ISO cheapy but functional printer
April 21, 2020 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I have a MacBook Air. My partner has a Samsung Chromebook. I haven't owned a printer in years and I suddenly find myself in need of one. Can anyone please recommend me a good, inexpensive printer that would work for both of our computers with minimal setup required? Assume that both of us are not very great with technology beyond Word, Excel, and QuickBooks. Thanks!
posted by nayantara to Shopping (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you only need black & white, I strongly recommend whatever the current model of the Brother duplex wireless printer is. This is the current version. If you have any need for scanning/copying capabilities, you can get the fancier version (this is the current version of the one I have).
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:39 AM on April 21, 2020 [14 favorites]

What do you need to print? Black and white documents? Color documents? Color photos? Do you need to scan/copy documents, too? Think about your usage and take a look at The Wirecutter's guide for some ideas. They have other specialized guides if you search their site "printer" as well (like if you want to compare all-in-one devices, etc).

Keep in mind that the cost of ink or toner cartridges over time will be much more important than the initial purchase price. Inkjets can clog or dry up if they sit unused for a while so the price per page may end up higher than expected, or you might be left unable to print when you really need to. Some inket printers now have subscription services where you automatically get mailed new ink periodically but this may require running tracking software on your computer (tracking software that might either suck or not be available for Macs or Chrome computers).

If you just need to print black and white documents, the "budget pick" Brother HL-L2350DW laser in The Wirecutter's guide that is pretty much foolproof.
posted by bcwinters at 8:39 AM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Do you need to print in color? If not, I'd recommend any inexpensive Brother black-and-white laser printer that is wireless-enabled.

We got a multifunction Brother laser printer that we got in 2016 (now discontinued, but here's the current equivalent, and it has worked splendidly. It prints and copies in black-and-white, and it scans in color. Since it's a laser printer, the toner cartridge won't dry out, and a high-yield cartridge lasts for 2600 pages. The cartridge that comes with the printer is not high-yield, so it only lasted 6 months or so, but then we bought a high-yield cartridge in early 2017, and it's still in service.

Our printer supports AirPrint, so we can print without installing any drivers from our Mac, as well as our iPhones and iPads. It also supports Google Cloud Print, so Chromebooks can print to it. Google is killing Google Cloud Print, so I'm not sure what the long-term solution to your Chromebook is, but I'd imagine that any new-model Brother with wireless / AirPrint support will work.
posted by vitout at 8:39 AM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Actually, if you're going to upgrade, you might as well get the one that has a paper feeder connected to the scanner.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:45 AM on April 21, 2020

Check if your wireless router has a USB port on it, and whether said port supports hooking up a printer for network printing. I've had printers that connect to wifi and host their own servers and they've always driven me up the wall. Getting the network device to handle network connectivity has always been a better bet for me, personally. (At the moment I connect it to my NAS and it shows up as a Bonjour printer with no drama.)

Also, yeah, Brother is super solid if you just need B&W.
posted by supercres at 8:55 AM on April 21, 2020

I am running with little HP 3 in one printer that came free with my friends mac, at least 10 years ago. It prints in both color and b&w, I mostly print documents with this. I buy cheap off brand ink, so the HP printer support tries to tell me I am out of ink and I should buy theirs, so I dumped it. What I am getting at is buy the chest 3 in one you can find, out of a reliable brand. This one was supposed to be a photo printer as well, maybe it is but at the time I had an Epson 17 inch archival printer. This is what I have left, and I am very happy with it. I came with a mac and I have only used it for windows, this for longer than I can remember.
posted by Oyéah at 9:19 AM on April 21, 2020

I'll nth a b&w Brother laser. This is the model we have. I also got the Lynko (?) brand toner cartridges from Amazon and they work fine.
posted by kathrynm at 9:20 AM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Also, yeah, Brother is super solid if you just need B&W.

We got a fairly recent colour laser (HL4150CDN) off our local classifieds for less than any new inkjet. Pictures of the printout test page showed magenta was striping, so probably somewhat clumpy toner. And indeed, even bringing it home took care of that until it actually ran out. It's got duplex, wired networking and understands PostScript, so for us (Linux household) it ticks all the right boxes. And it just works.
posted by Stoneshop at 9:31 AM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

FYI I got my printer at Walgreens. Yep, Walgreens. It's a Canon and it works fine, but you might want to check to see if it will work with a Mac (my guess is yes). One handy thing is being able to get toner at Walgreens whenever I want.
posted by amtho at 9:51 AM on April 21, 2020

I have been using Brother Laser prints for years, definitely the way to go.
posted by tman99 at 10:34 AM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Nthing Brother lasers.
posted by Candleman at 10:45 AM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

nthing that Brother lasers are good, but.. like amtho when I needed a printer last summer I went to Target and got the not-the-cheapest-but-literally-#2-on-the-list Canon that was there. (The cheapest was a weird HP mini printer thing.) Works fine for my couple of times a month printing needs. It's a Canon MG3600-series thing - a Pixma MG3620. Has wireless, was able to print to it from my Chromebook before I made it not a Chromebook anymore as well as my Mac, Windows, and Linux systems, ink still seems to be going strong (though it of course came with the low-capacity starter carts, which I'm now close to emptying). I just realized in the past week or two that it duplexes. That kinda freaked me out but then hey, bonus. It will likely get replaced (or augmented, really, since it works perfectly fine) by a Brother laser of some sort when the ink carts finally give up but I've been rather happy with it. Again, though, I'm usually printing text and not very often at that, and scanning the occasional document that needs a real signature.
posted by mrg at 11:57 AM on April 21, 2020

A Brother laser that supports Airprint: it works seamlessly on all operating systems, even Linux.
posted by scruss at 12:18 PM on April 21, 2020

Response by poster: I just need to be able to print documents, black & white. Nothing else.
posted by nayantara at 12:19 PM on April 21, 2020

If it'ss low volume I would suggest the library or Staples. Staples is 13 cents/copy.
posted by Ferrari328 at 12:23 PM on April 21, 2020

Response by poster: We live in an area that is a hotbed of COVID-19. All libraries near us are closed and the closest Staples to us is 30 minutes away by car and is only doing curbside pickup, which isn't really helpful for printing. We also need to print a fairly high volume, or at least I do right now. We need a printer at home.
posted by nayantara at 1:01 PM on April 21, 2020

Yeah, you want a cheap laser printer if you have To have a printer. Ink jets have ink that dries out (and while my shitty canon printer has a drm timer on its toner), the toner for a laser printer doesn't wear out. Brother printers have been the standard for a very long time when you just need to print something occasionally.
posted by wotsac at 2:01 PM on April 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

You want a wireless Brother laser printer.
posted by fake at 7:09 PM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nthing a Brother laser, just rock solid, but worth hunting around amazon with differing search terms, got an hp color printer for $20 a few years ago, merch gets dumped at odd times and deals just appear.
posted by sammyo at 7:26 PM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I also recommend a Brother black and white laser printer. I have a wired one, a wireless one, and an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier that I got on sale for $99. (Three different locations, no I am not a printer hoarder.)

Why? In my experience, these Brother laser printers just work. Brother will actually answer your phone calls if you can't figure out how to set up the wireless or fix something else. If your printer breaks, Brother will mail you a new one. They don't seem to care how long you have owned the printer, they still offer phone help and mail a new one out overnight if they can't make it work for you. This has made me very loyal to Brother printers.

The printer only, black and white duplex wifi model sometimes goes on sale for $50, but you can always get one for around $100. You should be able to order one online and get it in a couple of days. The printer/scanner/copier with sheet feed really comes in handy, and as I said I got one for $99 (at Staples). It was on sale for $10 cheaper than the print only model, so I bought it. Shop around to get the best price. Brother does the help line and service, so it doesn't matter where you buy it.
posted by KayQuestions at 3:15 PM on April 22, 2020

Best Buy has two-day delivery on the Brother "just print" model for $99, and the all-in-one with sheet feed for $139 (the one Betelgeuse and I recommend if you may need to copy and scan).
posted by KayQuestions at 3:30 PM on April 22, 2020

I took MeFi's recommendation on purchasing a Brother laser printer, a couple of years back, and I mostly don't regret the decision. Mostly. Now two years later is has stopped printing, but the problems began over a year ago when the damn thing would randomly go in and out of sleep mode, which would then require messing with the overly fiddly menu to jump start it so to speak. When that didn't work, I would have to unplug it. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes it didn't. Now it doesn't work at all, and it turns out that my experiences have happened to other Brother printer owners, and you can read about their complaints on Amazon reviews.

With all that out of the way, I probably saved several hundred bucks in inkjet cartridges, so I have no regrets. I just wish it had lasted longer than 30 months. Not a bad run, I guess, and unless I can find a brand with a better track record, I might end up buying another one this week.
posted by Beholder at 9:58 AM on April 26, 2020

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