Best cheap printers for 2023: Office printing on a budget

Best cheap printers: A photograph of the Epson Expression Home XP-4100, overlaid with the IT Pro Recommended Award logo

What are the best cheap printers? This is still a fundamental question, particularly for small businesses, despite the rise of digital services and the paperless office. Printing is still very much an important function for businesses in the UK – though it isn't as necessary as it once was – and value for money has become the main concern.

Trouble is, when we think of budget printers, the image that usually comes to mind is a noisy ink guzzler that produces smudgy results. The type of machine that isn't very professional and ends up spoiling your hard work. Thankfully, there are a number of machines that define this stereotype.

To help you make the right decision for your office, we've curated a list of printers that we feel offer the best value for money. Some units are as little as £50 exc VAT and nothing is more expensive than £235 – no eye-watering prices here.

How to look for the best cheap printers

Inevitably, buying a cheaper printer involves making some sacrifices. However, what specific compromises you will end up making can vary significantly from product to product, as manufacturers tend not to cut corners in the same way. It's important, then, to identify what it is you can do without. For example, if you don't need the ability to scan documents, you can forgo that for better overall print quality. Many of the options in this list offer solid all-around performance across a number of categories, but prioritising one function over another can help shrink the field.

For those looking for a personal device, for use in a home office, a device with minimal physical controls or lacking a screen, may not be an issue. If the printer will sit in a small office, serving a workgroup, a more user-friendly interface may be preferable.

However, what you should never compromise on is value for money. A flimsy design can often be forgiven when you're looking to keep costs low, but there's nothing worse than buying something on the cheap only to then be lumbered with expensive consumables. Whether you plan to source cheaper ink cartridges, opt for an ink subscription service, or go for slightly cheaper compatible ink over genuine ink cartridges, it's worth factoring these extra costs into your final decision.

If there's a golden rule for buying a cheaper printer, it would be to avoid setting your sights too low. Bargains can certainly be found, but you should expect to spend at least £50 on your printer. Going any lower than that and you may end up with a product that causes more problems than it solves, forcing you to spend even more to replace it.

The best cheap printers

Epson Photo HD XP-15000

Best for those that need larger paper sizes

A photograph of the Epson Photo HD XP-15000

The most expensive printer on our list, the Epson Photo HD XP-15000 is over £200. For an office with excessive print needs, however, that is a bargain. It offers A3 prints, great photo finishes, and a fairly decent print speed (8/5ppm mono/colour).

It also takes up barely any room – much less than a standard A4 multifunctional device – at least, not until you fold out the support arm for the rear paper feed, which necessarily extends some distance above the printer to stop A3 sheets in portrait orientation from bending. Even with all its trays and supports extended, however, it's still a lot smaller than the Canon Pixma Pro-200.

However, despite being the size of a multifunctional device, there's no scanner here. Canon's A3 printer may offer a better investment if that's what you are after, though the XP-15000 is much better suited to being the only printer in your office because it's just as capable of printing out documents without wasting precious photo ink.

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TechnologyInkjet
Maximum print resolution5,760 x 1,440dpi
Maximum paper sizeA3
Input tray200-sheet input tray, 50-sheet rear feed
Speed8/5ppm mono /colour

Price when reviewed: £235 exc. VAT

Read our full Epson Photo HD XP-15000 review for more information.

The best cheap printers

HP Deskjet 4120e

Best printer below £50/$50

The HP Deskjet 4120e from the front

When we say 'cheap' printers, nothing on this list fits that billing as well as the HP Deskjet 4120e. Admittedly, it isn't the greatest machine, but if you're in need of basic printing speeds and performance for a moderately busy office, you can't go wrong with a HP machine that's under £50 (at the time of writing). That also includes 6 months of HP+ and instant ink.

What do you get for such a low price? A lot more than you'd think; it's a fully-fledged multi-function printer with a 1200 dpi print engine. That includes a 1,000-page maximum monthly duty cycle and a 35-page auto document feeder on the scanner.

Be warned, this is a printer for an office that has low-volume print needs and certainly low-quality requirements for finished copy. Ideal for businesses that are largely digital, but may need printing done for minor needs or for regular paperwork of low quality.

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TechnologyInkjet
Maximum print resolution1,200 x 1,200dpi
Maximum paper sizeA4
Input tray60-sheet, 20-card input tray
Speed8.5/5.5ppm mono/colour

Price when reviewed: £54 exc. VAT

Read our full HP Deskjet 4120e review for more information.

The best cheap printers

Canon Pixma TS8350

Best all-round budget printer

A photograph of the Canon Pixma TS8350

At £100 before VAT is taken into account, the Canon Pixma TS8350 offers phenomenal value. An all-in-one MFP that offers scanning and copying alongside its superb print quality, running costs are pretty reasonable too, with XXL cartridges providing a return of 3.4p per black-and-white page.

It’s also reasonably nippy, outputting 13 monoprints in a minute, and an acceptable four colour ones in the same timeframe. The only real issue we have is with its somewhat flimsy build quality, but given the exceptional value it offers elsewhere, we’re more than happy to put our doubts in this area to one side.

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TechnologyInkjet
Maximum print resolution4,800 x 1,200dpi
Maximum paper sizeA4
Input tray100-page input tray, 100-page rear feed
Speed13ppm mono/ 4ppm colour

Price when reviewed: £100 exc. VAT

Read our full Canon Pixma TS8350 review for more information.

Canon Pixma TS6250

Best bang-for-your-buck alternative to Pixma TS8350

A photograph of the Canon Pixma TS6250

Only slightly more expensive than the Epson Expression Home XP-4100 is the Canon Pixma TS6250, for £67 excluding VAT. And it offers an awful lot for that money, with superb print quality and speeds of up to 12.7ppm for mono sheets and 3.9ppm colour prints.

Canon’s five-ink system, which uses two types of black pigment for text and photo prints, means that running costs are perhaps a little above average, but not dramatically so: you’re looking at costs of around 2.8p per mono page.

There’s no fax functionality and it can be a little noisy when operating, but considering the low cost of entry, we find it hard to stay too mad with the Canon Pixma TS6250, and you’ll likely be equally enamoured by the sheer bang for buck it provides.

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TechnologyInkjet
Maximum print resolution4,800 x 1,200dpi
Maximum paper sizeA4
Input tray100-page input tray, 100-page rear feed (or 20 photo sheets)
Speed12.7 mono/3.9ppm colour

Price when reviewed: £67 exc. VAT

Read our full Canon Pixma TS6250 review for more information.

Epson Expression Home XP-4100

Best cheap printer for light workloads

A photograph of the Epson Expression Home XP-4100

Compact and surprisingly feature packed, you get an impressive amount of value from the Epson Expression Home XP-4100… assuming you don’t get through hundreds of printouts a day. That’s because once you use the bundled ink, you need to use the company’s four-cartridge system, which equates to prices of 5.2p per mono page and 12.8p for colour sheets. Yes, you can subscribe to Epson’s cartridge subscription service, which brings the costs down to around 3.3p to 4.3p per page, but users with heavy workloads are still advised to look elsewhere.

If that doesn’t apply to you, however, there’s an awful lot to like, including a generous 100-sheet paper tray, 10ppm mono print speeds, lightning fast photocopy times and its ability to print double sided. And while standard print quality is a bit ropey, upping this to high quality eliminates the issues when it really counts, making this a bona fide bargain.

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TechnologyInkjet
Maximum print resolution5,760 x 1,440dpi
Maximum paper sizeA4
Input tray100-page input tray
Speed10ppm mono/3ppm colour

Price when reviewed: £60 exc. VAT

Read our full Epson Expression Home XP-4100 review for more information.

Brother DCP-J1140DW

Best multi-function printer for an office

A photograph of the Brother DCP-J1140DW

As a rule of thumb, the MFC line is for occasional home use, while the company’s DCP range is for more intense office wear and tear.

That’s largely the case here. It’s built for more frequent use, is slightly more fully featured and a touch more nippy — especially when dealing with colour prints. Notably, this one won’t fax, which is curious as you’d assume that’s more an office throwback than something for the home, but there we are.

You get a lot for your money here, but print quality could be better, and it could be cheaper, too, with prints coming to around 2.9p per mono page and 7.9p for colour ones.

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TechnologyInkjet
Maximum print resolution6,000 x 1,200dpi
Maximum paper sizeA4
Input tray150-page input tray
Speed15.6ppm mono/7ppm colour

Price when reviewed: £129 exc. VAT

Read our full Brother DCP-J1140DW review for more information.

Xerox B230

Best monotone office printer

A photograph of the Xerox B230

If you only ever print in monotone and value speed over everything else, then the Xerox B230 is well worth a look. A compact printer that’s comfortable with Wi-Fi or wired connections, it can rattle through up to 27.3 pages per minute.

But it won’t do so quietly, and the results aren’t the best we’ve seen either. While black text was near perfect in our tests, mono graphics had a bit more banding then we would comfortably recommend for the price. Still, with costs of 2p per page after you’ve worked through the 1,200-page starter toner, it’s a good investment if you need to print a lot of text documents in a hurry, and don’t mind a mild racket as the trade off for that impressive speed.

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TechnologyLaser mono
Maximum print resolution600x600dpi
Maximum paper sizeA4
Input tray250-sheet input tray
Speed27.3ppm mono (no colour option)

Price when reviewed: £116 exc. VAT

Read our full Xerox B230 review for more information.

FAQs

Are monochrome printers cheaper than colour?

Although the majority of printers support colour printing by default, there are still some monochrome options available. It may seem a little counterintuitive to invest in a printer that’s missing a major capability, but if you don’t need colour printing, a mono machine can actually offer some notable savings.

The ticket price for mono printers is often lower than equivalent colour models, for one thing, and running costs are cheaper too. That’s primarily because there aren’t any colour consumables to worry about. As they’re a bit more specialised, mono printers aren’t at the very cheapest end of the market, but factor in these highly affordable running costs, and you can make significant savings over the long term.

Are inkjet or laser printers cheaper to run?

The price of a printer is one thing, but as previously mentioned, if its efficiency is too low or the cost of its consumables is too high, this can sometimes mean that you’re actually paying more over the long run. Running costs are an important factor, and for many years, laser printers had a definite edge in this arena.

Nowadays, however, the differences are a lot less cut and dried; running costs for inkjets have come down significantly over the years, thanks in part to innovations such as refillable ink tanks and ink subscription services. For seriously high-volume printing, laser machines will usually still just about work out cheaper, but for moderate use, the differences are negligible.

How long do cheap printers last?

You may be under the impression that cheap printers don’t last as long as more expensive models over the long term, and will need to be replaced sooner than a more expensive model, but this isn’t necessarily the case. It’s true that more affordable printers often tend to shave down the price tag by making compromises on build quality and materials, but they’re not inherently more failure-prone than their pricier counterparts.

The standard lifespan for a printer is between three and five years - and they can last longer when properly maintained. There are a number of tips and tricks that can be used to keep your printer running smoothly and fix problems when they occur, and if you keep it in good working order, there’s no reason why a cheap printer can’t last just as long as any other.

Can I still buy ink for my cheap printer?

Printer manufacturers have a vested interest in encouraging customers to upgrade their machines, and one of the ways inkjet vendors do this is through the cartridges the machines use. Printer companies routinely update the design of their cartridges, and many won’t be backwards-compatible with older models.

In some cases, you may find that although your printer itself is still perfectly functional, getting hold of compatible cartridges becomes a pain, with low stock and high prices. You may find that third-party cartridge manufacturers have stepped in to fill the gap, but this can bring its own problems, particularly if your printer includes DRM software to prevent this. The best advice is to buy the newest model possible to ensure consumables remain available for the longest time, and to check ink availability for a specific model before you buy.

How we test cheap printers

When we review printers, there are a number of elements that we test for to measure their technical aptitude. First and foremost is the quality of the prints themselves, which we gauge by analysing a series of colour photographs and black and white images and documents, looking for any evidence of fuzzy text or colour banding.

We also test print speeds for both colour and mono documents; the latter uses a 25-page text batch, while the former is tested with 24 pages of mixed presentation slides, web pages and magazine pages. We test how quickly each batch completes, as well as how long the printer takes to deliver the first page once the job is initialised. For inkjet printers, we’ll also repeat the mono tests in draft mode, and duplex print speeds are measured by running the first ten pages of the mixed colour batch.

Where scan functionality is included, we gauge image quality by looking at scans of a colour photo, a colour input target chart and an office document. For scan speeds, we measure how fast it can create a single photocopy, as well as measuring the scan speeds at different resolutions, and how quickly preview images are displayed.

ADFs aren’t often seen on cheaper units but when they are, we’ll use a ten-sheet copy operation to test their speeds, in colour as well as mono where we can. In the event that both printer and ADF are duplex units, we’ll time a ten-page double-sided job as well.

Alan Martin

After a false career start producing flash games, Alan Martin has been writing about phones, wearables and internet culture for over a decade with bylines all over the web and print.

Previously Deputy Editor of Alphr, he turned freelance in 2018 and his words can now be found all over the web, on the likes of Tom's Guide, The i, TechRadar, NME, Gizmodo, Coach, T3, The New Statesman and ShortList, as well as in the odd magazine and newspaper.

He's rarely seen not wearing at least one smartwatch, can talk your ear off about political biographies, and is a long-suffering fan of Derby County FC (which, on balance, he'd rather not talk about). He lives in London, right at the bottom of the Northern Line, long after you think it ends.

You can find Alan tweeting at @alan_p_martin, or email him at mralanpmartin@gmail.com.