By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
Inkjets have become the go-to choice for consumers shopping for a personal printer, especially since digital cameras became prevalent. They're well-suited for printing photos at home and often very cheap (the ink is what's expensive!). But for students or small businesses that print pages and pages of text, a laser printer may be the better choice. Laser printers are quick, efficient, and potentially money-saving machines. Although they are generally more expensive than inkjet printers and toner costs far more than ink, the price per printed page is often lower. There are also highly rated laser printers in the same price range as inkjets. Cheapism.com found a few that have good reputations among experts and consumers alike:
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The Brother HL-5450DN (starting at $135) has the chops to turn out a report or essay at the last minute: The manufacturer claims it prints up to 40 pages per minute, although third-party testing indicates that actual speeds are closer to 10 or 20 ppm if you're printing anything other than text-only documents on standard paper. One nifty feature is the ability to automatically print on the front and back of a page using the built-in duplexer. This machine holds up to 300 pages in its drawer and tray combined and connects to a home network via an Ethernet cord, so the printer can be shared among multiple computers.
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The Dell B1160w (starting at $67) stands out for its small size and low cost in a category full of bulky, pricey printers that may be too big for a dorm room. The machine weighs less than 9 pounds, which makes it ideal for consumers looking for something portable. In reviews, some owners even report taking it to meetings with them. According to Dell's ratings, this machine will print at 21 ppm. Although experts say the speed is closer to 17 ppm, they praise the print quality for text documents. In spite of its low cost, the Dell B1160w is equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity. It can hold up to 150 sheets of paper.
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The Canon ImageClass MF3010 (starting at $89) is a multifunction laser printer that can not only print but also scan and copy documents. It can't, however, connect to a home network, so it must be hooked up to an individual computer via USB. If that's not a problem, this printer makes a good choice. It's quick, at about 17 ppm, and produces clear text, according to expert testing. The ImageClass MF3010 holds up to 150 sheets of paper.
Although some laser printers can produce color, the three models above are monochrome -- they print only in black and white. In general, laser printers are suitable only for simple graphics, not for printing photos. On the other hand, consumers looking to buy a machine for printing text documents should see higher quality from a laser printer than an inkjet.
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