One printer is as good as another, right? The idea is to be able to transfer your electronic media to paper, and one machine can do it as well as any other.
Unfortunately, it’s not this simple, and this idea couldn’t be any further from the truth. In actuality, computer printers perform all sorts of functions, in addition to simply printing. And, of course, there are printer-specific functions to keep in mind before deciding which device to buy, including power consumption, ink consumption, printer speed, and quality.
There are numerous printers that can fit into just about anyone’s budget, providing excellent quality for a great price.
Best Budget Printers
1. HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One Printer
The HP Officejet series has been a favorite amongst inkjet fans for many years. The HP Officejet 8600 Plus e-All-in-One has gotten a makeover inside and out, which makes it even better at everything it does. Because this is an all-in-one printer, it can print, scan, copy, and fax.
- Matte Finish. HP displeased many consumers with previous iterations of this printer by encasing the device in a glossy black chassis, easily marked by fingerprints and dust. But this year, HP decided to ditch the traditional chassis in favor of a matte, fingerprint-resistant casing.
- Touchscreen Control. HP has also created a highly sensitive 4.3-inch touchscreen that allows you to easily access the functions you want without hassling with complicated software. Simply locate the function you want on the main panel (such as copy, scan, print, or fax) and touch the icon.
- Full QWERTY Keyboard. HP has also included a full QWERTY keyboard so that entering network passwords can be accomplished on the device itself.
- Built in Wi-Fi. You can connect this printer to your computer via USB cable, but the built-in Wi-Fi feature and Ethernet connection allows you to connect your printer to your computer wirelessly, which makes device placement easy.
- iOS Optimized. You can access HP’s AirPrint application on the printer and send documents to it via any iOS device. You don’t even have to fire up your computer to print your work. This is especially useful if you have photos stored on your smartphone or tablet computer that you want to send to your printer.
- Instant Print From the Internet. HP has taken printer functionality a step further by augmenting the standard print/copy/scan/fax utilities with an apps feature. The apps feature allows you to access and print pages from Internet sources such as Yahoo!, Reuters, Nickelodeon, Disney, USA Today, and many more. This can be especially helpful for students looking to print current events for a class, or for parents looking to access fun kids’ activities without the hassle of turning on their computers to do so.
- Great Print Quality. There are two main types of printers: laser and inkjet. In general, inkjet printers produce less crisp images and text along the page, partly due to ink smearing, but are generally much less expensive than laser printers. However, the print quality of this particular unit is incredibly clear for an inkjet printer.
- Slower Touchscreen Response. The touchscreen function control pad is beautiful and intuitive, but is sometimes difficult to use. I find myself jabbing my finger at a control several times before my request is recognized by the printer. Also, there is no way to recalibrate the screen sensitivity.
- Large Size. This printer is slightly large for smaller environments, so make sure you have the room to house this printer before you make the purchase. Also, if you are intending to connect this device to your PC via USB, you need to purchase a cable, as HP does not include one here.
The HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One printer serves up great functionality and crisp images at a price that is affordable for just about everyone. This is the perfect printer for the home, office, or dorm room.
2. Epson Workforce 845 All-in-One Printer
Epson has a great lineup of consumer electronics designed to be used in a home or dorm environment, but this really isn’t that model – unless you have high volume printing needs from either of these locations. The Epson Workforce 845 All-in-One is designed to tackle the kind of printing you might need in a medium- to large-sized office.
- Fast Text Print Speed and Quality. One of the biggest pluses for this particular model is print speed and quality. It works well with high workloads, churning out single- and double-sided print jobs with ease.
- Wi-Fi Enabled. You can directly connect this printer to your computer by using a USB cable, via your wireless network, or through an Ethernet connection.
- Android and iOS Integration. If you happen to be working offsite, you can send print jobs to this printer via your Android-based smartphone or iOS device, or email jobs to it from any computer. This is extremely useful for people in the sales force who are looking to submit orders while on a job site.
- Compact Design. The Epson Workforce 845 All-in-One is a relatively compact device, weighing only 22 pounds including ink, trays, and paper.
- Touch Pad Controls. Not only did Epson include a 3.5-inch color touch pad function control panel, but the printer also features an additional 7.8-inch touch pad display. This provides access to all the functions on this printer without the need to install any additional software.
- Photo Editing Software. Epson added two SD card slots in the front of the printer, which accepts the cards used to store photos in digital cameras. Simply slide your card into the slot to access the photos you want to print, and voila. Epson included easy-to-use photo editing software as well, so cleaning up your pictures before printing is a snap. You can even be creative and turn your photos into greeting cards, calendars, and personalized to-do lists.
- Poor Photo Printing Speed. While text-based print jobs are on par with the HP 8600 Plus in terms of speed and clarity, photo printing is a bit slow.
- No Cabling Included. You have to fork over a few extra bucks to purchase a USB or Ethernet cable if you choose to create a hardwired connection.
This is a great printer for a home office or a commercial office. It handles high volume print jobs with ease, prints jobs from the field, and even produces great-looking pictures, albeit slower than other inkjet printers.
3. Epson Stylus NX430 Small All-in-One Printer
The Epson Stylus NX430 Small All-in-One is the perfect back-to-school printer or addition to any home office in need of an inexpensive and small, but powerful device. The Epson Stylus only takes up about as much space as a standard Blu-ray player, but it is as fast, if not faster, than many of its competitors, while producing excellent print quality.
- Android and iOS Integration. Like larger models, the Stylus allows you to print from iOS- and Android-based devices via the Epson iPrint software application. This is great for students who have forgotten to print their latest paper and are running late for class. Simply send your document to the printer via your smartphone and grab it on your way to class. This is also an extremely useful feature for people who have a home office and need to print orders or job descriptions from the field. Sending your document from your phone or tablet means that your print job is ready for your review when you get back to the office, saving you both time and money.
- All-in-One Device. In addition to great printing options, this printer also features copy, scan, and fax functionality.
- Virtual Button Orientation. Epson has included a virtual button configuration that allows you to access only the controls you can actually use to complete the function you’ve chosen. This keeps button confusion to a minimum.
- Wi-Fi Enabled. You can connect your printer to your computer via either USB cable or Wi-Fi through your existing wireless network, which makes this printer very flexible in terms of placement.
- No Included Cabling. As with all the other models on this list, you’ll need to purchase a USB cable if this is the method you choose to connect your printer.
- Slow Response on Touchpad. The touchpad controls on the top of the printer (not those on the 2.5-inch touchscreen) take a little bit of finagling in order for the commands to register. And when the control is pressed, the chassis flexes slightly, making it feel a bit mushy.
- Glossy Chassis Design. You may have some issues with dust and fingerprints on this particular unit thanks to the addition of a glossy black chassis.
- No Ethernet Connectivity. This device does not include Ethernet connectivity.
- Uses a Lot of Ink. This printer uses a lot of ink, so be prepared to spend some cash at your local consumer electronics store if you plan to print a lot of pictures.
This is a great printer for smaller, lower volume print applications such as a home office or dorm room. It has many of the features of some of the higher-end printers at about half the price. You need to set aside a printer ink fund if you’d like to print photos, but other than that, this is a nice printer.
4. HP Laserjet Pro P1606dn
The HP Laserjet Pro P1606dn is the first laser printer to make the list, as it offers consumers the best features of laser printing for a very affordable price. The main benefit to using a laser printer over an inkjet printer is printing speed. A laser printer can print entire pages at once, making even the fastest inkjet printer look pitifully slow. Additionally, you get fantastic print quality and long-term cost savings due to not having to buy ink cartridges.
- Fast Print Speeds. This printer is so fast that small businesses can easily print high volumes of advertisements or templates in half the time it would take an inkjet printer. Instead of using ink to print a page line by line, a laser printer uses a negatively charged drum and positively charged toner particles to adhere the image to the page. This is not only a fast way to print – it produces an amazing print quality as well.
- Compact Design. This is a small unit that makes it very flexible in terms of device placement, making it the perfect addition to a small home office or dorm room.
- Multiple Connectivity Options. You can connect this printer to your computer via USB or Ethernet cable, so the small size really comes in handy as it needs to remain within close proximity to your computer.
- Not a Multi-Function Unit. This is not an all-in-one printer, so printing is the name of the game with this device.
- Lack of Wi-Fi Connectivity. There is also no Wi-Fi connectivity, so be prepared to make room near your computer for device placement.
- No Included Cabling. You have to purchase the required connection cables separately.
- Black and White Printing Only. This is a black and white printer only, so if color photo printing is something you want to accomplish, skip this particular unit.
The HP Laserjet Pro P1606dn is a fast, reliable, and quality printer. Both text and images are crisp and this printer prints both quickly, making it capable of handling higher volume printing. The price also fits into just about any budget.
5. Brother HL-2270DW
The Brother HL-2270DW is the second home laser printer to make the cut. This is an affordable, monochromatic laser printer that combines the usual ease of use and quality printing we’ve come to expect from Brother printers, with the affordability of lower-end inkjet printers.
- Price. $100 is a steal for a laser printer, even one that doesn’t print color. Not only do you get this particular laser printer for less than you can pick up some of the lowest-quality inkjet printers, but you don’t have the hassle of needing to frequently buy ink cartridges for this model, making it one of the most cost-effective printers on the market today.
- Fast Speed and Quality Text Printing. This printer provides all the speed and accuracy (at least in terms of text printing) of higher-priced laser printers at a fraction of the price.
- Wi-Fi Enabled. The printer provides wireless connectivity, and with its small size, it is very flexible in terms of where it can be placed. USB and Ethernet connections are also available.
- 32GB of Internal Memory. This printer has a 32GB internal memory capacity, so you can send multiple documents into a queue for printing without having to wait until the previous print jobs are completed.
- Black and White Printing Only. This particular model only prints in black and white, which makes color image printing impossible. However, that’s likely fine, since image printing really isn’t its strength.
- Doesn’t Come With a Full-Size Toner Cartridge. Brother only includes a “starter” toner cartridge, which prints about 1,000 pages before needing to be replaced. The average toner cartridge costs about $49, but once again, this is considerably less expensive than having to purchase ink refills at an average cost of $30 per black and $30 for color. The average toner cartridge yields about 1,500 pages before needing to be replaced.
As with all the other printers on this list, you must purchase a cable to hard wire your printer, unless you choose to connect over your wireless network.
This is an extremely affordable printer for both small office and home use. You can also add this printer to any dorm room application easily and unobtrusively. The Brother HL-2270DW offers the same printing speeds as more expensive laser printers, though image printing is shaky at best.
Regardless of how sophisticated we get in terms of electronic media, there is still a need for physical documents. Each of these printers offers consumers something unique, and determining which one is the best for your application depends on your printing needs. Those running a small business either from home or a commercial office space may benefit from spending a few extra dollars to acquire an all-in-one printer, while students and casual users may benefit from a less-expensive text printer.
What other models would you suggest to someone looking for a high-quality printer at a low price?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)