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We have good news and bad news. The bad: you have loads of printers to choose from. Some head-scratching is required. But on the positive side, that choice means you can get a printer truly suited to you.
We’re not talking about having your name engraved on the front, or getting it colour-matched to your wallpaper. The big considerations are whether you want to print predominantly simple text, or images. And would you be better off with one of the printers that offers ways to get hold of much (much) cheaper ink?
There are some newer developments in printers to consider, too. You can now get “tank” options where instead of buying ultra-expensive ink cartridges, you buy bottles of ink. Just squeeze more into the printer’s reservoirs when you run low. And the ink tends to cost a tenth the price, or less.
However, these tank models cost a whole lot more than standard ones, because the printer companies can’t rake in the money with sky-high ink fees.
HP also offers a service called Instant Ink, available with most of its models. You subscribe to a monthly service. HP sends you the cartridge, and you get an allowance of pages per month. All the ink’s included and you will be sent a new cartridge automatically before your current one runs out.
It makes sense for those who like to print photos. And you’ll have no more emergency trips to the supermarket (where ink is often even more expensive) when your ink runs low.
Want some more good news? Even the cheapest printer on our list here has Wi-Fi. This lets you print directly from your phone, and store your printer on the other side of your house from your desktop or laptop.
Most of them have scanners, too. The average mid-range phone has a camera good enough to replace the scanning of documents these days. But if you want to digitise your old photos, a good scanner is still the way to go.
There are a few pieces of jargon and terminology to tackle, too. You’ll often see the number of colours of ink a printer uses detailed on its product page.
Four is the standard: three colours and black. However, you’ll find up to six in our picks below, or up to eight in even higher-end printers. These supply extra base colours, and blacks specifically for text and image printing. The rule of thumb: more inks means a printer is better-tailored for photos.
There are some other printer essentials you’ll want for a home office unit, too. You need more than a scanner with a printer to get a real photocopier-style experience. An auto feeder mechanism is a must, too. This feeds sheets into the scanner, so you don’t have to put them in one by one. You’ll find this feature most often in small business-type printers.
Duplex is also becoming more common. This is where the printer can print on both sides of the paper. Ideally you’ll want “auto” duplex printing. The printer feeds the sheet back around, where manual duplex makes you feed the paper back in manually. You don’t have to pay too much to get one of these auto duplex printers though. It’s a nifty feature.
We’ll also cover mini printers, designed to let you print out photos from your phone easily. They are the most fun of all.
Let’s take a look at some of the top printers under £200 that you should consider.
Printers are listed in price order.
£35, John Lewis & PartnersBest for: Occasional printing
Key specs – Dimensions: 14.90 x 30.41 x 42.52 cm; Paper size (max): A4; Inks: 4; Scanner resolution: 1200 DPI; Printer resolution: 4800 x 1200 DPI; Speed: 7.5ppm BW, 5ppm colour; Tray capacity: 60 sheets; Weight: 3.42kg
The HP DeskJet 2630 is proof of quite how advanced genuinely cheap printers are these days. It has Wi-Fi, the one feature we definitely want from any printer. Who doesn’t want to be able to print that PDF directly from their phone, or have the option of hiding the thing in another room?
There’s a reason other than convenience the HP DeskJet 2630 has Wi-Fi: Instant Ink. HP launched this service in 2014 in the UK. You sign up to a subscription and it lets you print a certain number of pages a month. Think of it as Netflix for printing, but without an all-you-can-eat option. Good news: if you hardly ever print, it lets you print 15 pages for free (and you still get the ink sent to you when you need it). You’ll then pay £1 for each further set of 10 pages, should you need to print more.
There are other plans, too. You can get 50 pages a month for £1.99 (per month), all the way up to 700 pages a month for £17.99. Your HP DeskJet 2630 knows when its ink is about to run out, and Instant Ink automatically sends you a new cartridge.
If you need a printer but will hardly use it, the HP DeskJet 2630 with the free Instant Ink tier is mega value. The catch? A page counts as a page no matter how much is printed on it. A full A4 photo is the same as a three-line email to Instant Ink.
You don’t have to use Instant Ink though. Conventional cartridges will work just fine too.
The machine itself is pretty basic, as you might guess. It has only an extremely simple screen, and it looks and feels a little cheap. But there is a little flourish of colour to temper all that white plastic. It has blue parts to its top, while the 2632’s are green and the 2633’s are red. Some retailers stock all three. This isn’t a design sensation, but we appreciate even a little touch of colour at this price.
£61.38 (price correct at time of publishing), AmazonBest for: A crowd-pleaser budget buy
Key specs – Dimensions: 52.2 x 21.4 x 48.0 cm; Paper size (max): A4; Inks: 5; Scanner resolution: 1200 x 2400 DPI; Printer resolution: 4800 x 1200 DPI; Speed: 12.6ppm black, 9ppm colour; Tray capacity: 100 sheets; Weight: 8.6kg
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The Canon Pixma MG5750 is a great all-rounder for anyone after a low-cost printer for both documents and photo printing. You’ll find it online for around £60, and it has a few worthwhile extras that are missing from true bottom-rung printers.
Ready? These are full duplex printing, Wi-Fi with AirPrint support, an LCD screen and 4800 x 1200 dpi scanning. It also has five ink cartridges, rather than the bog-standard four. The fifth is a different kind of black, one that uses pigment ink instead of dye. It makes text look sharper.
Canon’s Pixma MG5750 has everything most people need. Sure, there’s no fax modem and speeds are only solid rather than ultra-quick. But this is just the kind of printer we recommend to friends who, like most, only need to print docs and photos every now and then.
Why spend a packet when you get good results with this affordable model?
£99, John Lewis & PartnersBest for: Holiday snaps and portable use
Key specs – Dimensions: 6.3 x 13.6 x 18.1 cm; Paper size (max): 6x4in; Inks: 3; Scanner resolution: N/A; Printer resolution: 300 x 300 DPI; Speed: Approx 0.8 photos per min; Tray capacity: 15 glossy sheets; Weight: 0.86kg
Most mini printers seem like toys. They are fun, but their tiny print-outs and sticky backs start to lose their appeal one you’ve plastered your fridge with holiday snaps and portraits.
The Canon Selphy CP1300 is the most serious of the mainstream portable printers. And thanks to “full size” 6×4 inch prints, its photos seem worth keeping for posterity. They look as good as those of some professional services we’ve used in the past.
We love this little thing. Its prints look excellent. And it only really seems to struggle with the brightest, most punchy reds, a limitation you’ll only notice when comparing directly to the source image. You can send photos directly to it using the Canon Print app. Or plug-in an SD card (or memory stick) and choose an image to print using the top controls and flip-up screen.
Prints take well under a minute, and use a technique quite unlike the other printers here. It uses dye sublimation, where heat is applied to ink film in the cartridges to transfer the colour to the photo paper. Your pic passes back and forth four times, one for each of the three transfer colours and another to, presumably, further fix the dye.
You buy packs with a set number of shots, as this model doesn’t care if your image doesn’t fill the frame, or otherwise uses less ink. Each print-out ends up costing around 25p, which is obviously pricier than most. However, it’s actually a lot less than the rival Canon ZoeMini’s, even though that printer’s sheets only measure 2×3 inches.
One other point to consider: this is larger than other mini printers. And you have to pay extra for the battery pack, should you want to use it on the go. We think it’s far better than most mini printers in almost all respects. But if you want something that will fit in a coat pocket, check out the Canon ZoeMini, HP Sprocket and Polaroid Zip.
£143.66 (price correct at time of publishing), AmazonBest for: Small businesses and home offices
Key specs – Dimensions: 45.2 x 34 x 56.7 cm; Paper size (max): A3; Inks: 4; Scanner resolution: 1,200 x 2,400 DPI; Printer resolution: 4,800 x 2,400 DPI; Speed: 18 ppm black, 10ppm colour; Tray capacity: 250 sheets; Weight: 18.7kg
Looking for a printer for a home business? The Epson WorkForce is one of your best options, and not just because it looks like it belongs in an office.
First, it uses pigment-based inks. These are less prone to smudges than the dyes used by most home inkjets, and bring down running costs hugely. If you want to print a lot and aren’t interested in Epson’s refillable EcoTank system (which also ramps up the printers’ cost), this is a top pick.
It also has an autofeed scanner, which turns this model into a true photocopier. No more scanning pages one by one, which is as fun as processing your tax return. It can auto-feed up to 35 sheets at a time. It also prints and scans at sizes up to A3. It’s seriously versatile for a sub-£200 printer. There’s even fax, for some real old-school printer action.
Bad bits? The pigment dye system is not ideal for photo printing, as it doesn’t play ball quite as well with glossy paper. You can probably tell this is not an obvious photographer’s choice just from the look though.
£99.99, John Lewis & PartnersBest for: Photographers
Key specs – Dimensions: 14 x 37.3 x 31.9 cm; Paper size (max): A4; Inks: 6; Scanner resolution: 2400 x 4800 DPI; Printer resolution: 4800 x 1200 DPI; Speed: 15ppm black, 10ppm colour; Tray capacity: 100 sheets; Weight: 6.5kg
This printer is a little wasted on plain old boarding passes and e-tickets for events. The Canon Pixma TS8250 is for those who want to print out photos and images.
It has a six-colour ink array. There are two blacks, one optimised for print, the other for pics. And an unusual “Photo Blue” is used for better reproduction of anything with a blue component. That covers a lot more than just the sky. The prints are high-res, for a sharper look, and speed is more than respectable too.
You don’t have to be a photo purist to appreciate this Canon model either. It has plenty of nice design touches that tell you this is a cut above the affordable inkjet norm. A large colour touchscreen sits on the front, it lifts up for easier viewing, and the scanner lid has a soft-touch close mechanism. It feels that bit fancier than most other affordable-ish inkjets.
All the basics are here too, including Wi-Fi, an SD card reader, full duplex printing and a high-res scanner plate.
£165 (price correct at time of publishing), AmazonBest for: Saving money on ink
Key specs – Dimensions: 50 × 35 × 30 cm; Paper size (max): A4; Inks: 4; Scanner resolution: 2,400 x 1,200 DPI; Printer resolution: 5,760 x 1,440 DPI; Speed: 10ppm black, 5ppm colour; Tray capacity: 100 sheets; Weight: 9kg
This is the obvious choice if you need to print a lot and think that printer ink prices are daylight robbery. Printers like this, and the Canon MegaTank models, have refillable vats rather than standard cartridges. You still buy Epson ink, but it comes in bottles rather than cartridges. And it is far, far less expensive.
A full set of ink cartridges for the basic Epson XP-255 inkjet costs around £33 and gets you just 15ml of ink. Epson’s official ET-2711 set is also around £33, but consists of a whopping 280ml of ink. The price difference is incredible.
As a result, you end up paying more for the printer itself. The Epson EcoTank ET-2711 is one of the lower-end bottle-refillable models. And at this price, you could get a cartridge printer with better photo prints than the three-colour ones on offer here. The sheer long-term value of the EcoTank system is undeniable, though. Not only do you avoid the great printer ink rip-off, you can keep a lot more of the stuff stockpiled at home.
This one also has an inbuilt scanner and Wi-Fi. But there’s no screen or automatic duplex. This is where a printer can automatically print on both sides. You have to manually turn the sheet over here.
£179.99, CurrysBest for: Smart homes and gen Z
Key specs – Dimensions: 9.1 x 38.9 x 24.6 cm; Paper size (max): A4; Inks: 4; Scanner resolution: N/A; Printer resolution: 4800 x 1200 DPI; Speed: 11ppm black, 8ppm colour; Tray capacity: 50 sheets; Weight; 3.4kg
The HP Tango X will either seem like the perfect printer, or have you scratching your head as to why anyone would buy it. Features like an SD card slot, display and even USB have been snipped out. This is an all-wireless printer for thoroughly modern homes. You can even control it using Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa if you already have a smart speaker at home (or you can use your phone, of course).
We also like the wraparound felt-look cover. It’s what you get here over the standard HP Tango. Printers never tend to look great, and this touch makes it look, well, less like a printer. It can scan, too. Well, sort of. There’s no built-in scanner, but the companion phone app will straighten out and crop images of documents taken with your phone.
There’s another neat feature. The HP Tango has “two-way” wireless. It lets you print out from your phone when you’re not even at home. Granted, we can’t think of many times we’d need to use this feature. But this printer is all about bringing mainstream printer tech up to date.
Print quality and speed are solid, easily good enough for the intended audience. But what we like most is how it looks a lot better than alternatives thanks to its funky cover. Think the lack of basic features is bone-headed? This clearly isn’t for you. But we have to admit, it fits pretty well with how we use our home printer these days.
£199, John Lewis & PartnersBest for: Designers and artists
Key specs – Dimensions: 15.9 x 59.0 x 33.1 cm; Paper size (max); A3+; Inks: 6; Scanner resolution: N/A; Printer resolution: 9600 x 2400 DPI; Speed: 14.5ppm black, 10.4ppm colour; Tray capacity: 150 sheets; Weight: 8.5kg
If we had to pay the Canon PIXMA iP8750’s RRP, it wouldn’t fit inside our £200 limit. But online it sails just under the barrier.
This printer is a little bit special. It prints at up to A3+ size and has an ink array designed to make your photo and image print-outs look better than those of rivals. It doesn’t have the standard four-ink array. There are six inks. It has a grey cartridge as well as two blacks, for optimal results with both text and images. Why grey? It helps a printer hugely when rendering subtle tonal gradations. Nope, grey is not just for B&W images.
The Canon PIXMA iP8750 also has separate cartridges for its different colours, which saves you money if your photos tend to lean heavily on certain tones. An all-in-one cartridge often leave a bunch of ink inside, unused.
Print resolution is also very high, at 9,600 x 2,400dpi. Your images will look pin-sharp. This printer is one of the few sub-£200 models that seems like an imaging enthusiast’s choice. It has a pretty specific focus, though.
There’s no scanner here, so you’ll have to make do with doc photos taken on your phone. Not ideal for some.
This article has been updated. It was originally published in June 2019.