The 30-Second Review

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.

Best Black-and-White

Clear text and sharp lines, plus a minimal design that makes it easy to use.

Best Color

Vibrant colors and quality text with a helpful touch screen.

The Best Laser Printer

If you have a home office or small business, a slow printer can be a deep source of aggravation. However, the slow speed may be due to the type of printer you have. Inkjet printers are a common and cheap option but for those who need to frequently print long documents, an efficient laser printer is the way to go.

The HP LaserJet Pro M203dw Printer is our pick for the best black and white laser printer because it excels at printing crisp text and sharp lines for graphs and charts. Pretty simple. Outside of wireless connectivity, the printer doesn’t offer any features, but we don’t mind, because using the printer and replacing toner or paper is painless. It’s more expensive than others on the market, coming in at $200, but If you want to quickly print documents with consistent high quality, the HP M203dw is a solid bet.

Our pick for best color laser printer is the HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw. This printer surprised us with its ability to produce vibrant colors, and even high-resolution images, accurately. The color is a bit dark, but with sharp text and clean lines the HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw outperformed all the other color printers we tested. At $300, it’s not cheap, and it will require additional color toner cartridges. But its crisp results and features like an intuitive touch screen for checking toner levels or calibrating the printer make the HP M252dw a great pick for daily printing needs.

The Dell E310dw is great for those who want a cheap printer and don’t require perfect prints. At just $80, the Dell E310dw is the cheapest out of all the printers we tested and still prints crisp text without any problems. But for those who need straight lines for their graphs or charts, the Dell isn’t the best choice. It also has a small 32MB memory, which means that documents over 30 pages may need to be printed in two sessions. Even so, it’s a great budget printer for text-based documents.

For those who prioritize precise colors above all else, the Canon Color imageCLASS LBP612Cdw produced the most accurate color tones. However, in terms of text and lines the printer was outclassed by the HP M252dw. Curved lines with the Canon were jagged and text wasn’t as detailed. In addition, navigating the Canon’s menu is a bit more difficult because the menu screen is smaller. But, if you print a lot of colored graphics, the $250 Canon LBP612CDW is worth a look.

Our Picks for Best Laser Printer

Best Black and White Laser Printer

HP LaserJet Pro M203dw PrinterA minimal printer that does its job and does it well

We’ll admit that we were surprised to see HP take both of our top spots. While the brand receives recognition for its reliability, we always approach highly-marketed brands with a bit of skepticism. Simply put, it took our top spot for black and white laser printer because it was straightforward to use and produced the most precise text and lines.

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. The Dell E310dw was the only other printer that managed to print serif fonts accurately but it struggled to produce straight lines like the HP.

HP BW Close-Up Test for Laser Printer

The HP M203dw (left) handled text well and produced smoother curves than the Brother HL-2340dw (right).

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. The HP M203dw’s light grey lines were a little hard to see, but they were still straight, and we appreciated the accuracy of the darker text and graphics. After all, consistent and clear text will make up the majority of professional documents.

On the topic 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. The closest competitor in terms of overall quality, the Dell E310dw, also managed consistently clear text but it wasn’t better. Our experts nudged us over the line toward HP. According to Leon, “HP is a brand of printer that has been well known for quality and reliability,” and Harmon told us “from experience, stick with the HP” because other brands, Brother in particular, usually cause more problems for his clients.

HP BW for Laser Printer

Setting up the HP Laserjet Pro M203dw is easy, although it did take 15 minutes. 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 us to check the paper level before printing. Not all paper trays are as easy to refill as the HP M203dw’s either, but it isn’t perfect. 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. Laser printers aren’t designed for single-sheet printing, though, so this flaw is a minor one.

The HP M203dw has a respectable 30,000 duty cycle, 256 MB of memory, which means you’ll be able to print longer documents without having to perform multiple prints, and wireless connectivity. The control panel is simple, with just a few indicators, such as attention lights for printer errors and low toner. We’ll admit, we were originally disappointed by this absence of features and controls but we were proven pleasantly wrong. The HP M203dw is designed to do one thing: print. And it does it well. We can imagine it fitting seamlessly into the workflow of a busy home office or small business without requiring technical finesse.

In terms of cost projection over 3+ years of ownership, the HP M203dw starts at $200 which makes it our most expensive option for black and white laser printers. Its toner is a bit pricier than that of its competitors, too. A basic toner cartridge costs $64 compared to 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.

Best Color Laser Printer

HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dwAn exceptional color option that comes with a touch screen

Laser printers are known for having lower-quality images, so we were impressed by the depth of color and vibrancy that the HP M252dw produced. Out of all the printers we tested, the HP M252dw was able to print the most precise text and colorful images without fuzz. Better still, it offers intuitive features that actually boost usability.

Text with the HP M252dw was crisp and consistent. We’d even go so far as to say that the HP M252dw printed better black text and lines than any printer we tested, including the black and whites. Other color laser printers didn’t come close. The Samsung Color Laser Xpress C1810W performed well with our line graph, but had a few jagged letters. The Canon LBP612Cdw and Dell C1760NW did well with text, but couldn’t accurately reproduce lighter shades like the HP.

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 just a few imperfections. The Samsung C1810W produced the straightest and most crisp lines, but there were tints of blue rather than green which indicated poor color mixing. The Canon Color imageCLASS LBP612Cdw did perform better in our color testing. But the HP M252dw took a close second and had better precision overall when printing text and lines.

HP Color Close-Up for Laser Printer

The HP M252dw (left) did an impressive job with our photo test, where models like the Brother HL-3170dw (right) struggled.

We were surprised to see the HP M252dw reproduce 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.

HP Color for Laser Printer

Setup for the HP M252dw was quick and painless, and didn’t require the extra time that its black and white counterpart did. Maintenance such as replacing toner and paper is also straightforward and effortless. The most obvious and most important difference with the HP M252dw is the inclusion of a touch screen. The controls are responsive and all the menu options, such as checking toner levels or calibrating print quality, are easily accessible. The touch screen also displays an animated tutorial that shows you how to insert a blank sheet of paper to clean any lingering toner. It’s a thoughtful touch that actually helped our tester complete the task.

The HP M252dw printer isn’t perfect though. 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 users in mind.

In terms of cost, the HP M252dw is $300 which makes it $115 more expensive than its closest competitor in print quality, the Canon LBP612Cdw. Toner costs about $80 for each color cartridge, or you can buy all four for under $300. Just like its black and white counterpart, the HP M252dw offers a 30,000 duty cycle and 256 MB memory, not to mention the best print quality in its category. The HP M252dw is the way to go for color.

Others to Consider

Dell Printer E310dwA budget black and white for printing text

While the Dell E310dw struggles with producing lines for graphics, it does an excellent job producing precise text. Letters have no jagged lines and it was the only other black and white printer that lost no detail with serif fonts. It also maintains this level of quality with longer documents. The best part? It only costs $80.

Dell for Laser Printer

The Dell | E310dw isn’t our top pick, because it isn’t as versatile as the HP M203dw. The lines on graphics are noticeably jagged or pixelated which means tables, graphs, and charts will not look good on paper. It includes more features than the HP M203dw as well, but just isn’t as effective. We followed our experts’ advice and prioritized printers that print the best.

Some may point to the Brother L2340dw as the more popular option for black and white printers, but in our tests we couldn’t find any noticeable differences between these two. In fact, the printers are direct clones of each other and can even hold each other's paper trays. With no discernible difference except for the cheaper price of the Dell, we recommend the Dell 5310dw.

Canon Color imageCLASS LBP612CdwGreat at reproducing colors, but not great for text

If you are looking for a laser printer with the best color accuracy above all else, the Canon imageCLASS LBP612CDW is our recommendation. Out of all the color printers we tested, the Canon imageCLASS LBP612CDW was the most accurate when reproducing our high-resolution image and pantone color swatches. Unlike the HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw, colors weren’t too dark. At the same time colors weren’t too faded like the Brother HL-3170dw.

Canon Color for Laser Printer

The Canon imageCLASS LBP612CDW isn’t our top pick, because it doesn’t print text or lines as well as the HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw. Since text and straight lines for charts or graphs are the most important for business documents, the better performance of the HP managed to edge out the victory. In addition, the HP Color LaserJEt Pro M252dw has a more usable touch screen versus the Canon’s control pad that reminds us of an old fax machine.

For those who will specifically be printing a lot of colored text or simple graphics, the Canon is a good choice, but the HP LaserJet Pro M252dw offers comparable color quality and greater versatility.

Did You Know?

Don’t use bargain or knock-off toner.

Toner is expensive but all of our experts warned us against using knock-off or bargain toner. Leon told us that “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.

You’ll also need to replace your drum after extended periods of time. The lifespan of a printer drum depends on the manufacturer. Starting models have drums that last for around 12,000 pages. A good indicator of a worn out drum is if your print quality suddenly drops.

A lot of technical problems have easy fixes.

There’s nothing more annoying than a printer with technical problems. But before you take your printer out back, Office Space style, there are a few ways to fix common problems without heading to a repair shop. Harmon stated that the leading reason for technical problems is either due to inappropriately placed toner or paper. He told us “if you make the mistake of using the wrong paper, it can cause problems [and] gray lines running through your document could mean that you placed the toner wrong.” His advice is to make sure your paper and toner are placed correctly.

In addition, he recommends checking to see if you have selected the right paper settings for the printer. For example, if you want to print an envelope but have the settings set to plain paper, you’ll run into problems. Printers can’t automatically adjust to paper type, so you’ll need to switch settings if you switch paper style. When the printer prompt comes up on your screen, there will be options for choosing the right style of paper.

Pick a nice, clean spot for your printer.

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 Printer: Summed Up

Laser Printer
The Best for...
HP LaserJet Pro M203dw Printer
Black-and-White Laser Printer
HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw
Color Laser Printer
Dell E310dw
Budget Printer
Canon Color imageCLASS LBP612Cdw
Precise Color Tones