Dell E515dw Review

From $120 Best

Pros:

  • 35-sheet automatic document feeder for scanning and copying multiple pages.
  • Automatic two-sided printing.
  • Several connection options, including Wi-Fi Direct.
  • Relatively small and lightweight for a multifunction printer.
  • Prints good-quality text quickly, according to multiple expert tests.
  • Large 250-sheet input tray.

Cons:

  • No color printing.
  • Cost per page is on the high side (3.8 cents).

Takeaway: This monochrome multifunction printer from Dell includes plenty of features and delivers good performance, and it's relatively inexpensive up front. The most common complaint reviewers have is that the scanner lacks automatic duplexing, but that feature is uncommon at this price.

Where to buy

Samsung Xpress C430W Review

From $178 Best

Pros:

  • Low price for a color laser printer.
  • Good quality black-and-white and color printing, according to consumer reviews.
  • Easy to set up and connect to a wireless network.
  • Connects to tablets and smartphones via NFC.

Cons:

  • Can't scan, copy, or fax.
  • No automatic two-sided printing.
  • No menu screen on the printer.
  • Included instructions are not very clear, some users say.
  • Pricey toner cartridges and high cost per page (4 cents).
  • Wireless connection is unstable, users report.
  • Color printing can be slow.

Takeaway: The Xpress C430W from Samsung is one of the cheapest color laser printers you'll come across. It's not a multifunction model, but if you need to print full-color jobs as well as sharp-looking text documents, this model delivers.

Brother HL-L5200DW Review

From $199 Best

Pros:

  • Very fast printing (up to 42 ppm).
  • Low cost per page (2.7 cents).
  • High-quality text printing in expert testing.
  • Several connection options, including Wi-Fi Direct.
  • Large 250-sheet input tray and 150-sheet output tray, plus 50-sheet multipurpose tray.
  • Automatic two-sided printing.
  • PCMag Editors' Choice.

Cons:

  • Can't scan, copy, or fax.
  • No color printing.
  • Below-average graphics quality in testing.
  • LCD menu can be a little tricky to use and displays only one line.

Takeaway: Brother's HL-L5200DW is our top overall pick among budget laser printers. Although it's not an all-in-one model and doesn't print in color, it epitomizes the appeal of a laser printer: It's blazing-fast, inexpensive to operate, and turns out terrific-looking text. Buyers heap compliments on this model and have few complaints in reviews.

Brother HL-L2340DW Review

From $109 Good

Pros:

  • Automatic two-sided printing.
  • Large 250-sheet input tray.
  • Pretty good print speeds (up to 27 ppm).
  • Supports Wi-Fi Direct.
  • Toner Save mode.
  • Small and lightweight.
  • Wirecutter's pick for best laser printer.
  • No. 1 best seller on Amazon with an average of 4 stars and nearly 4,000 reviews.

Cons:

  • No color printing.
  • Below average graphics quality, experts say.
  • Print quality on default setting isn't quite as sharp as competitors.
  • No Ethernet connection.
  • Some buyers complain of trouble setting up wireless printing.

Takeaway: Consumers appreciate the low price, small footprint, and fast high-volume printing of this Brother laser printer for home and business use. Shopping around for toner and opting for a high-yield cartridge can bring down the cost per page to as little as 2 cents.

HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130fw Review

From $179 Good

Pros:

  • Compact, lightweight all-in-one design.
  • 2.7-inch color LCD touchscreen.
  • 35-sheet automatic document feeder for scanning and copying multiple pages.
  • Several connection options including Wi-Fi Direct.
  • Sharp text output in PCMag testing.

Cons:

  • Below-average graphics and image quality.
  • No color printing.
  • No automatic two-sided printing.
  • Cost per page is rather high (3.9 cents).

Takeaway: The HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130fw multifunction printer has more features than most budget competitors, including a large LCD touchscreen and a 35-sheet ADF. It goes through toner fairly quickly, which bumps up the cost per page, but buyers like this printer quite a bit.

Dell E525w Review

From $180 Good

Pros:

  • Low price for an all-in-one color laser printer.
  • Impressive graphics and photo quality in expert testing.
  • 15-sheet automatic document feeder for scanning and copying multiple pages.

Cons:

  • No automatic two-sided printing.
  • Lower paper capacity than some competing models.
  • Lackluster text quality for a laser printer, according to PCMag, though still better than most inkjets.
  • Slow printing compared with other models in Computer Shopper testing.
  • Very high cost per page for color printing (17.4 cents by Computer Shopper's calculation).

Takeaway: The Dell E525w is surprisingly inexpensive for an all-in-one color laser printer. If you want the benefits of a multifunction laser printer with the color printing capability of an inkjet printer, this is a good choice.

Canon ImageClass LBP151dw Review

From $90 Think Twice

Pros:

  • Very low price for a laser printer.
  • High-quality output in CNET testing.
  • Fairly small and lightweight (19 pounds).

Cons:

  • Can't scan, copy, or fax.
  • No color printing.
  • Doesn't support Apple's AirPrint but can print from an iPad via a Canon app.
  • Small pieces of some letters were cut off in TopTenReviews testing.

Takeaway: The Canon ImageClass LBP151dw is about as cheap as laser printers get, but reviewers are divided on its performance, and its shortcomings may be enough to turn away even frugal consumers. The lack of support for AirPrint is vexing for Mac and iPhone users.

HP LaserJet Pro M102w Review

From $159 Think Twice

Pros:

  • Good text output, according to PCMag.
  • Smaller and lighter than most laser printers (10 pounds).
  • Supports Wi-Fi Direct.

Cons:

  • Can't scan, copy, or fax.
  • No color printing.
  • Subpar graphics and image quality in tests by multiple review sites.
  • Slow print speeds in expert testing.
  • No Ethernet connection.
  • Doesn't automatically print on both sides of the paper.
  • High cost per page (3.9 cents).

Takeaway: The HP LaserJet Pro M102w is a decent printer at a decent price, but its features, speed, and print quality don't stand up to the competition. Other models that cost about the same have an all-in-one design, Ethernet connectivity, and automatic duplexing.

Buying Guide

Choosing a Laser Printer

Already omnipresent in large offices, laser printers are popping up in homes, home offices, and small businesses thanks to low prices, compact designs, and a reputation for printing sharp, dark text faster than inkjet printers. The sub-$200 range is bursting with options, including color laser printers and all-in-one models. We examined product specifications and reviews by experts and consumers to identify the best cheap laser printers.

Laser Printer Brands.

A handful of manufacturers dominate the low end of the market. They range from consumer electronics brands to computer makers to companies that specialize in imaging products. Brother, Canon, Dell, and HP are among the most common brand names.

Mono vs. Color Laser Printers.

Monochrome printers are more readily available than color printers on a $200 budget. Our Cheapism pick for best monochrome laser printer is the Brother HL-L5200DW (starting at $199). The Brother HL-L2340DW (starting at $109) is another good cheap option favored by experts and consumers. Both are fantastic for printing text quickly at a relatively low cost per page, but the quality of black-and-white images and charts often leaves reviewers unimpressed.

Consumers who frequently work with graphics likely will want a color laser printer like the Samsung Xpress C430W (starting at $178), which produces high-quality color documents as well as sharp black-and-white output. But note that the cost per page for color printing is high -- often more than 15 cents.

All-in-One Laser Printers.

Home-office and small-business users may prefer a multifunction printer, or MFP, to a print-only model. These all-in-one machines can copy, scan, and fax as well as print. Not surprisingly, all-in-one laser printers are typically more expensive than single-function printers with similar features.

Our top pick among all-in-one laser printers is the Dell E515dw (starting at $120), a monochrome model that's surprisingly cheap for the features it has. We also think highly of the HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130fw (starting at $179). There are few color MFPs in this price range, and the Dell E525w (starting at $180) is arguably the best among them.

A couple of Canon all-in-ones lie outside our Cheapism price range but may be worth spending a bit more. The Canon ImageClass MF249dw (starting at $204), a monochrome model, has been named an Editors' Choice on multiple tech sites. The Canon ImageClass MF634Cdw (starting at $340) is a color all-in-one laser printer that produces razor-sharp text and vibrant colors in graphics. Both of these machines can scan or copy up to 50 pages at a time and scan both sides of a page automatically, features you don't see on cheap laser printers.

Expensive vs. Cheap Laser Printers.

Part of the reason manufacturers can sell cheap laser printers is they make up the difference by charging high prices for toner. Expert reviewers complain about costs of 3.5 to 4 cents per page, which are considered high among laser printers generally but typical for budget models. Consumers who regularly print large documents may save money in the long run by investing in a more expensive laser printer with a cheaper cost per page -- ideally less than 2.5 cents.

If you don't print complex documents or thousands of pages per month, however, one of the budget laser printers featured here is likely a better deal. The quality of printed graphics typically isn't as good, but even the cheapest laser printers excel at printing very sharp text, and fast. Although all the printers we researched have shortcomings compared with pricier models, most serve buyers well as light-duty printers for homes or small offices.

We do have some reservations about a couple of cheap laser printers we came across. The Canon ImageClass LBP151dw (starting at $90) and HP LaserJet Pro M102w (starting at $159), both monochrome models, lag the competition in features and in the quality of their output.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $199.00)
Color Printing No
All-in-One No
Cost Per Page 2.7 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 42 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Paper Handling Automatic 2-sided printing
(from $120.00)
Color Printing No
All-in-One Yes
Cost Per Page 3.8 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 20 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Paper Handling Automatic 2-sided printing, 35-sheet automatic document feeder
(from $178.00)
Color Printing Yes
All-in-One No
Cost Per Page 4 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 19 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB 2.0, NFC
Paper Handling Manual
(from $180.00)
Color Printing Yes
All-in-One Yes
Cost Per Page 3.3 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 18 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Paper Handling 15-sheet automatic document feeder
(from $179.00)
Color Printing No
All-in-One Yes
Cost Per Page 3.9 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 23 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Paper Handling 35-sheet automatic document feeder
(from $109.00)
Color Printing No
All-in-One No
Cost Per Page 3.8 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 27 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, USB 2.0
Paper Handling Automatic 2-sided printing
(from $90.00)
Color Printing No
All-in-One No
Cost Per Page 3.5 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 28 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Paper Handling Automatic 2-sided printing
(from $159.00)
Color Printing No
All-in-One No
Cost Per Page 3.9 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 23 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, USB 2.0
Paper Handling Manual
(from $204.00)
Color Printing No
All-in-One Yes
Cost Per Page 3.5 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 28 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Paper Handling Automatic 2-sided printing, 50-sheet duplex automatic document feeder
(from $340.00)
Color Printing Yes
All-in-One Yes
Cost Per Page 4.5 cents
Maximum Speed (B&W) 19 ppm
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Paper Handling Automatic 2-sided printing, 50-sheet duplex automatic document feeder

Laser Printer Reviews: What We Considered

To find the best laser printers under $200, we examined reviews by experts at reputable tech sites such as PCMag and Computer Shopper, as well as general review sites such as Wirecutter, Consumer Reports, and TopTenReviews, all of which do their own product testing. We also looked at consumer reviews on leading retail sites such as Amazon, Best Buy, and Staples.

Whether a printer is monochrome or color, single-function or all-in-one, the two characteristics that laser printer reviews most often address are print quality and speed. Reviewers expect a strong one-two punch here. Connection options, such as wireless support, are another top consideration, as is the ability to print from mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Unless the printer will be shared among several heavy users, don't worry too much about memory. In an office environment where multiple users will be sending jobs to a printer at the same time, more memory helps the machine process those requests more efficiently. But if you're the only one who will be using the printer, or if you'll be sharing it with only a couple of other people, it's not as much of an issue.

Speed.

Print speed, measured in pages per minute (ppm), is the great strength of laser printers. Even budget models enjoy a well-earned reputation for printing large amounts of text quickly and for spitting out images at a swift, albeit slower, clip. Still, some of the models we researched are significantly speedier than others. If you print only a handful of pages a day, you won't notice whether the rate lags the best of the bunch by a page or two a minute. But if you frequently print lots of jobs or long documents, you need a fast laser printer.

Manufacturer 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. The samples used in 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 numbers for any given model vary from one source to another. Among the printers we researched, the maximum speeds provided by the manufacturers range from 18 to 42 ppm.

Laser printers are at their best, and deservedly known for, turning out laser-sharp text. The sharpness and quality of the text output from even a cheap laser printer should outdo that of an inkjet printer. Reviews of budget models generally confirm that reputation. There are more quibbles when it comes to the quality of graphics and photo prints; the results are a mixed bag. But because consumers and small business users tend to rely on laser printers primarily for printing text, the print quality of graphics and images is usually of secondary importance.

Another point worth noting: Printed text deemed "average" quality by experts is generally viewed by laypeople 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.

One indicator of print quality is the printer's resolution. Black-and-white documents look nice and sharp with a resolution of only 600 x 600 dots per inch, which any laser printer supports. Graphics, and especially color documents, may call for a higher resolution such as 2400 x 600 dpi. Ultimately we relied on reviews to judge print quality, instead of making assumptions based on specs.

Connectivity.

In the past, entry-level laser printers included only a USB port for connecting to a computer with a cord, but that's changed. All our picks support wireless connections and networking capability. Even if only one person will be using the printer, a model with only a USB 2.0 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. A printer with an Ethernet connection is a good choice for a home or small office network. Some budget printers also support Wi-Fi Direct, which lets you connect to the printer wirelessly without going through a router. A few models support NFC (near-field communication), for connecting a mobile device to the printer with a simple tap.

Most manufacturers offer proprietary apps for printing and scanning with mobile devices. A handful of popular cloud printing services also have widespread support among budget laser printers. The two most popular are Google Cloud Print and Apple's AirPrint. There's also Mopria for Android devices.

Paper Handling.

Most cheap laser printers have an input tray that holds at least 150 sheets, but some have 250-sheet trays. Output trays typically hold 100 to 150 sheets.

Most of the all-in-one printers we recommend also have a document feeder that automatically loads pages into the scanner -- a real time-saver if you have to scan or copy multi-page documents. (The alternative is a flatbed scanner that has to be opened and closed on each individual page.) The number of sheets an automatic document feeder can hold varies from model to model; some accommodate more than twice as much paper as others.

Printers that support duplexing can automatically print to both sides of a sheet of paper, which is convenient and saves paper. Models capable of duplex scanning and copying generally fall outside our price range.

Cost Per Page.

If you print several thousand or even several hundred pages per month, a printer's running cost becomes important. The cost per page is determined largely by the cost of toner. Although wear on the drum also factors in, for simplicity's sake, we based our comparison on the manufacturer's price and stated yield for a standard black toner cartridge.

For black-and-white printing, a typical cost per page for a budget laser printer is about 3 to 4 cents per page. Color pages are much more expensive, usually well over 10 cents and often more than 15 cents per page. Consumers can bring these numbers down by shopping around for toner and opting for high-yield cartridges, which typically hold more than twice as much ink and cost less in the long run.

Related: 10 Ways to Cut the Cost of Printer Ink

Additional Products We Considered

Canon ImageClass MF634Cdw Review

From $340

Pros:

  • 50-sheet automatic document feeder for scanning and copying multiple pages.
  • Automatic two-sided printing, scanning, and copying.
  • Several connection options, including Wi-Fi Direct.
  • Razor-sharp text output, excellent graphics quality, and vibrant colors in expert testing.
  • PCMag Editors' Choice.

Cons:

  • High cost per page for color printing (16.4 cents by PCMag's calculation).
  • Very heavy.

Takeaway: The Canon ImageClass MF634Cdw is a pricier option, but if you need a multifunction color printer that can do it all, and do it well, this model is worth the extra cash. This is a good choice for office users who want to print presentation materials for clients or customers.

Canon ImageClass MF249dw Review

From $204

Pros:

  • 50-sheet automatic document feeder for scanning and copying multiple pages.
  • Automatic two-sided printing, scanning, and copying.
  • Fast for the price (up to 28 ppm).
  • High-quality printing, scanning, and copying in expert testing.
  • Large 250-sheet input tray.
  • Several connection options, including Wi-Fi Direct.
  • Computer Shopper and PCMag Editors' Choice.

Cons:

  • No color printing.
  • Occasionally small parts of letters appeared cut off and grayscale images looked mottled in TopTenReviews testing.

Takeaway: The starting price is just outside our $200 limit, but the monochrome Canon ImageClass MF249dw is a favorite among expert reviewers. The extra money buys features such as a 50-sheet document feeder that supports duplexing, so it can automatically scan and copy both sides of each page.