The cheapest color laser printers are available for a few hundred dollars, about the same price as a mid-range inkjet or monochrome laser printer, and they blend the speed and sharpness of the latter with the color options of the former. Cheap color laser printers cost less than the best office color laser printers, but the trade-off is somewhat lesser print quality, especially when it comes to photos.
Cheap color laser printers also have lower duty cycles than the best color laser printers, meaning they are rated to print fewer pages per month (and exceeding that rating can void your warranty). Paper handling is also less robust. While all of that means that cheap color laser printers aren't the best choice for a busy workplace, they are an economical option for personal, home office, or small office use.
The Xerox Phaser 6010/N (Est. $250) color laser printer has limited frills, but reviewers say it's a good choice for personal or home office use. Print quality draws positive reviews, especially among printers in its price class: M. David Stone of PCMag.com cites its "reasonably high quality output" and Jon L. Jacobi and Melissa Riofrio of PC World call its monochrome and color output "impressive." Graphics are on par with those of other laser printers, but photo quality is on the lower end. Designers, meanwhile, appreciate the Pantone (PMS) color-matching feature.
Those who do a lot of printing might want to pass on the Xerox Phaser 6010/N. Its printing speeds are slow -- 12 pages per minute (PPM) for color, 15 PPM for black and white -- compared to printers geared for busier office environments. In addition, the paper tray is small at 150 sheets, and the Xerox Phaser 6010/N lacks automatic duplexing capabilities. Users can print two-sided documents using manual duplexing software, but that software is Windows only. The rated duty cycle of 30,000 prints per month can also be limiting for busy offices, but should be plenty for home or home office use. Its relatively small size and light weight are also pluses for home settings. The biggest drawback to the Xerox Phaser 6010/N is the high cost of replacement toner cartridges -- something most critics carp about, at least a little.
The Brother HL-4150CDN (Est. $250) color laser printer is also a decent choice among budget-priced options. PCMag.com's M. David Stone awards the printer 3 stars out of 5 for its "balance of speed, output quality and paper handling," and recommends the printer for most small offices. It's network-ready for work groups, and its duty cycle of 40,000 pages per month means it can deal with the demands of average business printing volume. Unlike the Xerox Phaser 6010/N, it boasts automatic duplexing; it also weighs almost twice as much. Reviewers agree that text quality is decent and that graphics quality is on par with similar color laser printers. However, Stone notes that color photo printing is of lesser quality, with hues being noticeably off.
If you have just a little more to spend, the Brother HL-4570CDW (Est. $350) is a top cheap wireless color laser printer. With its rated duty cycle of 60,000 pages per month, it's a good workhorse printer for small or even midsize offices. The HL-4570CDW shines when it comes to printing text. Things don't look as good, however, when printing graphics and photos. "The quality is good enough for printing recognizable photos from Web pages, but it's not something I'd use for more demanding tasks, like client newsletters," says Stone.
The HL-4570CDW is relatively fast. PCMag.com clocks the printer at 6.8 PPM in its benchmark testing, adding that users should see something close to the printer's rated 30 PPM when printing pages without graphics or photos.. Owner reviews praise the usability of the HL-4570CDW. The printer installs automatically on Mac computers, and PC World says driver and network installations are a "breeze." Even setting up Wi-Fi networking is easier than with other wireless color laser printers. Reviewers like that the consumables' up-front cost is relatively low, but some users are disappointed that the printer burns through those consumables relatively quickly.