Best Cheap Laser Printers
Published on By Michael Sweet
Dell B1160w Review
From $67 Best
Dell's B1160w is one of the few wireless monochrome laser printers in this price range. With 32MB of memory, Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, this is an affordable choice for home users who need a printer that networks and gets the job done quickly.
Despite some nits that get picked in Dell B1160w (starting at $67, Amazon) reviews, this black-and-white laser printer is a darn good choice for budget shoppers. In fact, it would be hard to find any better model for such a low price. CNET says in its review that the printer is a cinch to set up and the Wi-Fi connection for wireless and networked printing is a welcome feature, but it grouses about the absence of an Ethernet port and the limited feature set. On the other hand, the B1160w is good where it counts. Testing by CNET found that text prints out sharp and dark and at a speed of 17 pages per minute although graphics and photo print results are nothing special. A review by PC Mag takes the opposite tack, saying photo and graphics printout is above par for black-and-white laser printers while text quality falls short. This expert also laments the B1160w's relatively low paper capacity and lack of support for duplexing and wired networking. Users, meanwhile, are largely thrilled with the printer. Dell B1160w reviews at Dell's site comment on the speed, wireless capability, easy setup, quality output, and value price. One trucker reports relying on the printer for emails and work documents while he's on the road and an attorney says he carries it with him to meetings. A few users complain about the frequent need to replace toner cartridges and their cost.
With a footprint of 13 x 8.5 x 7 inches and weight of 8.8 pounds, the B1160w fits almost anywhere. Its maximum resolution is 1200 x 1200 dpi and the manufacturer-rated print speed is 21ppm. It features 32MB of RAM, a 300MHz CPU, an input tray for 150 sheets and an output tray that holds 100. The B1160w connects to a wireless network or to a single computer through a USB 2.0 connection and responds to commands from Android mobile devices. The B1160w is compatible with Windows (including Windows 8), Linux, and OS X 10.4 to 10.7. It accepts a wide variety of media, including transparencies, envelopes, labels, archive paper, cardstock, cotton, legal, letter, and A4/A5-sized paper.
The Dell B1160w is a good choice for budget-minded home users. It doesn't have all the features one might need in a small office printer, but its wireless networking support, fast print speeds, and solid text printout are laudable and practical strengths.
Brother HL-5450DN Review
From $135 Best
The HL-5450DN monochrome laser printer from Brother sports a large paper capacity, offers cloud printing, and delivers documents in a hurry. Text output quality is outstanding and the 64MB of RAM is a plus.
Brother HL-5450DN (starting at $148, Amazon) reviews agree that this monochrome laser printer meets and exceeds expectations for the budget category. An expert at PC Mag thinks highly enough of the HL-5450DN to name it an Editor's Choice for its attractive features (e.g., larger-than-average sheet capacity, auto duplexing), high quality graphics output, and low operating costs. Although tests for this review found print speed to be a touch lower than expected (10.8ppm for a set of business applications), the report concludes this is quite fast given the entry-level price point. CNET is big on the printer's support of cloud-based printing through Google and Apple AirPrint but holds a different view of the printout. The expert review commends what it considers very sharp, dark text and speedy printout (21.13ppm for black text) while criticizing the checkered patterns that occasionally pop up in printed graphics. Users are quite satisfied, according to Brother HL-5450DN reviews at B&H and Newegg, where posts say this single-function laser printer delivers excellent print quality, and with haste. They particularly like the automatic duplexing function and easy setup for networking.
Manufacturer specifications for the Brother HL-5450DN note a maximum print speed of 40 pages per minute and resolution up to 1200 x 1200 dots per inch. The printer boasts a 250-sheet paper tray plus an additional multipurpose tray that can hold 50 sheets, and a 150-sheet output tray; the black-ink toner cartridge is rated to last 8,000 pages. There is an Ethernet port for wired networking or a USB 2.0 connection for a single computer. And, as noted above, the right app on a mobile device lets you print remotely from the cloud. Under the hood is a 400MHz processor and 64MB of memory. The HL-5450DN supports a variety of paper types, including bond, envelopes, labels, letter and legal-sized paper, A4, A5, and B5, and it can print on both sides automatically. This model is compatible with Windows (including Windows 8), Mac OS X, and Linux. It measures 14.6 x 15.1 x 9.6 inches.
Most low-cost laser printers are short on features, but the Brother HL-5450DN includes a lot of nice touches, such as support for cloud printing, auto duplexing, and generous memory. The lack of support for wireless printing is a disappointment, but the Ethernet interface offers partial compensation. In short, the Brother HL-5450DN is a value buy.
Canon ImageClass MF3010 Review
From $89 Good
The Canon ImageClass MF3010 doesn't have many extra features, but is as cheap a multifunction (no fax, though) laser printer as you'll find -- and it performs admirably. It has 32MB of memory and connectivity is limited to a USB 2.0 port.
A cheap multifunction laser printer for one user is what you get with the Canon ImageClass MF3010 (starting at $89, Amazon), according to reviews. The lack of networking features is a drawback, an expert review by CNET asserts, but the ease of use, fast print speeds (clocked by CNET at 17ppm for text), and crisp and clear text printout (even with small fonts) are definite strong points. Tests conducted by PC Mag for a review involving a battery of business applications measured output at 10.3ppm, which the expert says exceeds that of most multifunction laser printers. On the down side, the review continues, text and graphics quality is merely average and the relatively high per page cost of 4.1 cents might be a turn-off to users with heavy print needs. Nonetheless, users hold this printer in high regard. Canon ImageClass MF3010 reviews at Walmart and Amazon cite attributes such as quality scans and prints, rapid printout (three times as fast as an inkjet, says one post), small size, and budget price.
The ImageClass MF3010 is a multifunction device that prints, copies, and scans but doesn't fax. It offers a maximum print speed of 19ppm and features a 600 x 600 dpi maximum resolution (up to 9600 dpi, interpolated, for color scans) and 64MB of memory. The MF3010 connects via USB 2.0 only -- no wireless or Ethernet support, so no networking possibilities. The input tray accommodates 150 sheets of many types of paper (e.g., plain, heavy, bond, envelopes, labels) and the output tray holds up to 100 sheets. The MF3010 measures 14.7 x 10.9 x 10 inches, and weighs 16.8 pounds without the toner cartridge. It supports Windows (including Windows 8) and Mac OS X 10.4.9 and up.
If you need a multifunction laser printer with network capabilities at home or in the office, you'll need to look elsewhere. But for single user purposes, this inexpensive multifunction printer is a solid choice.
Choosing a Laser Printer
Already omnipresent in large offices, laser printers are rapidly invading homes, home offices, and small businesses, thanks to new technology and lower prices. The sub-$150 range is bursting with options, including color printers and multifunction models that copy, scan, and, in some cases, fax. We examined reviews by experts at well-known tech sites as well as consumer reviews from leading online retailers to find the best cheap laser printers.
What We Considered.The two performance characteristics that laser printer reviews most often address are print quality and speed. Reviewers expect a strong one-two punch here, and the laser printers we picked give them just that. Laser printers have a sterling reputation for printing sharp, dark text, although budget models' success at printing graphics or images doesn't quite compare. Even in the entry-level segment, print speeds are impressive, especially when stacked against the inkjet competition. We occasionally ran into some griping about toner costs, but most reviewers readily acknowledge that cartridges for laser printers last longer than ink cartridges, which are notoriously expensive.
The features on budget lasers are fairly standard but vary in their specifics. The first order of business is how you plan to connect the printer to a computer or other device. The best cheap laser printers have wireless connectivity in addition to a USB port. If the printer will be shared, choose a model with Wi-Fi and/or Ethernet. The ability to print from the cloud and/or from a mobile device ups the convenience factor.
Next, check the specs for memory -- more is better, especially when you need to print several documents in a row or jobs that hog memory. Some cheap laser printers contain as little as 2 MB of RAM and others sport 64 MB or more.
The paper handling also merits consideration. Most budget laser printers have an input capacity of 150 sheets, but some can take up to 250 sheets. The models we researched accommodate commonly used paper sizes and some combination of other media types. We also looked for automatic duplexing -- the ability to print on both sides of a sheet of paper automatically -- and automatic document feeders to make scanning easier.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
Brother HL-5450DN Review
Paper Capacity 250 sheet + 50 input; 150 sheet output
Maximum Pages Per Minute (ppm) 40ppm
Connectivity USB 2.0, Ethernet
Maximum Resolution 1200 x 1200 dpi
|135||250 sheet + 50 input; 150 sheet output||40ppm||64MB||USB 2.0, Ethernet||1200 x 1200 dpi|
Dell B1160w Review
Paper Capacity 150 sheet input; 100 sheet output
Maximum Pages Per Minute (ppm) 21ppm
Connectivity USB 2.0, 802.11b/g/n
Maximum Resolution 1200 x 1200 dpi
|67||150 sheet input; 100 sheet output||21ppm||32MB||USB 2.0, 802.11b/g/n||1200 x 1200 dpi|
Canon ImageClass MF3010 Review
Paper Capacity 150 sheet input; 100 sheet output
Maximum Pages Per Minute (ppm) 19ppm
Connectivity USB 2.0
Maximum Resolution 600 x 600 dpi
|89||150 sheet input; 100 sheet output||19ppm||64MB||USB 2.0||600 x 600 dpi|
Laser Printer Reviews: A Closer Look
Speed.Print speed, measured in pages per minute (ppm), is the great strength of the laser printer category, especially at the lower end of the market. According to laser printer reviews, the best low-cost printers are fast enough for home and small office use. Laser printers enjoy a well-earned reputation for printing large amounts of text quickly and for spitting out graphics and images at a good, albeit slower, clip. Although some of the models we singled out are speedier than others, the differences among them are minimal. If you print only a handful of pages a day, you won't notice whether the rate of production lags the best by a page or two a minute. But if you frequently print lots of jobs or many long documents, you'll probably want a larger, faster, pricier printer.
Manufacturers' specifications for print speed are usually based on draft-quality text printing on standard, letter-size paper. Documents heavy on graphics or photos take longer. Tests by independent experts often include text, graphics, and images, so the results tend to be slower than the official specs. Different reviewers use different testing methods, so results for any given model vary from one source to another. Among the printers we researched, maximum speeds provided by the manufacturers range from 18 to 42 ppm. Multifunction printers often list the number of copies per minute (cpm) that the copier function can spit out, as well (usually similar to the printer's per-minute output).
Print Quality.Laser printers are at their best, and deservedly known for, turning out laser-sharp text. Reviews of budget models generally confirm that reputation. Even printed text deemed "average" quality by experts is viewed as sharp, clear, and dark. It's easy on the eyes regardless of font size or type, and more than acceptable for all but the most demanding business presentations.
Because consumers and home/small office users rely on mono laser printers primarily for text, the print quality of graphics and images is of secondary importance. It's rarely mentioned in consumer reviews but does crop up in expert reviews, which are also written for business users. The reviewers generally consider the quality of printed graphics and photos less satisfactory -- which isn't that surprising, particularly with entry-level monochrome machines, given the limitations of black-and-white image reproduction.
Connectivity.In the past, entry-level laser printers included only a USB 2.0 port for connecting to a computer with a cord, but that's changed. We looked for budget models with networking capability via Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Even if only one person will be using the printer, a model with only a USB connection is limiting -- it doesn't allow printing when you're sitting in another room. If the printer will be shared and/or you want remote access, choose one with Wi-Fi connectivity. If you don't have a wireless network but need to share, choose a printer with Ethernet.
Most printers these days have another nifty feature: cloud printing. That is, when the printer is turned on and connected to a network, you can access (through a computer or mobile device) and print documents stored in the cloud. A related option to look for is mobile printing, with an app that lets you send a document from a mobile device to your home printer.
Memory.The amount of memory inside a laser printer matters when printing a large number of files or memory-intensive jobs (think big InDesign or Photoshop files). In other words, the more memory, the more or more complex documents the printer can store in the queue. If several people make heavy use of the same printer, as is often the case in small offices and increasingly at home, 32 MB or even 64 MB is preferable. That's the amount of memory you'll find on many budget models.
Paper Handling.The feed trays on budget printers typically hold a maximum of 150 to 250 sheets of paper. Sometimes print jobs call for paper other than the standard 8.5 x 11 variety (bond, letter, legal, cardstock, etc.), and the supported media types depend on the model. They might include labels, envelopes, and transparencies.
A laser printer that can automatically print on both sides of the paper is an efficiency booster -- in terms of saving time, dollars, and trees. This feature, known as automatic duplexing, used to be rare in the entry-level arena but now appears on several of our picks. Reviews indicate that users really appreciate this resource-saving functionality. Users of multifunction printers also appreciate an automatic document feeder, which feeds multiple pages into the machine for scanning, so you don't have to repeatedly open a flatbed scanner.
Additional Products We Considered
Samsung CLP-415NW Review
Samsung CLP-415NW (starting at $216, Amazon) reviews are quite enthusiastic about this low-cost color laser printer. After testing by PC Mag that entailed a variety of business applications, the experts awarded it an Editor's Choice label for speedy and sharp-looking output -- a double victory for any laser printer -- and an array of convenient features. The experts rated print speed at six pages a minute, noting this is very respectable for a machine that produces color and black-and-white. The review is especially effusive about the quality of graphics and photo images, and says the latter could almost pass for actual photographs. As for text printout, it's very good but not quite up to "best" desktop publishing standards, PC Mag concludes. Users also applaud the quality of color and photo copies, which one review at Amazon describes as "fantastic," especially compared with inkjets. Assessments posted at Newegg are more restrained, with concerns expressed about the rapid disappearance of toner (despite the "eco" option). Some users also report that setting up the wireless connection can be a challenge.
The Samsung CLP-415NW prints at a maximum speed of 19ppm in black and/or color and boasts a maximum resolution of 9600 x 600 dpi. Its 256MB of memory and 533MHz dual CPU means the queue can hold large jobs from multiple users. There is no automatic two-sided copying but the CLP-415NW does support manual duplexing. It has a 250-sheet input tray and a 100-sheet output tray, accepts media from 3x5 inches to 8.5x14 inches, and supports media types such as bond paper, labels, transparencies, cardstock, envelopes, and glossy paper. Connectivity options include USB 2.0, wireless 802.11b/g/n, and wired Ethernet; the Samsung CLP-415NW also prints from mobile devices (with the appropriate app). The CLP-415NW is comparatively hefty -- a full 36.6 pounds with a 16.5 x 16.8 x 10.4-inch footprint and is compatible with versions of Windows up to Windows 7, some Linux, and Mac OS X 10.3-10.7.
The CLP-415NW from Samsung shows that you can get a relatively cheap color laser printer that churns out high-quality materials at a fast pace. It may not be suitable for a busy small office due to its relatively small paper tray, but is an excellent option for home users and small offices that need high-quality color laser prints, network support, and substantial memory. Even with a price tag that exceeds the Cheapism ceiling, this looks like a deal.
Canon ImageClass LBP6000 Review
Near the bottom of the laser printer price ladder, the Canon ImageClass LBP6000 (starting at $77, Amazon) earns affirming reviews -- especially from consumers. This is a small and fast laser printer designed for one-person use, and for the most part, performance is more than adequate. A review at Top Ten Reviews commends the fast printing, user friendliness, and small size, but pans the measly 2MB of installed memory. The expert at PC Mag notes that the ImageClass LBP6000 is short on features, which isn't surprising given the very low price, and says text quality is high (good enough for most business documents), and photo prints hold their own on downloads from the web or personal files. Graphics printout is a struggle, however, the Canon ImageClass LBP6000 review continues, showing some "dithering" in images and dot patterns in solid sections. These experts tested speed using a variety of business applications and recorded a very respectable 10.6ppm. Users find a lot to like about this monochrome laser printer. Comments posted at Amazon reveal their appreciation for its print quality and speed, quiet operation, small footprint, and simple setup.
The Canon ImageClass LBP6000 features resolution of 600 x 600 dpi and print speed for black text up to 19ppm. It comes with a 150-sheet input tray and 100-sheet output tray and handles several types of paper and media, including transparencies, labels, envelopes, and heavy and plain paper. With just 2MB of memory and a lone USB 2.0 port (no Ethernet port or support for wireless networks), this model is clearly designed to accommodate the needs of a single user at home. It's compatible with Windows (up to Windows 7), Linux, and Mac OS X 10.4.9 (and higher) operating systems. It measures 9.9 x 14.2 x 7.8 inches and weighs 11.1 pounds without the cartridge.
If you're looking for a simple, entry-level laser printer that doesn't have any networking responsibilities, the ImageClass LBP6000 may be the best deal you'll find. It's small and fast and prints text well.
Dell B1260dn Review
Dell B1260dn (starting at $150, Amazon) reviews are good for this monochrome laser printer. It's priced near the mid range for entry-level models and while light on features, it comes with several that impress reviewers. At Computer Shopper, for example, the review commends the compact size, the auto duplexing, and the "eco" mode, and adds that business graphics and documents print out quickly and look very sharp. The expert at PC Mag also praises the graphics and text quality but says photo prints sit lower on the quality scale. This Dell B1260dn review clocked print speed at a decent 8.3ppm in its business applications test. One user who posted comments at Dell's site reports that printing is clean and quick and another says the machine is fine for home office use. Several reviewers caution, however, that replacement cartridges are pricey.
The Dell B1260dn is fairly small, measuring 13.7 x 13.3 x 7.8 inches and weighing just shy of 16 pounds (with toner cartridge; slightly over 14 pounds without). It comes with a larger than average 250-sheet input tray and 150-sheet output tray, auto duplexing, support for mobile device printing, and an eco mode that saves on electricity and toner. The maximum print speed for black text is 29ppm and maximum resolution is 1200 x 1200 dpi. A single user can connect to the B1260dn through its USB 2.0 port and the Ethernet interface supports networking. The printer sports 64MB of memory and is compatible with Windows (including Windows 8), Linux, and Mac OS X 10.4 and higher. It can handle several paper and media types, including cardstock, transparencies, cotton, archive, labels, envelopes, and thick paper.
The Dell B1260dn is a good deal for users who value the relatively large paper capacity and support for mobile printing. It's a bit on the slow side compared to some other laser printers we researched, but text and graphics print quality is excellent and the price screams for buyers' attention.
Samsung SCX-FW3405FW Review
If you need a compact multifunction laser printer, Samsung SCX-FW3405FW (starting at $162, Amazon) reviews suggest this may be the model for you. Expert and consumer reviewers like the small size and, for the most part, the performance. PC Mag writes in its review that text and graphics print quality is well above average for monochrome machines although photos are well below par. As for speed, the site's business suite applications test produced a rate of 7.7ppm, which the experts deem acceptable, albeit a tad slow. Users find the printer to be sufficiently fast and at Staples, their Samsung SCX-3405FW reviews commend the print quality and features such as wireless connectivity. Posts at Amazon generally say the printer is easy to set up (even for the technically challenged), faxes are easy to send, the copy function produces very clear printouts, and the price is right. On the other hand, some Samsung SCX-3405FW reviews gripe about a complicated setup and unreliable wireless, especially with Macs, and a small cartridge that runs out of toner quickly. The PC Mag expert notes the absence of an auto-duplex feature but welcomes the presence of a 40-sheet auto-document feeder.
The SCX-3405FW is a multifunction device that prints, scans, copies, and faxes. Its top print/copy speed is 21ppm and maximum resolution is 1200 x 1200 dpi (600 x 600 dpi for optical and 4,800 x 4,800 enhanced when scanning). The SCX-3405FW comes with a 150-sheet input tray and a 100-sheet output tray, and like most laser printers it accepts different paper sizes and types, including paper from 3 x 5 inches to 8.5 x 14 inches, envelopes, labels, card stock, archive, and cotton media. The printer runs on a 433MHz CPU and boasts 128MB of memory. Connectivity is possible with a USB 2.0 connection, an Ethernet cable, or through Wi-Fi. The SCX-3405FW is compatible with Windows (not Windows 8), Linux, and Mac 10.4 and newer operating systems. By multifunction printer standards, the SCX-3405FW is pretty small, measuring 15.8 x 11.5 x 11.7 inches and weighing 17.6 pounds.
The SCX-3405FW offers several appealing features and reasonable performance for the price. It's a step slower than the multifunction competition, but for home use and laid-back offices, this shouldn't be much of an issue.