Writing documents by hand went out of style the day we finished school. And while we’re still edging towards the paperless society, there are plenty of times when you need to submit work in print, even as a fully grown student. The convenience of having your own printer and being able to print whatever you want, right where and when you want it, can make student life a whole lot easier.
It’s not just about submitting printed essays, dissertations, and the like. Printing notes and memory-joggers can be a massive help in learning new stuff, as well as helping with revision. There’s a lot to be said for printing facts and figures on paper, where the information is easily at hand, simple to manage, and instantly accessible without the need to hunt for it on gadgets that always need powering up or recharging.
And even if you’re submitting coursework electronically, it can pay to print it out first so you can check it thoroughly. Mistakes can be much easier to spot in a printed document than reading things on-screen.
So what makes a good printer for students? A key element is always cost. If you’re moving out of home and into temporary accommodation, you’ve probably got a lengthy shopping list already, without further decimating the budget with an expensive printer. Size and weight can be an issue too, if living space is cramped and there’s a chance you’ll have to move from one place to another during your course.
Connectivity can be another important consideration. The vast majority of printers have USB ports for easily connecting a computer or laptop, but many of us prefer the convenience of Wi-Fi, so we can print from anywhere and everywhere around our living space without the need to be tethered to a printer.
We’ve picked out the best printers to suit a range of different needs, while always keeping an eye on quality, speed, reliability, running costs, and affordability. Let’s get started.
Best student printers in 2023
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This is about as cheap as it gets for a decent printer. Even so, it can produce full-color output for text and graphics, along with borderless photo prints up to 6x4 inches in size. There’s no sting in the tail with running costs either, as ‘XL’ high-yield options are available for the dual pigment black and tri-color dye-based cartridges.
Print speeds are respectable too, at up to 7.7ipm (impressions per minute) for mono and 4ipm for color. The printer is small and stylish, while build quality feels reassuringly solid despite the lightweight construction. However, there’s no Wi-Fi connectivity nor a built-in scanner for scanning and photocopying.
Although inexpensive to buy, this multi-function printer adds scanning and copying to the mix. It runs on two cartridges rather than having individual cartridges for all four of its inks. The pigment-based black produces crisp, solid text but the lack of a dye-based black ink means that photo quality isn’t the best, and you can only print borderless photos up to 7x5 inches in size. Running costs are pretty reasonable for a dual-cartridge printer, with ‘XL’ cartridges being available, sufficient for around 180 mono or color pages. Print speeds are none too slow and there’s the bonus of onboard controls and small display screen.
Most printers aren’t just for printing these days. They’re also for scanning and photocopying. This low-budget, cartridge-based printer is well up to multi-function tasks, featuring a scanner that comes complete with a 35-sheet auto document feeder and automatic duplex (double-sided) printing. It doesn’t have individual cartridges for all four colors, instead running on a pigment-based black cartridge and dye-based tri-color cartridge. There are upsides though, in that ordering and replacing cartridges are easier, and you effectively get a brand new print head with each cartridge. High-yield ‘XL’ cartridges are available to reduce printing costs. Print speeds are quick and print quality is very good for mono and color documents, and pretty reasonable for color photo output.
There’s a lot to love about this printer. As a 3-in-1 multi-function device, it has a built-in scanner for scanning and copying, and also adds an OLED screen and pushbuttons for intuitive onboard control. It’s not a color touchscreen but the interface works very well nonetheless. Thanks to the inclusion of a pigment-based black cartridge and CMYK dye-based cartridges, print quality is excellent for both mono documents and color graphics and photos. The individual cartridges are available in standard, XL and XXL capacity options to save on ink costs, while auto duplex (double-sided) printing keeps paper costs down as well.
Canon and Epson both make MegaTank and EcoTank printers respectively. They’re pricier to buy initially but don’t run on cartridges. The easily and mess-free refillable ink tanks are topped up with bottles of ink, that are massively cheaper to buy. The initial purchase price of most of these printers is considerably more than for cartridge-based machines, but the cost of this one is very competitive, while each set of ink bottles should prove sufficient for around 6,000 mono pages and 7,700 color pages. It includes a built-in scanner with auto document feeder, has Wi-Fi connectivity and makes it easy to print direct from Apple and Android mobile devices.
If you’re majoring on photo printing but don’t want to stretch to a large-format printer, this A4/11-inch model has a lot going for it. Following suit with Epson’s traditional photo-friendly printers, this updated version of the XP-8600 runs on six dye-based inks, adding light magenta and light cyan to the regular CMYK mix. The end result is rich and vibrant color photo output, which looks especially scintillating on glossy and luster photo papers. Naturally, dye-based black ink isn’t favorite for mono document output but, even so, text looks reasonably dark and crisp. As well as two front-loading trays for different paper sizes, there’s a rear feeder for thicker, specialist media. CD/DVD printing is also featured, while the 4800dpi scanner and SD memory card slot add standalone versatility, enhanced by a 4.3-inch color touchscreen. The XL cartridge option roughly doubles the standard capacity but a full set costs about the same as the purchase price of the printer itself.
Running on no less than eight dye-based inks, this A3+/13-inch large-format printer rules the roost for creating finest-quality photo prints on glossy and luster paper. Excellent fidelity and tonal range are assured for both color and black & white photo images, thanks to the inclusion of black, grey and light grey cartridges in the line-up. Indeed, the inks have been reformulated, compared with Canon’s older PRO-100 series printers, to improve the gamut (or color space) while the upgraded OIG System (Optimum Image Generating System) works out the best combination of inks to use for every hue and tone, on the fly, with great speed and precision. A 3-inch color LCD screen and dual paper input feeds enhance handling, as well as enabling panoramic printing on cut sheets of up to 39 inches in length.
This mains-powered printer is built for the road. It’s amazingly compact and lightweight for inkjet printer but there’s no skimping on features. The two cartridges contain both pigment-based and dye-based black ink, along with dye-based CMYK inks. They’re put to good effect, producing great quality output for both mono and color documents as well as for glossy color photos. An OLED status screen is also shoehorned in and the printer has USB Type C and Wi-Fi connectivity, and works a treat with Canon’s PRINT app for Apple and Android, as well as cloud-based services. You can also power the printer from an optional Li-ion battery pack, but that’s not usually included in the purchase price.
A budget mono laser printer that won’t bite back when it comes to running costs, this LaserJet is typically offered with six month’s worth of free toner cartridges. Naturally, offers are subject to change so it pays to check before you buy. Despite being an entry-level model, it has a respectable recommended monthly usage of 200 to 2,000 pages and a good turn of speed. It also has a conveniently small footprint, yet packs a built-in scanner with a 40-sheet auto document feeder, along with an auto duplex printing facility. It’s also well-connected with USB, Ethernet, dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and enables scanning direct to email and PDFs.
Affordable to buy and run for a color laser, this one also has quite a small footprint, although it’s a fairly weighty beast. With four cartridges under the hood for cyan, magenta, yellow and black toner, it boasts full-color printing to add some pizzazz to typically robust laser output. It’s quick off the mark too, with first page print out times of 10.2 seconds for mono and 12 seconds for black, followed by a rapid 22 pages per minute for both mono and color documents. Unlike many of HP’s current laser printers, this one doesn’t have a built-in scanner, but it does feature auto duplex printing. It’s competitively priced for a color laser and has a lot going for it.
A truly pocket-sized printer, the Polaroid Hi·Print 2x3 is only about an inch thick and weighs a mere 255g, complete with built-in rechargeable battery. Paired to your smartphone via Bluetooth, it has a companion app that enables you to create nominally 2x3-inch photo prints of all your snaps, and outputs them with speed and style, delivering impressive image quality from its dye-sublimation technology. The Polaroid isn’t particularly fast for a dye-sub printer but it’s no slouch, taking about 60 seconds to create a print from start to finish. All in all, it’s quick, convenient and compact.
How we test printers
Printers come in many shapes and sizes, from pocket photo printers to large-format professional models. We check the suitability for wide-ranging tasks from printing office documents to high-end photographic output and, consequently, the type and quantity of dye/pigment inks. Additional features can include a built-in scanner, a standalone control panel, touchscreen interface, Wi-Fi connectivity, direct fax functions and a card reader slot.
Our test procedure begins with installing the latest software drivers and running nozzle check and print head alignment routines. We then create test prints from mono documents, mixed text and graphics color documents, and a wide range of digital photos that include landscapes, portraits, and black & white images. We use the various available quality modes, including optional image enhancement features. We also create prints from our own specially created test chart, to test the printer's accuracy in terms of color reproduction, tonal range, retention of detail in bright highlights and dark shadows, and the ability to deliver smooth gradations in subtle color variations. The printer manufacturer’s own-brand inks and papers are used throughout the entire testing procedure.
For output speed, we record the time taken to produce various sizes of prints at different quality settings. Ink costs are calculated on typical page yield against average prices for the manufacturer’s own-brand cartridges or bottles.