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Best cheap printers 2022: Cut price, not quality, with these superb budget printers

Getting a decent home office setup needn’t cost the earth. These are the best cheap printers you can buy.

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

Despite the explosion of online forms and digital documents in recent years, paper stubbornly refuses to go away. With this in mind, it’s handy to have access to a printer, but if you’re trying to set up a home office on a budget, or just don’t do enough printing to justify a huge outlay, you’ll be wanting the best cheap printer you can get.

Budget printers have a reputation for being noisy ink guzzlers with poor print quality and worse reliability, but it needn’t be that way. We’ve rounded up the best-value printers available, with prices starting from as little as £60 excluding VAT. Even the most expensive model on our list still comes in under the £130 mark, though, so none should break the bank.

You’ll also find a chart below each entry covering key specifications including print resolution, paper size, input tray size, speed and, of course, the kind of printing tech used. While the description of each is short, we’ve included links to our reviews so you can find out more.

What to look for in a cheap printer

Inevitably, buying a cheaper printer involves making some sacrifices. Manufacturers don’t always make cuts in the same places though, and knowing what to look for can help you bag your perfect printer at a bargain price. For example, if you’re not particularly interested in the ability to scan documents, you can opt for a printer with no scanner but a higher-quality overall output.

Similarly, you may want to consider accepting a printer with lower overall print speed in return for top-quality output - or vice versa. Many options in this list offer solid all-round performance across both main categories, but prioritising one over the other can sometimes be shrewd if you have specific needs.

For printers that are only going to be used for one person, a model with no screen and minimal physical controls isn’t a problem, but if you’re looking for something to serve a small office or workgroup where walk-up printing might be required, this may become necessary.

There are some areas where compromises should not be made, however, and one of those is value for money. While an unattractive or slightly flimsy physical design can be forgiven at a lower entry cost, expensive consumables can become a problem in the long term. This can be mitigated through ink subscription services, but it’s worth considering how much you’re going to be printing before you commit.

One good rule of thumb to follow when shopping for a budget printer is to try and avoid setting your sights too low. Although some bargains can be had, spending less than £50 is a false economy that will usually leave you with a poor-quality machine that causes more headaches than it solves - and can often lead to you paying more in the long run.

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.

The best cheap printers

Canon Pixma TS8350

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.

Technology

Inkjet

Maximum print resolution

4,800 x 1,200dpi

Maximum paper size

A4

Input tray

100-page input tray, 100-page rear feed

Speed

13ppm mono/ 4ppm colour

Price when reviewed: £100 exc. VAT

Read our full Canon Pixma TS8350 review for more information.

Epson Expression Home XP-4100

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.

Technology

Inkjet

Maximum print resolution

5,760 x 1,440dpi

Maximum paper size

A4

Input tray

100-page input tray

Speed

10ppm mono/3ppm colour

Price when reviewed: £60 exc. VAT

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

Canon Pixma TS6250

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.

Technology

Inkjet

Maximum print resolution

4,800 x 1,200dpi

Maximum paper size

A4

Input tray

100-page input tray, 100-page rear feed (or 20 photo sheets)

Speed

12.7 mono/3.9ppm colour

Price when reviewed: £67 exc. VAT

Read our full Canon Pixma TS6250 review for more information.

Brother MFC-J1010DW

Brother MFC-J1010DW against white background

The Brother MFC-J1010DW is a dependable, if somewhat unexciting, addition to the list of the best cheap printers. There’s a lot on show, however; it’s not just a Wi-Fi printer with a colour screen and support for dual sided printing — it offers scanning, copying and faxing capabilities to boot.

Printing quality is merely so-so however, lacking saturation compared to some of its rivals, and running costs are nothing to write home about either: you can expect to pay 2.9p per mono page and 7.9p for colour ones, if you stump up for Brother’s XL range of cartridges. Still, it’s speedy — capable of outputting over 15 mono pages in a minute — and it’s hard to go wrong at just over £100 without VAT.

Technology

Inkjet

Maximum print resolution

6,000 x 1,200dpi

Maximum paper size

A4

Input tray

150-page input tray

Speed

15.3ppm mono/3.7ppm colour

Price when reviewed: £104 exc. VAT

Read our full Brother MFC-J1010DW review for more information.

Brother DCP-J1140DW

A photograph of the Brother DCP-J1140DW

There’s not a great deal of difference between the DCP-J1140DW and the other Brother printer mentioned above, but it’s all a matter of use case: 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.

Otherwise the same praise and criticisms as above apply. You get a lot for your money, 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.

Technology

Inkjet

Maximum print resolution

6,000 x 1,200dpi

Maximum paper size

A4

Input tray

150-page input tray

Speed

15.6ppm mono/7ppm colour

Price when reviewed: £129 exc. VAT

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

Xerox B230

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.

Technology

Laser mono

Maximum print resolution

600x600dpi

Maximum paper size

A4

Input tray

250-sheet input tray

Speed

27.3ppm mono (no colour option)

Price when reviewed: £116 exc. VAT

Read our full Xerox B230 review for more information.

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.

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