The school year has begun, and college students everywhere are looking for a way to print out their work without having to take the trek to the library. Print jobs are often riddled with problems, though, including low ink, random paper jams, connectivity woes and pretty much every other type of technology fail you can think of. Yep, even in 2021, printers are notoriously annoying. As such, we don’t blame you if your impression is that owning a printer is more of a hassle than a convenience...but we can prove you wrong with our roundup of the best printers for college students. Check it out and we guarantee you’ll find a printer that gets the job done (without waking up the whole dorm) at just the right price.
What to look for in a printer
Of course, the first thing to look for in a printer is simply that it actually works, which is a surprisingly tall order from our experience. (Fortunately, all our top picks have an excellent track record when it comes to reliability.) Beyond that, it’s important to consider your individual printing needs: Lit majors with reading materials and essays to print might benefit from a product that can handle multi-page jobs without a lot of waiting time, whereas aspiring graphic designers would place a high premium on a product that can handle high-resolution, colored prints. Furthermore, college students should consider their living space before investing in a printer—dorm dwellers are generally wise to choose a printer that’s both compact and quiet, for example, while off-campus living leaves a little more wiggle room. Finally, cost is always a question—and that involves more than just the initial purchase price. (Hint: Double-sided printing capabilities and ink capacity are also important factors that influence how cost-effective any given printer will be in the long run.) With that in mind, here are nine solid choices that check most, if not all, of the boxes.
1. HP Envy 6055 Wireless All-in-One Printer
Best Budget-Friendly Printer
This workhorse from HP connects to a (required) smartphone app that allows users to print, scan, copy and share documents from pretty much anywhere with ease. The Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity features are reliable and relatively simple to set up. Compared to other inkjet printers, this puppy can get the job done quickly—be it double-sided or single-sided, color or black and white—and even boasts a ‘quiet mode’ so your roomie won’t be forced to pull an all-nighter with you. Best of all, the HP Envy 6055 is capable of printing more than just your snoozy schoolwork—it can turn out high-quality borderless photos to boot.
Pros: Wireless, mobile connectivity; quiet mode; double-sided and photo printing
Cons: Doesn’t have LCD interface; customers complain of poor tech support
2. Brother Monochrome Laser Printer with Duplex Printing
Best (Affordable) Laser Printer
Laser printers, known for their ability to print large quantities at an impressive speed, are typically a bigger investment. However, this option from Brother is far more budget-friendly than other laser printers—namely because it only prints in black and white and has to be hooked up the good ol’ fashioned way (i.e., via USB cable). That said, students who don’t work with graphics and primarily need a printer for text documents (think: reading materials, essays and notes) will find that this budget-friendly option fits the bill. Aside from its printing efficiency, the Brother monochrome laser printer also boasts a small footprint for convenient desktop storage. Plus, because laser printers rely on both ink and toner, the pages they spit out are immediately dry to the touch, which is a very good thing for anyone who is frequently printing their work moments before class begins. (We see you, procrastinators.)
Pros: Fast; double-sided printing; compact size
Cons: Only prints black and white; no Wi-Fi connectivity
3. HP Tango X Wireless Instant Ink Inkjet Printer
Most Compact Printer
Don’t be fooled by its minimalist aesthetic and unassuming size, this compact printer from HP has a big following. For starters, this bad boy, which by all accounts is fairly quiet to begin with, boasts a special ‘quiet mode’ for super silent printing. It’s also easy to set up using the HP Smart app on your phone—just download the app, connect to your Wi-Fi and you can print photos and text documents (monochromatic or full color) from any location. Unlike the HP Envy, this printer does not have a traditional scanner built-in. However, the app does allow users to “scan” documents to a connected device by simply taking a photo with a phone or tablet—a clever workaround for students who want scanning capabilities without having to invest in a bulky unit. On the downside, the compact size of this printer comes with some drawbacks—a rather tiny 50-sheet tray capacity and a somewhat slower printing time of eight to 11 pages per minute, for example—that make it best-suited for smaller jobs.
Pros: Mobile printing; small footprint; quiet; user-friendly
Cons: Small capacity; expensive
4. Canon Pixma TR150 Wireless Mobile Printer
Best Portable Printer
The Canon Pixma TR150 only does printing, so you can’t rely on this one for your copying or scanning needs. Still, it does a bang-up job of printing both black and white and full color documents and graphics and boasts an impressively small footprint—with dimensions of 12.7 x 7.3 inches when closed, it takes up less work space than a sheet of paper. The main reason this lightweight and compact printer makes our list is that it’s portable, too. Yep, this guy comes with a rechargeable battery pack, so you can make the most of its mobile, wireless printing capacity, whether you’re working from your dorm room or a coffee shop up the road.
Pros: Portable; mobile, wireless printing capacity; compact
Cons: Requires a Wi-Fi or USB connection to print (no Bluetooth connectivity)
5. Epson EcoTank ET-2720 Wireless All-in-One Printer
Lowest Ink Cost
This all-in-one device boasts a high resolution flatbed scanner and copier, as well as full-color, photo quality printing—and while the price is a bit steep, the payoff is well worth the initial investment. The Epson EcoTank does not rely on the standard ink cartridges of other inkjet printers, but rather boasts high-capacity ink tanks that accommodate large bottles of ink that last up to two years, thus dramatically reducing the need for costly ink cartridge refills and the environmental waste they create. In other words, this reservoir-style printer is good for both your pocketbook and the planet. This guy can also be used wirelessly with a smartphone or tablet and produces excellent results for every type of job, albeit at a rather slow rate of five to ten pages per minute.
Pros: Economical; environmentally-friendly; wireless printing, scanning and copying; high image quality
Cons: High ticket price; slow printing speed; must manually flip paper for double-sided printing
6. Canon Pixma TR8620 All-in-One Printer
Best All-in-One Printer
Another model from the popular Canon Pixma line, the TR8620 is an all-in-one inkjet printer, copier and scanner available at a moderate price. You can set this sucker up on a computer or smartphone to enjoy effortless, wireless printing from any device by way of the Canon PRINT app. We’re also fans of the user-friendly LCD touchscreen interface, quick printing speed, automatic 20-page document feeder and double-sided printing feature—all of which make pretty much any job a breeze. The chief complaints about this printer are that, although compact, its design does require extra space, as the paper catcher must be fully extended, and the display screen popped out prior to use. Some folks also report that the initial set-up process is a bit cumbersome, too.
Pros: All-in-one wireless capacity; user-friendly interface; fast printing speed; can handle double-sided and multi-page jobs with ease
Cons: Difficult to set-up; not particularly large, but bulkier than other options
7. HP OfficeJet Pro 69Series All-in-One Wireless Printer
Best for High-Res Printing
This beast of a wireless printer boasts the ability to copy, scan, fax and produce high resolution prints in both black and white and color at super-fast 20 and 11 page per minute speeds, respectively. It also features a large LCD touchscreen for streamlined task management. Basically, this one can do it all, and do it well—and is a shoo-in for a home office. That said, college students who don’t require a printer that can perform all the aforementioned tasks may find a smaller and less expensive alternative more appealing.
Pros: Wireless connectivity; multi-functional; high resolution; fast printing speed
Cons: Bulky; expensive
8. Epson Workforce Pro WF-3820 Wireless All-in-One Printer
Fastest Print Speed
Another multi-tasking, wireless printer with faxing, copying and scanning capabilities, the Epson Workforce Pro boasts a compact size that’s better-suited to dorm life, plus all the functions of the HP OfficeJet Pro at half the price. Happy customers also report that set-up is a cinch—no technology smarts necessary—and the thing works like a well-oiled machine when it comes to printing or copying high resolution photos and documents (letter and legal-sized) alike at an impressive rate of 12 to 25 pages per minute. That said, this printer loses some points due to long-term budget considerations: It doesn’t take third party ink and Epson brand cartridge refills can really add up.
Pros: Fast printing speed; multi-functional; easy set up; budget-friendly; compact
Cons: Expensive ink cartridge replacements
9. Brother INKvestment Tank MFC-J1205W Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer
Inexpensive printers usually punish you with high ink costs down the line, but not this number. The Brother INKvestment printer comes complete with high-capacity ink cartridges that can meet your needs for a full year. This wireless device is AirPrint compatible (for all you Mac users) and is used in conjunction with a mobile app, which allows users to scan, print and copy from afar. Word on the street is that this guy is none too noisy and, with a nine to 16 page per minute print rate, quite speedy, too. The only bone we have to pick is that it’s a bit bulkier than other printers on our list—so if you’re looking for something with a very small footprint, this might not be your first choice.
Pros: Cost-effective in the short and long-term; multi-functional; fast; quiet
Cons: Large footprint
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