Copiers and printers: Finding the best small office printers in 2021
An office printer is probably the first item in office equipment that about every company in the world acquires, after the desk, chairs and computer. The incredible variety of models on the market allows different types of printers to suit the ever-evolving needs of every company in all business sectors. The drawback of this wealth of models is that it may appear difficult to compare office printers and find the best deal for one’s precise needs.
So what are the best business printers in 2021?
In order to narrow down the daunting scope of this question, this article focuses on small printers for small offices.
What are the different types of small office printers in 2021 and how do they work? What do they bring to the office in terms of everyday benefits? What are the key features and selling points to look into when researching small business printers? And in the light of this all, finally, what specific models could be the best small office printers in 2019?
Identifying office printer types and technologies in 2021
Although the line between printers for home use and business printers seems to be blurring, printers need at least some basic features to fully qualify for office use. Different types of office printers exist and how they work is one way to distinguish these types. Regardless of the technology used, quality printers bring many everyday benefits to the office.
What is an office printer?
An office printer is a document printing piece of hardware which specifications make it possible to use in an office environment, for business purposes.
As these business purposes can be different depending on the nature of the business, these specifications may differ, based on specific needs:
- Businessmen on the go like travelling salesmen may need to print documents anywhere anytime, and need small, portable, possibly battery-powered printers,
- Design and publishing professionals look for high quality prints, and sometimes the support for unusual paper formats like A3 or even A2, and may even need printers to support the use paper rolls in addition to paper sheets,
- Professionals in various industries who need to develop physical models or even production parts are looking after 3D printers.
Besides these specific features for special needs, most office printers are defined by a rather simple list of minimum “must-have” features, like:
- Support for network connections, as the printer has to be shared between several users and workstations at the same time,
- Decent paper tray capacity, so that users don’t have to feed the machine with new sheets of paper regularly to finish their printing jobs,
- Attractive cost-per-page, as monthly print volumes far exceed those of a home user.
Office printer types and how they work
Business printers may be grouped in several categories, based on different factors.
One factor is the purpose of the printer:
- “everyday” printers put the focus on productivity features,
- Photo and design printers focus on print quality,
- Multifunction printers are supposed to combine as many functions as possible in the smallest possible form factor.
Form factor is actually another criterion:
- Big, free-standing business printers offer the highest productivity, often supporting different paper formats – these are often referred to as office copiers,
- Small, tabletop printers may offer slower, less economical prints and fewer features but use up far less footprint in the office.
But the printing technology remains the most essential categorization factor:
- With inkjet printers, liquid ink is sprayed through nozzles on moving printer heads onto the paper,
- With laser printers, powdered ink is directed to an electrically charged image reproduced on the paper by the printer’s drums, after the image has been drawn on these drums by a laser or set of LEDs (LED printers), also using negative-positive electrical charges.
Benefits for the office
There are many benefits for the office in using dedicated, business-use printers:
- Costs work out far less per sheet, both for black-and-white and colour printing,
- Fast print speeds, especially for black-and-white prints,
- High resolution printing at optimum speeds: as different printing resolutions can be selected, there’s always the right choice of speed/quality compromise for every print job needed,
- Robust and durable devices which can stand up to even the toughest office environments,
- Depending on printer features, the machine can be dedicated to printing so that print jobs are not interrupted by other needs,
- While other users will prefer a multifunction machine to save space in the office,
- The most versatile copiers allow printing in different sizes, alignments and paper thicknesses,
- And can even complete binding and sorting tasks,
- Large paper capacity (sometimes with multiple trays) saves on constant refilling and the hassle of paused print jobs,
- Network connections allow several users to access one single printer, instead of having to connect to it each time a print job is needed,
- Wireless printers even suppress the need for wired connections between these users and thee printer,
- Multitasking features allow different users to use the multifunction machine at the same time.
Key features and selling points of business printers
Key features and specifications to look into when comparing business printers include functions supported, printing speeds, machine size, print quality, connectivity, productivity features and cost-related aspects.
In 2021, printers don’t just print anymore, they can do several other things as well.
While some professionals, especially in the photography or publishing fields of business, prefer a single-function office printer and a scanner as separate devices, small business owners, especially when the office is cramped, will take advantage of multifunction printers.
Multifunction printers may allow:
- Copying to e-mail and sending...
Even more interestingly, with a growing number of models, all these functions can now be piloted directly from the printer, making it really hard to distinguish office printers and office copiers.
If printing speed is not so much of an issue for home use, it becomes a key factor for office use.
Any business printer should be able to print at a “decent” speed, and every user will naturally have his or her own definition of how fast a “decent” speed should be. But except for design professionals who need to print super high quality images, it’s unlikely that a printing speed of less than 20 pages par minutes can be considered decent enough.
However, it’s very important to know exactly to which kind of print job the advertised printing speed of a specific model refers to: lowest quality black-and-white print, colour print, print with average settings? Prospective buyers therefore have to research not only one, but many print speeds per model to compare business printers.
Automatic double-sided also is a very important feature closely related to print speed, as it inevitably takes much longer to flip paper sheets manually.
Finally, the lowest-priced laser printers now may no longer be faster than the best inkjet printers.
For many small business users, the size of the machine really is a key factor.
Tabletop multifunction printers, although they’re a little slower and a little more expensive in the long run, are therefore the most relevant options for those who need to save on space more than they need to save on costs.
This solution is even more relevant as multifunction, tabletop laser printers have also surfaced, and even tabletop A3 multifunction printers.
However, laser printers still remain 20% to 30% larger than inkjet printers.
Print quality is an essential factor for many professionals. Laser printers offer better quality for text, but still lose out a bit on inkjet printers for highly detailed photos or colour graphics.
The key metric to watch is resolutions, usually mentioned in dpi or dots per inch. Here again, it’s important to look at several values based on different settings, not only the highest value.
Connectivity is an essential part of what makes the difference between home printers and office machines.
Basically, the more connections the machine will support, the more convenient it will be for business users, especially when many people or different types of devices need to connect to the printer.
An Ethernet connection is a minimum so that the printer can be shared among workstations, but wireless connections are more and more commonly seen with Wifi or Bluetooth. NFC can be added for better support of modern smartphones and Wifi-direct for easier wireless connections.
An internet connection allows the printer to print from the cloud.
Card readers and USB ports are good additions to extend the support to printing from removable media.
Productivity features on business printers include:
- Paper capacity – the more trays and magazines, the better, and any total value under 150 pages, except for precision design printing, can be seen as underwhelming,
- Document management features – these include binding and stapling, but also relies heavily on the software provided with the printer,
- Ink toner or ink cartridge capacity – “power” users don’t want to waste time changing ink supplies all the time,
- Document feeders for scanners,
- Multitasking features, so that a user doesn’t have to wait until another user’s job is finished to launch his.
The cost of office printers is not limited to the price of the machine.
Total ownership costs include:
- Paper costs,
- Ink costs,
- Maintenance costs.
When reviewing office printer prices, it’s therefore extremely important to also check the price of supplies such as ink cartridges or ink toners, their capacity in number of prints, but also the price of maintenance kits, especially for laser printers.
Office printer lease plans are a good option to make the investment on the printer more bearable and also make all these costs easier to budget, by grouping all printing costs in a hardware + service plan and a single monthly or quarterly invoice.
To compare printer costs in such a framework, it’s essential to get as many quotes from printer providers specialized in B2B supplies.
The best small office printers in 2021
In Ireland, printer models like HP’s LaserJet Pro M28w and PageWide Pro 477dw, Canon’s PIXMA TR8520 Wireless and Brother’s HL-L8360CDW and MFC-L3750CDW can be singled out to illustrate different categories of printers.
HP LaserJet Pro M28w
The HP LaserJet Pro M28w is a good example of an entry-level multifunction laser printer.
Its Wifi and Ethernet connectivity, as well as its 150-page tray make it qualified for business use, even if the print speed is below average at 18 pages per minute.
But brining a scanner, laser printer and copier in such a small form factor, and at below €100 is quite a feat for a laser printer.
HP PageWide Pro 477dw
The HP PageWide Pro 477dw boasts an incredibly fast printing speed for an inkjet printer, with a maximum 55 pages per minute, for less than €400.
Although it’s just a tabletop machine, it’s at the same time a colour printer with automatic double-sided printer and a 500-page paper tray, a scanner, fax and copier with a 50-page document feeder, supporting automatic-double sided scanning.
Total cost of ownership is one of the lowest in its category.
Canon PIXMA TR8520 Wireless
At nearly the same price as the HP LaserJet Pro M28w, the Canon PIXMA TR8520 is a colour multifunction inkjet printer bringing exceptional photo prints. It also has a 20-page document feeder for its scanner. Touchscreen controls are very user friendly.
The Brother HL-L8360CDW is a great solution for those small business executives who just want a productive printer for everyday needs.
At under €350, this colour laser printer brings a big 300-page paper tray, decent print speeds at 31 pages per minute and very low running costs.
Brother’s MFC-L3750CDW is a fine example of an affordable colour multifunction printer supporting wireless connectivity.
At under €300, this 4-in-1 printer can print, fax, scan and copy A4 documents at a very low cost per page (less than 3 pence).
It has an anti-glare touchscreen display, a 250-page tray and a 50-page automatic document feeder for copying or scanning purposes.