I just need a cheap black-and-white printer that connects wirelessly
February 2, 2021 2:05 PM   Subscribe

All I want or need is a printer to print black-and-white, less than 10 pages a week. I want to print (non-sticky) labels for returns or print postage for Etsy stuff, and maybe print the occasional knitting pattern. I'd like to send docs to it over wifi or Bluetooth. I have a Windows 10 laptop and an Android phone. Bonus points for small size and availability on Amazon Prime. I haven't owned a printer in like 15 years so I have no idea what's out there that fits this bill but there must be something!
posted by fiercecupcake to Technology (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A standard recommendation is Brother, specifically something like the HL-2300 series. I've had one for years, it's been perfectly serviceable and unremarkable except for the fact that it actually works and continues to work without regular cash infusions.
posted by aramaic at 2:15 PM on February 2, 2021 [29 favorites]

If you can, the library is cheap. Otherwise, a laser printer is what you want. Here's an example from Amazon. The toner in a laser printer lasts forever and there are no clogged nozzles.
posted by Ferrari328 at 2:16 PM on February 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

I have a Brother multifunction J-480DW. (The font makes it look like J4800W) and it's been serving me quite well for years. I've had HP, Epson, and Samsung lasers and inkjets die on me, multiple times over. This Brother printer had persevered. It is color-capable, but has 4 ink tanks, 3 color ones and 1 double-sized black one. So you can buy separate carts for them, and you can buy pretty generic replacement ink carts, instead of the fancy Brother ones to save even more money. I don't think it'll do BLuetooth, but Wifi printing is painless with the app and the included software. And I was pretty sure I bought it off Amazon.

Brother's lasers should also last just as long. The catch is of course laser carts cost a little more, but they do last a while.
posted by kschang at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I bought a Xerox B210 for just this purpose last year for about $100. I'm pretty happy with it.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 2:43 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've had a Brother black and white wireless printer, the same printer, for 10 years and have never had to replace the toner (I print maybe once every couple of months). The trick is definitely to get a laser for longevity. I believe it cost somewhere in the $80 range.

It looks like they don't sell my model anymore but I would definitely recommend a Brother. The one problem I have with it is that it is difficult to set up on a new wifi -- I usually end up having to totally reinstall the printer. But the newer models may not have the same problem, I've just moved several times and swear at it every time.
posted by possibilityleft at 3:00 PM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

I got a Samsung M2825DW for a use case like yours, and it has done very well for me over the past 2.5 years. My father has one too (I think we both read the same Wirecutter review around the same time) and is likewise satisfied. Brother's products also have a very good reputation but I can't speak for them.
posted by Alterscape at 3:05 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have the same needs as you (except sewing patterns, which tend to be larger) and I bought this brother printer. The toner cartridge it came with lasted me ~8 months, and they are subscribe and save eligible.
posted by jessica fletcher did it at 3:07 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

For extreme low volume printing, a laser printer will definitely be a better value than an inkjet, because inkjets require frequent use to prevent clogs. A disused cheap inkjet becomes a lot more expensive if you have to run three cleaning cycles and/or replace the cartridge(s) just to get it to print again. Laser printers have a higher initial cost, but are more easily and cheaply ignored, and the cost per printed page is generally much lower.

There was … some reason I bought an HP instead of the standard Brother recommendation, but it's been three years and I don't remember what that reason was. It's been fine. I haven't needed to replace the toner cartridge yet. If you don't know a specific reason a basic Brother laser printer wouldn't work for your needs, just get the basic Brother.
posted by fedward at 3:55 PM on February 2, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best Buy has all-in-ones for $99 right now.
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:28 PM on February 2, 2021

I purchased a wi-fi Brother laser printer in, apparently, April 2016. Which means it moved cross country. I believe I'm on my second generic toner cartridge. I use it for weekly ebay labels and scanning all the documents that go in my filing cabinet.

The automatic feeder on the scanner has turned out to be surprisingly important. I don't think I would ever scan anything if I had to use the flatbed. The device is now much more important to me for scanning than printing. (Since, you know, I'm the sort of datahoarder who can instantly summon up the date they bought a printer.) I know you're asking to just print and for small size, but I thought I'd throw that tidbit in.

This would be the modern equivalent of what I bought.
posted by Snijglau at 4:59 PM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

brother laser printer. look for the last letter of the model number to end in "W" for wireless. "DW" means "duplexing" (two sided) "wireless." HLs just print. DCPs print and copy. MFC stands for multi function center and the copy, print, and scan (and historically, fax.)
posted by elgee at 7:26 PM on February 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

For postage labels, stay away from inkjets as the result is not guaranteed to be waterproof.
posted by Stoneshop at 1:34 AM on February 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've had this Brother ink jet workhorse for about 10 years and it's still going strong. I got it for less than $100 at BestBuy, on sale.
My assumption is that Brother InkJets are the Nokia Phones of Ink Jet printers, and any Brother would be fine.
posted by Bill Watches Movies Podcast at 1:51 AM on February 3, 2021

Wireless can suck, wired is better, at least for the printer (other devices have more power of working or being fixed if they don't via updates and just more horsepower than is put into a printer). Metafilter is always Brother.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:46 AM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'd like to send docs to it over wifi or Bluetooth.

Brother has a wifi printing app for Android that works well. It's not one of those idiot "wifi direct" garbage apps and it doesn't care whether the printer itself is connected to your local network via wifi or Ethernet, as long as it's on the same IP subnet that your phone's normal wifi connects to.

It doesn't matter hugely whether you use wifi or Ethernet to connect your Brother printer to your local router, though Ethernet's possible failure modes will obviously be both less numerous and less confusing than wifi's so that's what I recommend you use if you can.

One tip for Windows printing that applies to any network-connected printer, not just Brother's: it's best if your printer appears on your network with the same IP address every time it connects, instead of having an IP address that depends on the order your network powers up in. That way, you remove some of the failure modes that Windows can use to screw up your printing for you.

The simplest way to make sure this happens is to visit your router's admin web page and tell its DHCP server to reserve a fixed IP address for your printer's MAC address. The printer's wifi and Ethernet interfaces will each have a unique MAC address, so it's better to decide early which way the printer is going to connect. You can use the printer's inbuilt control menu to print an info sheet that has all these addresses listed on it.

Brother's Android printing app doesn't appear to care what your printer's IP address is, so doing this won't affect Android printing in the slightest but it will make Windows printing noticeably more reliable.
posted by flabdablet at 4:34 AM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

An anti-recommend for Samsung - HP took over the Samsung printer range recently, and getting support for my older-but-not-ancient Samsung b&w laser printer has been very difficult. I've just got it working wirelessly again after a lengthy hiatus, and it involved a lot of time and swearing. If I had my time again, I'd go for a simple Brother machine.
posted by altolinguistic at 7:11 AM on February 3, 2021

The only disadvantage of Brother laser printer I'm aware of is that their Linux driver isn't open source and the proprietary blob they do offer is only available for x86. This makes a Brother printer difficult to hook up to your Raspberry Pi if you want to treat it like any other CUPS target. Other than that they're very good.
posted by flabdablet at 8:07 AM on February 3, 2021

There was a good point raised above: if your printer is going to sit within an ethernet cable's reach of your router, you don't need (and perhaps might not even want) wireless capabilities in your printer. Wireless printing is most useful if the printer needs to go where your wired network can't reach. Your house, furniture, and network may vary.
posted by fedward at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2021

Unless there's something unstated here, you don't want a wireless printer, as noted by zengargoyle. The last thing you need to be worried about is whether the reason your phone isn't connecting is due to it being too far from the printer. Networked printing can be frustrating enough. If it's at all possible, connect the printer with a hardline Ethernet cable directly to your router/gateway. Usually this is a reasonable place to hook up a printer, since it needs a power outlet anyway. Plus you won't be wasting two-way WiFi bandwidth every time you print or scan. The only reason I would get a printer with wireless built in is if I couldn't have it physically next to the router, which is sometimes the case depending on where your Internet connection enters the house.
posted by wnissen at 11:11 AM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Nthing Brother - I finally broke down after six months of paperless remote work and got the Brother HLL2395DW in the fall and it's been great. That was the specific model bowtiesspouse recommended, and he does IT professionally, so I felt a fair amount of confidence in taking his recommendation at face value. It was easy to set up, easy to use, and hasn't given me any problems so far. It might be a little over-featured for your use case (also scans and does double-sided), but it certainly looks like Brother is the brand to pick!
posted by bowtiesarecool at 3:43 PM on February 3, 2021

Although the pandemic makes this more annoying, the fact that your spec needs seem fairly modest makes me wonder if a peek at Craigslist or the like would find someone who bought a fancier printer getting rid of a perfectly-good simpler one.
posted by LadyOscar at 7:06 PM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

The only disadvantage of Brother laser printer I'm aware of is that their Linux driver isn't open source and the proprietary blob they do offer is only available for x86.

Some Brother printers. Ours talk PostScript (BRScript actually, but the differences are extremely minor), and all three of them (HL1270N, HL2250DN and HL4150CDN) work fine using a PostScript driver. PCL5 works too.

No idea about Brother MFCs, and especially their scanners.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:00 PM on February 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

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