How to buy the best printer

Lynn Wright / 19 May 2016 ( 13 March 2017 )

Whether you need a basic printer for the occasional letter or want a photo printer for glossy prints, our guide will help you find the best printer for you.



The best home printer should be easy to set up and use, and produce outstanding prints without costing you a fortune in ink. There are lots of printers available to suit different tasks, but whether you’re a photo enthusiast, run a business from home or just need to print the occasional letter, we can help you choose the perfect printer for you.

Printers fall into two main categories – inkjet or laser – depending on the technology they use. However, printers are more commonly described by their features or the tasks for which they’re best suited, such as photo printers or home-office printers.

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Here are the main types you’ll see when shopping for a printer...

Types of printer

Inkjet printers 

Inkjet printers provide high-quality printing, making them perfect for everyday printing tasks including documents and photos. They work by shooting thousands of tiny drops of ink onto the page, and printers with a higher number of dots per inch (dpi) will produce clearer and more detailed prints. Although smaller and cheaper than laser printers, inkjet are slower to print black text pages, with higher running costs per page and the ink on freshly printed pages can smudge.

Laser printers 

Laser printers use an electric charge to transfer toner ink to the paper. They are typically larger and more expensive to buy than inkjets but they deliver fast, smudge-free and high-quality printing especially for black-and-white pages. They’re ideal if you need to print lots of paperwork.

Photo printers

The term photo printer can be applied to a range of differently sized printers but all will be capable of producing lab-quality prints on a range of paper. Most have USB and memory card slots and a LCD screen on the front, so you can edit photos and print directly from your digital camera or memory card.

All-in-one printers 

An all-in-one printer will feature an inkjet printer, a scanner and a photocopier in one space-saving unit. Most have built-in Wi-Fi connectivity so you can wireless print from your computer, tablet or smartphone, and some include a fax function too.

Wireless printers 

If you want to print from your computer, tablet or smartphone without having to be connected to your printer with a cable, you’re after a wireless printer. This means the whole family can share a printer and print from their device anywhere in the house. Most printers now have Wi-Fi connectivity that uses your home Wi-Fi network to talk to your printer. To wirelessly print from a tablet or smartphone, your printer needs to include AirPrint, Google Cloud Print or email printing features.

Home-office printers 

You can find both laser and inkjet printers with this label. Whatever the technology, these large printers offer high-quality, fast and reliable printing. 

They’re designed to cope with large volumes of text documents and simple graphics, rather than high-quality printing of photos or artwork. You’ll typically pay more upfront for a home-office printer but they offer a lower print cost per page than other printers.

Where to get your photos printed

What to look out for when choosing a printer

Print resolution 

This refers to the maximum number of dots per inch (dpi) that can be printed, measured both horizontally and vertically. Typically, a printer with a higher resolution produces more detailed, sharper print results.

Print speeds 

Measured in pages per minute (PPM) for text and images per minute (IPM) for photographs, this may be worth consider if you regularly print large quantities.

Paper size 

This will depend on your print needs. If you need to print large spreadsheets, posters or piece of artwork, opt for a printer that can handle A3 sized paper as well as A4.

Ink costs

Ink is expensive and the price of replacing ink often ends up costing more than the printer itself. If you need to print lots of colour documents or photos, check the cost of replacement cartridges and their page yield (how many pages they print) before choosing a printer.

Borderless printing 

This lets you print photos that fill the entire page without margins.

Duplex printing 

A handy feature that sets the printer to automatically print on both sides of the paper.

Scanning 

Some printers let you scan documents or pictures directly to email or to your computer. A great way to preserve old family photos.

PictBridge 

Many printers have a PictBridge port so you can plug your digital camera into the printer and print photos directly from it without having to import them to your computer first. Similarly, a memory card slot will allow you to print photos or documents without a computer by simply removing the card from your camera and plugging it into the printer.

Display 

Most printers have an LCD display so you can select settings, monitor ink levels and check the progress of your print jobs. Photo printers often have large, full-colour LCD screens so you can select, edit and print photos directly from your camera or memory card.

USB port 

All printers have a USB port for connecting to your computer or laptop using a cable.

Wireless printing 

Most printers come with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity so you can print wirelessly from your computer anywhere in the house without the need for cables.  

Alternatively, some models print wirelessly using infrared, Bluetooth or NFC (near field communication).

Mobile/cloud printing 

Found on newer printers, this lets you print from your phone, tablet and other mobile devices using either Google Cloud print or Apple AirPrint. 

Google Cloud Print is included on all Android devices while Apple AirPrint features on iPhones from the 3GS and up, 3rd generation iPods onwards and all iPads.

Email printing 

Some printers come with their own, customisable email address so you can simply email photos and files to the printer from any device.

Our top five inkjet printers

Brother MFC J6920DW wireless all-in-one A3 inkjet printer

For the serious home user, the Brother MFC-J6920DW A3 inkjet printer offers a lot over other inkjet models. Ideal for homes that need lots of printing – such as for university or school projects – it supports printing over home Wi-Fi networks, NFC, AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, and if you download the Borther’s iPrint&Scan app, you can even print directly from your phone. Controlled with a large touchscreen LCD panel, it can offer duplex printing and prints sizes up to A3. Users found it surprisingly quick at scanning, with great output and quiet printing.

Buy on Amazon from £187 

Canon Pixma TS5050 all-in-one inkjet printer

As an all-in-one printer for the home, the elegant Canon Pixma TS5050 can scan, print and copy documents with ease. It connects to home Wi-Fi for easy printing set-up, and with wireless LAN PictBridge you can print wirelessly directly from compatible cameras. Photos and images can be printed at up to 4,800dpi, and can deliver a borderless photo in just under 40 seconds. It uses five separate inks – saving you money as you only replace the ink that has been used. And you can connect smartphones and tablets such as the iPad using AirPrint to print directly to the printer. Users love the print quality, multiple functions, price and the economical ink usage – as well as the tiny size that means it can perch on your desk without a problem.

Buy on Amazon from £80

Canon Pixma MX925 inkjet printer

The Canon Pixma MX925 is a highly versatile printer that can hold a whopping 250 sheets with a duplex double-sided 35 sheet automatic feeder. It prints high-detailed 9,600dpi photos, can print CDs and scan sheet-fed documents. It connects to home Wi-Fi networks, and can use Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print to print from smartphones and tablets. It uses five separate inks, so you need only replace the colour that runs out. A full-colour three-inch LCD panel controls the printer. Users are full of praise, with outstanding print quality and ability to work well with mobile devices.

Buy on Amazon from £123 

Epson Expression Photo XP860

An easy-to-use all rounder, the Epson Expression Photo XP-860 is ideal for any home that needs to print a variety of documents – from photos and graphics to letters and presentations. It has four-in-one functionality, including scanning, copying and printing at 4,800dpi, and has automatic duplexing for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. It has six separate inks for a wide colour range and Epson says prints can last up to 300 years before fading. It connects wirelessly to home Wi-Fi networks for printing from PCs, tablets and smartphones. Users highly rate the quality of the photo prints, its user friendliness and easy of set-up.

Buy on Amazon from £139

HP Envy 4527all-in-one inkjet printer

The HP Envy 4500 e-all-in-one inkjet printer can scan, copy, print and output photos from one stylish device. It’s fast too, capable of printing up to 9 pages per minute in black and 6 colour pages per minute. It includes automatic duplex printing and can print via home Wi-Fi connected devices, such as PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets. Optional high-capacity ink cartridges are available to reduce how often you need to change cartridges. Users found set-up easier than expected and results are crisp, clear and quickly delivered.

Buy on Amazon from £45

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.