If you print less than 100 pages per day, less than $100 will buy you a great laser printer: the Brother HL-L2340DW (Est. $90). It's "the most efficient, least irritating" laser printer around, says Liam McCabe at TheWirecutter.com. After 90 hours researching more than 100 cheap printers and testing four, McCabe dubs the HL-L2340DW "Best Cheap Printer."
"The cost per page is among the cheapest we've ever seen, setup is mercifully easy, and it'll work with just about any modern laptop, smartphone, or tablet," McCabe says. "And you probably won't ever feel like beating it to a pulp, Office Space-style."
That's because this printer simply works. It can print every day. It can sit for weeks without printing at all -- unlike inkjet printers, which clog up and die if they don't print regularly. It doesn't paper jam ("we couldn't jam it even when we tried," McCabe says). And Brother printers rarely break down: They've won PCMag.com's Reader's Choice award seven years running for being so dependable.
Home and small-office users will find all of the modern features they really want: Wi-Fi (so you can print and share the printer wirelessly), Wi-Fi Direct (to print directly from a Wi-Fi Direct compatible device) and a duplexer, to print two-sided pages.
Printing is cheap (2.7 cents per page), fast for this class (27 text pages per minute) and sharp. PCMag.com's M. David Stone quibbles with the print quality, but says it's "good enough for any business use." Extreme close-up photos at TheWirecutter.com show that text is "plenty crisp and sharp" at a minuscule 2-point font size -- which is probably more than most users will ever demand, anyway. User feedback is plentiful and fairly solid; It earns a 4 star score at Amazon.com based on over 2,500 reviews.
Its near-twin, the Brother HL-L2360DW (Est. $100) adds Ethernet networking and promises a slight speed boost (32 ppm) for the same price -- but it may be a little harder to find. Get whichever one you find cheaper, McCabe advises: The speed difference is really negligible ("When you print your tax returns in the spring, it's either going to take one minute, or one minute and a few seconds. Who cares?") and most small-printer users will probably prefer to connect via Wi-Fi, making the added Ethernet link a plus only for a minority.
Both Brother printers have a 250-sheet main paper drawer, single-sheet manual feed and 100-sheet output capacity. Both can print up to 10,000 pages in a month, although Brother recommends sticking to 2,000 pages or except for rare occasions.
Brother sells a couple of more basic cheap printers, the Brother HL-L2300D (Est. $90) and Brother HL-L2320D (Est. $100) -- but retailers are selling these for the same price as the step-up models, even though they lack Wi-Fi and an LCD screen (the more upscale Brother printers have a 1-line LCD readout, while these two use LED indicators instead) and they have only one-fourth the memory (8 MB vs. 32 MB, so they won't handle big print jobs as smoothly). For the same price, we suggest going for the more full-featured Brother HL-L2340DW or Brother HL-L2360DW instead.
Brother's closest cheap rival, the Canon imageClass LBP151dw (Est. $95), prints ever-so-slightly faster and sharper than the Brother in tests at PCMag.com, and it's equally cheap to run, with most of the same features -- but without Brother's rock-solid reliability. Be sure to shop carefully, however, as we saw a wide range of prices at retail.
Once a sure-fire Readers' Choice in PCMag.com's annual survey, Canon slipped to Honorable Mention last year, and completely off the winners' platform this year. Readers find Brother printers more reliable, less repair-prone and easier to set up than current Canon models.
The Canon does have Ethernet connectivity, which the Brother HL-L2340DW lacks. But the Canon lacks Wi-Fi Direct. Although the Canon imageClass LBP151dw is the most capable alternative to Brother in the cheap printer class, the Canon doesn't offer any advantages as important as Brother's proven dependability. Both the Brother and Canon printers include one-year warranties and free phone support.