The Best Laser Printers

The best laser printer should print quickly while maintaining precise text and simple graphics. It should be easy to maintain and work efficiently without a lot of bells and whistles. To find the best, we spoke to IT experts, scoured consumer reviews, investigated specs, and gathered the top laser printers from reliable brands. We then ran them through a gamut of print quality and usability testing and compared their results with a magnifying glass.

The 2 Best Laser Printers

Best
Black-and-White Laser Printer
HP LaserJet Pro M203dw
A minimal printer that does its job and does it well
Pros
Clear text and graphics
Consistency
Easy maintenance
Cons
Expensive toner
Awkward single-sheet tray

Why we chose it

Clear text and graphics

The HP M203dw simply excels at printing. It was one of only two printers that didn’t lose any detail with serif font — fonts like Times New Roman with small decorative lines attached to letters. And for those who need to print graphics with straight lines for their documents, the HP M203dw is hands down the best. In both the line graph and radial line tests, it was able to produce the straightest and least pixelated lines.

Consistency

In terms of consistency, the HP M203dw excelled at maintaining its print quality in our long document test. Our 30-page document came out clearly and quickly. According to Fernando Leon, Vice President of Sales for IT company Single Point of Contact, “HP is a brand of printer that has been well known for quality and reliability.” Harmon agrees: “From experience, stick with the HP.” He told us other brands, like Brother, usually cause more problems for his clients.

Easy maintenance

Maintaining the printer is equally effortless. Unlike other printers, there’s a toner symbol that indicates where you can open the printer to replace toner. We also liked the clear window on the paper tray door that let us see the paper levels — a smart design choice that enables you to easily check the paper level before printing.

Points to consider

Expensive toner

A basic toner cartridge costs around $64 compared to, say, the Brother HL-L2340DW’s $45 cartridge. But then, the HP M203dw cartridge contains more toner and will give you 400 more pages than the Brother cartridge before it needs replacing. We recommend going with the high yield cartridges that cost $90 and hold twice the amount of toner as a basic cartridge. The HP M203dw also follows standard practice by arriving with a starter cartridge.

Awkward single-sheet tray

The single-sheet tray for single-prints is located further inside the paper tray door, and we had to physically bend over, as if reaching under our desk, in order to feed smaller media like envelopes into it. Not a dealbreaker, but kind of annoying. That said, laser printers aren’t really designed for single-sheet printing, so it’s an understandable design oversight.

Best
Color Laser Printer
HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw
An exceptional color option that comes with a touch screen
Pros
Crisp images
High resolution and vivid color
Touchscreen
Solid performance
Cons
Tricky letter tray
Expensive toner

Why we chose it

Crisp images

The HP’s ability to avoid any fuzz or distortion extended to the green radial and straight lines we used to test precision and color mixing. Again, the HP M252dw had little trouble producing crisp lines with minimal imperfections when it came to graphics and text. The Samsung C1810W actually produced the straightest and most crisp lines, but delivered more of a blue than green ink, which indicated poor color mixing.

High resolution and vivid color

We were surprised to see the HP M252dw reproduced a high resolution photo of colorful fruits and vegetables without it looking dull. While the image and coloring with the HP M252dw is a bit darker than the original image, tomatoes came out in a deep red hue without looking grainy. The closest competitor, the Canon LBP612cdw, had better color accuracy, but a closer look revealed fuzzy white spots in the image.

Touchscreen

The HP M252dw’s touch screen controls are responsive and all the menu options, such as checking toner levels or calibrating print quality, are easily accessible. It also displays an animated tutorial that shows you how to insert a blank sheet of paper to clean any lingering toner — a thoughtful touch that actually helped us complete the task.

Solid performance

The HP M252dw offers a 30,000 duty cycle and 256 MB memory, pretty impressive stats that, surprisingly, don’t come at the cost of print quality. We were impressed with this printer during every stage of testing and are confident recommending it as the best color laser printer.

Points to consider

Tricky letter tray

We had trouble fitting the letter tray back inside the printer when reloading the main paper tray. We soon realized there was a trick to putting the letter tray back first. We didn’t have any issues again once we solved this puzzle, but it’s a noticeable and confusing flaw in a machine otherwise designed with ease-of-use in mind.

Expensive toner

Just like its black-and-white counterpart, the HP M252dw’s toner is on the expensive side. But honestly this is pretty much par-for-the-course with any laser printer. Toner costs about $80 for each color cartridge, or you can buy all four for just under $300.

Guide to Laser Printers

How to find the right laser printer for you

Evaluate your needs

You should ask yourself a couple of questions in order to help you find the best printer for your needs:

  • Are you printing for business or personal use?
  • Will you print a lot of pictures or mostly text documents?
  • Will most of your printing be from a desktop computer?

Knowing the answer to these questions can help your figure out whether you should go for black-and-white or color, as well as what kind of duty cycle to look for, and if you need extra features, like wireless printing from different devices.

Shop around online

You might be tempted to go shopping for printers at your local Best Buy or Staples. However, buying a printer can be just like buying a car and you could run the risk of being upsold on a more expensive printer with features you don’t need. By shopping online first you can see all the features — duty cycles, wireless, color range, etc.— laid out and you can take your time coming to a decision.

Read reviews

You’re probably not going to do the same amount of testing we did — and good news: you don’t need to. You can get a sense of what it’s like to use different printers by reading customer reviews for each product. Getting insight from users like yourself on the quirks and perks of specific printers is a great way to learn which printers will suit your home business needs, and which are more hype than help.

Laser Printers FAQ

Are all-in-one printers worth it?

Multifunctional laser printers, or all-in-ones, include functions like faxing, scanning, and copying, but our experts advised we should steer clear. If one feature breaks down, that could leave you unable to print while waiting for repairs. Harmon says if you need a laser printer for personal work or a small business, “Don’t get an all-in-one printer. Buy a printer that does its job.”

Should I pay for premium toner?

All of our experts warned us against using knock-off or bargain toner. Leon told us, “using brand toner would be highly advisable as recycled toner tends to explode and spread throughout the printer.” While toner can be expensive, buying the correct cartridge from your laser printer’s manufacturer will prevent heartache in the future. Black toner cartridges can cost between $60 and $90, but typically last for 2,000-3,500 pages. Color printers use four CMYK toner cartridges instead of one black cartridge. The cyan, magenta, yellow, and black cartridges (CMYK) can be replaced separately and typically cost around $40-60 each. Our experts recommend buying in bulk to save money and have backups when you need them.

How do I ensure my laser printer keeps working?

We learned from Craig that the biggest favor you can do for your printer is “ensure that the environment is kept clean and dry because this will eliminate small particles from accumulating in the machine and keep dust from entering when the covers are opened.”

In addition, he explained that the location of printer paper can have an effect too. “Paper that is sitting out will accumulate dust that will be distributed into the printer, and paper may have absorbed moisture causing it to stick together which can lead to a paper jam.” Luckily the solution is simple. Keep your printer paper in a box or drawer and gently fan it to shake off any dust before placing it in the printer.

The Best Laser Printers: Summed Up

HP LaserJet Pro M203dw
HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw
Best Black-and-White Laser Printer
Best Color Laser Printer
Price
Price starting at $115
Price starting at $250
Type
Black-and-White
Color
Two-sided printing
Print from mobile device
Wireless connectivity
Touchscreen