If you have a home business, home school your children, or just print a lot, a laser printer can be a much more efficient tool than inkjet. While laser printers tend to be more of an investment, they make up for it in speed, precision, and average toner price. If you are going to invest in a laser printer, it’s best to do your homework and determine what option is best for your needs. Reviews.com spoke to IT experts, scoured consumer reviews, investigated specs, and personally tested top laser printers from reliable brands. Check out some of their findings to see the best laser printers around.
Best Laser Printers By Reviews
Best Black and White Laser Printer: HP LaserJet Pro M203dw Printer
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.
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.
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 M252dw
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.
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.
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.