If you're a college student shopping for a printer, the good news is that there are a lot of choices out there. Depending on your needs, you can either go with an inkjet or a laser printer; inkjet printers are more versatile and usually cheaper, while laser printers are more reliable and they print faster. As always, it's important to make sure that a printer is cost-effective for the type of printing that you do, so you don't end up spending more on replacement cartridges than the printer itself. Other factors to consider are the printer's printing speed, connectivity options, and mobile app support. In our list of recommendations, we've included both inkjet and laser options, and we've also added some cheaper ones to help you save some money along the way.
We've tested over 35 printers and below are our recommendations for the best printers for college students you can buy. You can also check out our recommendations for the best all-in-one printers, the best home printers, and the best printers under $100.
The best printer for college students we've reviewed so far is the Brother MFC-J995DW. This is an all-in-one printer that features Brother's exceptional INKvestment Tank Ink System, which holds more ink per cartridge to achieve a higher yield. This means that you don't have to replace the cartridges often, so you end up spending less on replacement ink in the long run. Printing in color is only marginally more expensive than printing in black-only, which is great if you like adding colors to your documents or print a photo once in a while. If you print a lot, there are XXL and XXL Ultra high-yield cartridges available.
This printer's overall printing speed is good, but it depends entirely on what you're printing. For black-only documents, it prints out the first page quickly, but it isn't much faster for the remaining pages. Its printing speed for color documents is the same; however, it's quite fast at printing photos compared to other similar inkjet printers. Photos look great overall, with just a bit of fine banding in certain colors. Most paper sizes are supported up to the legal size, and it can also print on glossy photo paper.
This printer has good connectivity options, including support for USB thumb drives and SD cards. Unfortunately, it doesn't support Bluetooth or printing from Android mobile devices using Mopria. On the bright side, Brother has a superb mobile app that allows you to perform nearly any task directly from your smartphone. Last but not least, it comes with a great scanner that has an automatic document feeder, which makes processing long documents a breeze. It's not the most compact printer for small dorm rooms, but if you're just looking for a printer that can do it all, this is an excellent choice.
If you frequently print in bulk, then you should go with a printer that has a supertank ink system, such as the Epson EcoTank ET-2760. Unlike the Brother MFC-J995DW, this printer doesn't have any cartridges. Instead, it has large ink tanks that it can draw from, which you can fill up as you go with bottles of ink. Replacement ink is cheap, making it very cost-effective over time, whether you're printing in black or in color. Sadly, it prints even slower, with photo printing slowing down to a crawl. Speaking of, printed photos look okay, but it's nothing to write home about. It's worth noting that while this printer supports external storage devices, it's just for SD cards, not USB thumb drives. Lastly, the scanner is pretty basic, as it has only a flatbed and no automatic document feeder.
Overall, the Brother is a better choice for most college students, as it has more features and performs better in general. However, if you print a lot and you need a printer with a supertank, then go with the Epson.
The best laser printer for college students we've tested so far is the Canon imageCLASS MF644Cdw. This printer is a good option for those who only need to print documents, as laser printers aren't really meant for printing photos. That said, laser printers are more reliable since you don't have to worry about ink drying up before it's used or clogged nozzles. This printer has an exceptional cartridge system that allows you to print an incredible number of pages before you have to replace the toner cartridges. The downside is that it's significantly more expensive to print in color than to print in black due to the high cost of the color toner cartridges, so color printing should be kept to a minimum.
One big advantage laser printers have over inkjet printers is printing speed. This printer can churn out pages fast, regardless of the type of document that's being printed. On top of that, it has a large 250-sheet input tray and it can perform double-sided printing. Color accuracy is decent and should be fine for most, but as mentioned, photo printing isn't recommended, as printed photos just look awful. And since laser printers apply heat during the printing process, it can't print on any type of glossy photo paper.
The scanner has an automatic document feeder that can perform duplex scanning, but sadly, the scanning resolution is limited to 600 DPI. It supports printing from USB thumb drives, and from mobile devices using AirPrint or Mopria. This printer works with Canon's PRINT Business mobile app, which allows you to do nearly everything using just your smartphone. Overall, even though it isn't as versatile as an inkjet printer, this is a great option for students who mostly print black and white documents with the occasional splash of color.
If you're certain that you only need to print in black, then you can save some money by going with a monochrome printer, like the Brother MFC-L2750DW. Its black toner cartridge can yield even more pages than the Canon imageCLASS MF644Cdw, and it accepts high-yield and third-party cartridges. Its cost-per-print is outstanding; however, keep in mind that the drum is a separate unit on this printer, and it needs to be replaced every 12,000 pages or so, which isn't factored into the cost of the cartridges. It prints faster than the Canon, it has great connectivity options, and the scanner has an automatic document feeder.
Overall, if you need to print in color from time to time, then it's better to go with the Canon, as you don't want to be limited by a monochrome printer. However, if you know you that you only print in black, you can save some money by going with the Brother.
The Canon PIXMA TR7520 is the best budget printer for college students we've tested so far. This is a small and simple printer that's well-suited for small spaces like dorm rooms. It's decently built, it has a touchscreen display with a user-friendly interface, and its scanner is equipped with an automatic document feeder. It supports wired and wireless connections, but sadly, not external storage devices like USB thumb drives or SD cards. You can also operate the printer using Canon's mobile app, which is compatible with both Andoird and iOS.
The cartridge system on this printer is passable. Its black cartridge's yield is quite low; however, the color cartridges are able to yield many more pages. Thankfully, replacement ink is relatively cheap, and printing in color is only slightly more expensive than printing in black. If you print a lot, there are high-yield cartridges available, and the printer also accepts third-party cartridges, although using them may void the manufacturer's warranty. The main downside with this printer is its printing speed, as it's quite slow at printing black or color documents. On the upside, it's very fast at printing photos and the photos look great.
This printer has two input trays that support most paper sizes, and it can print on glossy photo paper as well. Each tray can hold up to 100 sheets of paper and it can perform duplex printing if you want to print on both sides of the paper. All in all, despite its budget price, this printer has nearly every feature to meet the needs of most college students.
If you find the Canon PIXMA TR7520 still too expensive, then check out the Canon PIXMA TS5320. This is a fairly barebones printer that sports a 2-cartridge system. Neither the black nor the color cartridge can yield a lot of pages, so they need to be replaced regularly. That said, the ink cartridges aren't too expensive, making the overall cost-per-print fairly decent for both black and color printing. Unfortunately, it prints very slowly, which isn't ideal if you have a long essay to hand in at the last minute. The lack of an automatic document feeder is rather disappointing, but at least the scanner's lid can be extended slightly if you need to scan thick books. Like the other Canon, it's great at printing photos, and its connectivity options are just as good.
Overall, if you can stretch your budget a bit, the TR7520 is an all-around better printer; however, if you're just looking for a cheap printer that can get the job done, then the TS5320 is a decent choice.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best printers for most college students. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here's the list of all our printer reviews. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no printer is perfect for every use, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.