Types of Laser Printers
For a busy office setting,
you needed a business-class laser printer to handle the workload. Costing $200
or more, these printers are fast, (40 or more text pages per minute), and have
the processing power and memory to handle big and/or complex print jobs. Expect
high-capacity paper drawers that can hold whole reams of paper (and add-on
drawers to hold thousands of sheets). Expect wired and wireless networking
capability as well so that a single printer can be shared among users.
For home use, or for a
home office, a less robust, but also less expensive laser printer will do just
fine. These typically cost between $60 and $200. The cheapest have only a USB
connection for one computer. Step-up models have Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections,
so several users can share the printer, print wirelessly and print directly
from a smartphone or tablet. These printers hold only enough paper for one or a
few people (usually 150 to 250 sheets). The fastest can crank out about 32 text
pages per minute.
Black-and-white laser printers: Penny-pinching
If you mostly print text
-- or don't need color printing -- consider a black-and-white laser printer.
Busy offices have relied on monochrome laser printers for decades because
they're faster, cheaper to run and more dependable than any other type of
printer. They print sharper text too. The drawback? Grainy graphics and photos.
You might feel OK using them for PowerPoint handouts and the like (if you're
not too picky), but that's it.
There are other options,
too, all with their own pluses and minuses. Color laser printers print
beautiful color graphics, but they cost more than a monochrome laser printer. Inkjet printers deliver professional-looking photo prints, but they're far slower
and costlier to run than laser printers, the ink often clogs up or runs out, and
they break down more. All-in-one printers can be convenient as they also
copy, scan, and often fax. They can also be cost effective if you also need a
device that can do all of that. However, if you don't need that functionality, for
the same price, and often less, you can get a standalone laser printer that
prints faster and sharper, with bigger paper trays, all while gobbling less
space on your desk. Still, if one of these other types of printers is a better
fit for your needs, or budget, they are all covered in their own reports.
Finding The Best Laser Printers
To find the best laser
printers, we sift through expert tests and owner reviews (some popular models
have amassed thousands of these). Like the best sources -- PCMag.com,
ComputerShopper.com, ConsumerReports.org and others -- we consider all aspects
of the printer before picking best choices: print quality, speed, paper
capacity, features, ease-of-use, price, toner cost and durability. Big reader
surveys by PCMag.com, together with brutally honest owner feedback at
Amazon.com, Staples.com and other retail websites, help us separate the
reliable laser printer brands from those that are morerepair-prone.
Brother makes the best laser printers
Quite simply, Brother
laser printers are the most reliable you can buy, reviews say. They're the
easiest to set up. They break down the least. And owners recommend them more
than any other brand, at every retail website we checked and in PCMag.com's
annual Readers' Choice survey. "Once again, as it has done every year
since 2010, Brother wins the PCMag Readers' Choice Award," PCMag.com
announced in July 2017. "It's had a good decade."
Brother sells everything from
small personal laser printers to big corporate behemoths. But for many
heavy-duty office users -- those who print 7,500 pages per month on average
(about 250 per day) -- the (Est. $350) is the perfect choice. It's
the new Editors' Choice in its class at PCMag.com, and it also earns
Recommended status at ConsumerReports.org.
This is the new version of
the previous Best Reviewed pick, the Brother HL-L6200DW, and it impresses
experts just as much. It's basically the same outstanding printer, but with
several new goodies added. Like its predecessor, the HL-L6300DW is super-speedy
-- nearly 51 text pages per minute (ppm) in PCMag.com's test, better even than
Brother's rated speed of 48 ppm. Throw a more complex document at it (with
graphics, spreadsheets, PDFs and PowerPoint slides), and it zooms way ahead of
the old model, cranking out more than 23 ppm.
Text is "terrific-looking,"
PCMag.com's William Harrel says. Graphics and photos aren't any mono laser
printers' strong suit, but the HL-L6300DW's are "acceptable" -- fine
for PowerPoint handouts and newsletters.
Cost per page is remarkably
low -- "one of the lowest we've seen from a laser printer in this class,"
Harrel says. You'll spend just 1.3 cents per page. Bonus: The HL-L6300DW comes
with a high-yield 8,000-page toner cartridge right in the box, unlike some other
printers that come with dinky "starter" cartridges.
Paper trays are robust:
520 sheets in the drawer, with a 50-sheet multipurpose tray and up to two optional
drawers for a maximum of 1,610 sheets. Standard features include a duplexer and
full connectivity options (USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, and the ability
to print directly from mobile devices or the cloud).
So what's new on the
HL-L6300DW, compared with the old model? Well, for starters, it's heavier-duty.
The old version could handle only 5,000 pages in a normal month (or 100,000
pages max), while the new model can comfortably churn out 7,500 pages per month
(125,000 pages max). The output tray holds more pages (250 sheets versus 150). The
included high-yield toner cartridge is a new addition, as is the color touch
screen (the old model had a one-line LCD).
The new model also adds
Near Field Communication (NFC). This makes it easier to pair your mobile device
for printing (just tap to pair), and it also allows for some sophisticated
security features. For example, you can restrict printing only to office
personnel with an NFC card. "There's also a USB 2.0 port on the back for
connecting an external IC card reader," Harrel says. Like the NFC card
reader, this authenticates users for releasing secure print jobs.
While there isn't a ton of
user feedback yet, most of what's available looks very good. As an example, the
Brother HL-L6300DW earns a score of 4.8 out of 5 stars at Amazon.com, based on
nearly 20 reviews. It also earns 4.7 out of 5 stars at OfficeDepot.com, but with
fewer than 10 reviews posted at the time this was written.
Reviewers say that there
really aren't many downsides, other than the "so-so graphics and photo
quality," Harrel writes. The HL-L6300DW measures about 16 inches square
and 11 inches tall. That's pretty compact for a printer this capable, although
still a little big to sit on your desk. It carries a one-year warranty with
free phone support for the life of the printer.
Home users: Brother's budget printer is all you need
If you print less than 100 pages per day, $100 will buy you a great laser printer: the (Est. $100). It's "wicked fast for home use standards," says Liam McCabe at TheWirecutter.com. After 90 hours researching more than 100 cheap printers and testing four, McCabe names it the best laser printers for most people. It's also named a Best Buy by ConsumerReports.org. User feedback is plentiful and fairly solid, including a 4 star score at Amazon.com, based on more than 3,800 reviews.
Reliability is excellent. It can print every day, or 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 eight years running for being so dependable.
Printing is cheap (2.3 cents per page, including wear on the drum in TheWirecutter.com's testing), fast for this class (27 pages per minute) and sharp. PCMag.com's M. David Stone quibbles with the print quality, but says it's "good enough for most 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. The printer has a 250-sheet main paper drawer, single-sheet manual feed and 100-sheet output capacity. It can print up to 10,000 pages in a month, although Brother recommends sticking to 2,000 pages or except for rare occasions. Connectivity options are USB 2.0 and Wi-Fi, but there's no Ethernet port.
Brother sells few other printers in this series. The (Est. $100) sells for a few dollars more than the Brother HL-L2340DW (or, with careful shopping, can sometimes be found at around the same street price), but has a couple of pluses -- namely very slightly faster print speed (32 ppm) and an Ethernet port. Reviewers that have looked at both printers like them more or less equally -- it's a runner up choice at TheWirecutter.com, and also a Best Buy at ConsumerReports.org. User feedback is again plentiful and very solid; It scores a 4.6 star rating at BestBuy.com, for example, amassing nearly 1,575 reviews there.
The series also includes the (Est. $95) and (Est. $100). The core performance and print quality will again be largely the same, but these models have less connectivity (they are USB 2.0 only, with no wireless or Ethernet) and lack an LCD screen (the more upscale Brother printers have a 1-line LCD readout, while these two use LED indicators instead). They also have only one-fourth the memory (8 MB vs. 32 MB), so they won't handle big print jobs as smoothly. While the MSRPs for these printers are lower, street prices are often similar to the more full-featured models, so unless the differences don't matter to you, and unless you can find Brother's more basic models on sale at an attractive price, we recommend going for the HL-L2340DW (or the HL-L2360DW) instead.
Expert & User Review Sources
PCMag.com, ComputerShopper.com and ConsumerReports.org regularly test laser printers, making up-to-date expert recommendations of the
best models. TheWirecutter.com also conducts a well-designed laser
printer shootout. User reviews at retail websites (Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Staples.com and OfficeDepot.com) are crucial for showing how the
printers perform in real life, as is PCMag.com's annual Readers' Choice survey.