Do you want to print only black-and-white documents? Get a laser printer, experts advise.
Laser printers get rid of the inkjet headaches. Overpriced ink, constantly running out of ink, clogged nozzles that permanently ruin your printer if you don't print regularly, sluggish print speeds -- you'll never suffer any of these again. Price isn't an issue: Monochrome laser printers now cost about the same as inkjets, and they're cheaper to use in the long run. If photo printing is important to you, look elsewhere, but for black-and-white documents, it's simply no contest.
So, which laser all-in-one is the most blissfully headache-free? Again, it's no contest. Brother printers rule this category, year after year. Brother stands alone at the pinnacle of PCMag.com's 2015 Readers' Choice Awards (it has won for seven years straight), where readers rate it more reliable than any other printer brand.
Specifically, the Brother MFC-L2740DW (Est. $225) is recommended in reviews more often than any other all-in-one printer, period. In fact, it's the only one that's top-rated by owners at every retail website we checked -- a testament to its real-world dependability.
That's really the key difference. Performance-wise, there's not much to separate one mono laser all-in-one printer from another. In one major test, experts exhaustively tested 13 models, from six different brands, and recommended every single one. Text quality, scan quality, copy quality, print speed, ease of use -- all were judged very good or excellent, and the Brother MFC-L2740DW is no exception.
Graphics could look better, expert testers agree, but they look fine for school reports or internal business use. ComputerShopper.com's David English consistently got slight horizontal streaks on his printed graphics from the Brother MFC-L2740DW, although this didn't happen in other tests.
Photos, of course, are a non-starter, as with any mono laser printer. "Photo quality is good enough to print recognizable images from photos on Web pages, but nothing more demanding than that," says M. David Stone at PCMag.com.
Speed is fast -- 9.2 pages per minute (ppm) of mixed PDFs, spreadsheets, PowerPoint and text documents in tests at ComputerShopper.com and PCMag.com -- and the Brother MFC-L2740DW whips out text-only pages at a brisk 16.7 ppm in another test.
Cost-to-own is about average for an all-in-one printer in this price range; text pages cost about 3.2 cents each in a leading test. Unlike many printers, the Brother MFC-L2740DW comes with a full-size drum unit -- not a short-lived "starter" drum -- that will last through your first 12,000 pages, ComputerShopper.com points out.
Features are where the Brother MFC-L2740DW really shines -- notably, its elegant single-pass duplex copying, scanning and faxing, its "most impressive feature ... by a long shot," English says. "Translation: It can capture both sides of a document passing through the ADF [automatic document feeder] at once, saving you time." Rival all-in-one printers slowly duplex in a more cumbersome, herky-jerky fashion, by scanning one side of a page, spitting it out, flipping it over, and then scanning the other side.
You can print either wired or wirelessly, with Wi-Fi, Ethernet and USB connections, with your computer, smartphone or tablet -- or scan to or print directly from cloud sites (including Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, OneDrive and more).
Generous paper capacity (250-sheet main tray, single-sheet manual feed and 35-sheet ADF for up to legal size paper), a touch screen, letter-size flatbed and healthy monthly duty cycle (10,000 pages max, recommended up to 2,000 pages normally) make the Brother MFC-L2740DW suitable as a heavy-duty home office or shared workgroup all-in-one printer. It comes with a one-year warranty and free phone support for the life of the unit.
For smaller budgets, consider the cheaper Brother MFC-L2700DW (Est. $160). It's the same all-in-one printer minus a few features: There's no touchscreen, no direct-to-cloud access, and a regular duplexer instead of the fancy one. Print quality is identical however, and it earns equally glowing reviews from owners, too.
For laser convenience in living color, reviews recommend the HP Color LaserJet Pro M277dw (Est. $350). This color laser all-in-one printer "does it all -- and for a reasonable price," says Eric Butterfield of TomsGuide.com. PCMag.com's Stone says, "In most ways that matter, the M277dw is way out in front of the competition." Both name it an Editors' Choice. Owners are just as enthusiastic, awarding it high ratings at retail sites.
Like their black-and-white brethren, color laser all-in-one printers are a pretty capable bunch. All speedily crank out great-looking graphics, text, scans and copies in one major test of 10 color laser all-in-ones that included the HP M277dw. However, the M277dw does it cheaper than most, and it packs more features for the price.
Color toner costs a pretty penny, but the M277dw's high-yield cartridges soften the blow. With that cartridge, black-and-white text pages cost 3.2 cents each (on par with a mono laser) and color pages, 16.9 cents. ConsumerShopper.com's William Harrel complains that the M277dw still isn't economical enough if you print, say, 5,000 black-and-white pages per month -- but that's double the printer's 2,500-page recommended normal monthly duty cycle (max is 30,000 pages in a month). Normal users will see savings: A leading test estimates that you'll spend $610 to buy and run the M277dw for two years (versus $700 to $900 for some rivals).
Handy features pack "a lot of bang for the buck," Butterfield says. The M277dw has cloud connectivity, a duplexer, touch screen, single-sheet manual feed, and a walk-up USB port to make copies, scans or prints from a thumb drive.
Speed gets mixed reviews. Stone calls it "a pleasant surprise," with mixed office documents churning out at 8.4 pages per minute (ppm). In another test, text prints at a brisk 12.5 ppm. Scanning goes super-fast, too, at TomsGuide.com -- but testers there find the M277dw slower than its rivals at copying and printing (although it's still their Editor's Choice).
Few find much to grouse about when it comes to print quality. Fabulous-looking printouts deliver "typesetter-quality text all the way down to about 6 points," Harrel says, and presentation-quality graphics. "Full-page photos printed on glossy brochure paper looked very sharp and colorful," Butterfield says. "A full-page still life of colorful food looked wonderfully sharp, saturated and delicious."
Sized for personal or small-office use, the HP Color LaserJet Pro M277dw has a 150-sheet main paper tray, 50-sheet ADF for up to legal-size paper, single-sheet manual feed and letter-size flatbed. It carries a one-year warranty.
Our runner-up in this category, the Brother MFC-9130CW (Est. $280), doesn't get a ton of expert fedback -- but home and small business users are smitten with this money-saving little workhorse. It's a customer favorite at Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and BHPhotoVideo.com.
PCMag.com is one of the few experts to look at this Brother AIO. Tony Hoffman reports that "It's a good, cost-effective MFP [multifunction printer] for an office with an occasional need for color printing."
This pared-down model lacks two of the HP's pricier frills: There's no duplexer, and no walk-up printing from a USB stick. Printing runs a bit slower (6.5 ppm of mixed office documents). Text looks very nice indeed, Hoffman says, but graphics don't dazzle like the HP's.
"Graphics are fine for in-house business use, including PowerPoint handouts, though I'd be hesitant to pass them to clients I was seeking to impress," Hoffman says. But plenty of users disagree. Teachers, college students, home business owners, small business owners leaving user reviews largely say that the Brother meets their needs perfectly.
Handy features include a touch screen, generous 250-sheet main paper tray, 35-sheet ADF and single-sheet manual feed. You can print wirelessly, or from your smartphone or tablet, besides the Ethernet and USB ports for wired hookups. Brother's reliability record is stellar, and the company backs its all-in-one printers with a one-year warranty, with free phone support for the life of the product.