cheap colour laser printers aren’t generally worth bothering with.

On the inkjet side the newer epson models with the precision core heads seem to be a lot more resilient to clogging than the older ones. The higher end HP Officejets aren’t as good as the Epson Workfoce pro printers. The cheap inkjets across all brands seem to commonly develop feed problems.

Looking at the used laser market, then HP is the obvious choice. As well as the larger printers in the 4/4000 series, the small models using Q2612A/CB435A etc cartridges are much more compact and seem to soldier on well.


We have lexmark at work. It’s an impressive printer. I believe you can steer Curiosity from it :smiley:

ETA: Never mind. It’s an HP too.

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As @TobinL pointed out in the past I’d have said HPLJ in a New York minute but these days the Brothers are as reliable as HPLJ used to be and cost less up front and ongoing. I have one I bought over 10 years ago thats still going and two of the multi function printer/scanner/fax units as well. Never had to get them serviced so far.

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One more chime for Brother Laser Mono.

When I need color prints, that’s what the Walgreens on the corner is for.

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Thanks! I’ll remember that if our HPLJ war horse ever gives up the ghost.

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It used to be that HPLJs were pretty easy for service repairs so always check that option before buying new gear.


Yep. Go laser, unless you need to print photos. And frankly, since I work for a photo book and stuff producer: The machines used by us give better and cheaper photos and if you want to get serious about your photos and keep readjusting them for proofing, a home printer just won’t do anyway.

I have an Epson AcuLaser because at times I needed the color and two-sided printing, but it’s not a must for a private office. The kid appreciates the color, though.

Also one of those scanner-printer-photocopier-fax scanners, but these days I dont send faxes, receiving fax is something a service or the DSL-router can do and scanning is something my iPhone does much faster.
It’s getting used far less than my 3rd printer, a Dymo Label writer I use to print address labels and box labels with.

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