If you’ve shifted from a traditional office to a home office, you’ve got plenty of company. According to a Gallup poll from September 2020, one-third of U.S. workers always work remotely, with another 25 percent working remotely some of the time. Although this shift to remote work may have stemmed from safety concerns regarding COVID-19, businesses and their employees have realized that working from home may have benefits beyond stopping the spread. In fact, two-thirds of the work-from-home employees polled would like to continue working remotely post-pandemic.
As a result of the uptick in remote work, a whole lot of people have upgraded their home offices. Many of us have already outfitted our home offices with the basics that we need to get by, such as a desk, chair, and computer, but for those who plan to work from home for the long haul, it may be time to search for a printer to make that home office fully functional.
Choosing the best home printer isn’t rocket science, but because there are more options out there than ever, it’s important to understand the available features — and how they may impact your work-from-home flow.
Home printer buying guide
To help you sort through all the home office printers and scanners out there, we’ve put together our best printer buying guide. The fact is that the best printer for someone who needs to print lots of high-quality, full-color, 20-page reports will likely differ from the ideal choice for someone who only prints a page or two for their own reference every once in a while.
Your answers to the following questions will ensure you’re shopping for the best printer for you, without spending extra money for features you don’t need in your home office.
Is inkjet or laser printing best for your purposes?
Color inkjet printers are the most popular option and for good reason. They can print pretty much anything you need — from glossy photos to cover letters — and many models are just as fast (or even faster) than laser printers. If you plan to print in color, either for work or personal use, an inkjet is probably the way to go.
So why would anyone opt for laser? People who print a lot of text-only documents may choose a laser printer because they produce crisp black-and-white text. Some print color and graphics as well. While it’s true that some inkjet printers print quickly, laser printers are all lightning fast, printing black-and-white text at a rate of nine to 25 pages per minute (PPM). They’re not a great option for photo printing and often can’t use paper that’s not standard letter size.
Cost, both of the printer and of each printed page, may be a factor too. You may be able to find a black-and-white laser printer priced similarly to a mid-priced inkjet printer, although color laser printers cost more. A black-and-white page of text runs between two and 10 cents on an inkjet, and between one and six cents on a laser. Laser cartridges generally cost more up front than inkjet cartridges, but also typically last much longer.
Do you need a multifunction printer with scanning, copying, and faxing capabilities?
Choosing the best all-in-one printer — also known as a multifunction printer — requires thinking carefully about what office functions besides printing you may need in the foreseeable future.
Multifunction printers offer scanning functionality, which can go a long way toward minimizing physical papers you need to file since you can easily turn them into PDFs to store on your computer. The ability to scan also means the printer can function as a copier by printing the page you scanned. Keep in mind that if you plan on doing a lot of copying and scanning, a multifunction printer with an automatic document feeder will better suit your needs.
Some multifunction printers also offer the ability to fax a scanned document. If this feature tops your priority list, make certain the printer you choose has it, because it’s not a guarantee now that faxing is less common.
How fast does your printer need to print?
If your need for speed is the top printing priority, a laser printer may be your best bet. A typical home laser printer prints between 21 and 42 black and white pages per minute, while higher end printers (like the ones used in a commercial environment) can kick out as many as 100 PPM. If you choose a color laser printer, keep in mind that printing in color slows the process down by about half when compared to the same model printing in black and white. When it comes to printing a full page of color graphics, a laser printer may not be able to give you more than two to four PPM.
Don’t fully discount inkjet printers; newer models have become quite speedy. Check the PPM for black and white as well as color pages in inkjet models that otherwise suit your needs, especially if you plan to print in color. Opting for an inkjet model could save you quite a bit of money versus a color laser printer.
Do you need or want the ability to print high-quality photos?
If you plan to print lots of frame-worthy pictures on your home printer, you can narrow your search to inkjet printers. Laser printers are not designed to print on glossy photo paper, so even the very best laser printer will fall short of your needs. From there, you may want to search for a printer that offers some photo-specific features. You do not necessarily need to look for a dedicated photo printer, unless your only goal is to print lots of high-quality photos. In most cases, a mid-level color inkjet printer should do the trick.
It’s worth noting that there are many photo printing services, like Shutterfly, where you can print quite a few pictures for a reasonable cost when compared to what you’ll spend in ink and high-quality photo paper to print your images at home, so making photo printing a top priority might only make sense if you truly need the convenience of being able to print instantly in your own home.
Would you prefer wireless capability?
Wireless connectivity is a common feature, but still not one you should take for granted before making your purchase. Consider the computers and mobile devices you’ll want to print from, and make sure the printer has the ability to connect via Bluetooth, NFC, and/or WiFi. Certain devices have specific requirements; for example, to connect with a Mac computer, iPad, or iPhone, you need a printer that uses Apple AirPrint. Chromebook users should choose a printer that’s Chrome OS compatible.
Would you like the option to print two-sided documents?
There are two types of duplexing (i.e. printing on the front and the back of a sheet of paper): auto duplexing and manual duplexing. Printers with auto duplexing capabilities do the work for you, so you just load your paper and tell your printer what to do. Manual duplexing, on the other hand, requires you to print the first page, then manually reload the paper to print the second side.
If you plan to print two-sided documents frequently, opt for a printer with the ability to auto duplex. Not only can it save you time and paper cuts, but it may save you loads of frustration, too. However, since auto duplexing isn’t common and the printers that include it can be rather pricey, it may only be a necessary feature if it’s something you know you’ll use a lot.
Do you need your printer to be compact and/or portable?
Whether you’re trying to save space in your office or need a printer that will work anywhere you choose to set up shop (because if you’re working remotely, who says you can’t do it somewhere with a view once in a while?), a small, lightweight printer that’s easy to carry around or stash in a little spot in the corner may be beneficial.
If saving real estate in your home office is your main objective, look for a printer with a small footprint — and consider opting for an all-in-one printer so you don’t need to create space for a separate scanner or fax machine. You may also want to keep an eye out for one that’s designed to be portable. Portable printers typically offer wireless connectivity and many are also battery-powered, but that doesn’t mean you’ll sacrifice print quality.
Are there any additional features you’re looking for?
Will you need to print on types or sizes of paper beyond the standard 8.5- by 11-inch copy paper (such as envelopes)? Do you want to be able to print documents directly from cloud services without downloading them to your computer or mobile device? Think carefully about any other functions you may need in a home office printer.
The best printer for your home office
Here are our top-rated picks for home office printers:
- HP LaserJet Pro M479fdw
- Canon imageCLASS D1620
- HP OfficeJet 250
- HP ENVY Photo 7155
- Epson Expression Premium XP-7100
- HP ENVY 6055
- Canon MAXIFY MB5120
- HP OfficeJet 200
- HP Tango Smart Home
- Brother HL-L2370DW
With so many types of printers on the market, there’s sure to be one that suits your needs. Just answer the questions above — with your current and anticipated future home office needs in mind — and you’ll have no problem finding the best home printer for you.