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 55 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 inkjet printer for college students that we've tested is the Brother MFC-J995DW. This all-in-one model is an outstanding option for college students while also being a smart choice for small businesses and family use. It has a sturdy build, and the ink cartridges are easily accessible from the front. Also, it has a flatbed scanner and an automatic document feeder, which will be useful if you have to scan a large textbook.
Even if you're printing in large amounts, the cost-per-print is very affordable. Also, the cartridge system features Brother's INKvestment Tank ink system, meaning it'll last longer before needing replacement. It has some good connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Ethernet for a more reliable connection, and plugging it directly to your computer via USB. Also, it's compatible with the remarkable companion app, Brother iPrint&Scan, where you can print, scan, and copy directly from your mobile device.
Unfortunately, while printed photos look great and detailed, they often come out misaligned when performing borderless printing. Also, color accuracy is mediocre and wouldn't be recommended for students in print media. Also, it lacks a Bluetooth connection and is relatively slow at printing black-only documents. That said, this is a superb option to help students save money in the long run and one of the best all-in-one printers we've tested.
If you frequently print in bulk, then you should go with a printer that has a supertank ink system, like the Epson EcoTank ET-2760. Unlike the Brother MFC-J995DW, this printer doesn't have any cartridges. Instead, it has large ink tanks that 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 color. Sadly, it prints even slower, with photo printing slowing down to a crawl. Printed photos look okay, but are nothing special. 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 is the Canon imageCLASS MF644Cdw. This all-in-one color laser printer is a good choice for students who only need to print black and white documents. It's incredibly well-built, with an input tray that has sliders to accommodate different paper sizes, while access to jams and toner cartridges is easy. There are some great scanning features on this printer, including a flatbed scanner and an automatic document feeder with duplex scanning, which will be very useful for those lengthy course packs.
The cost of printing in black ink is quite affordable and the price of the cartridges isn't that expensive either. The printing speed is great, and it prints color documents a bit faster than black and white. Also, despite lacking Bluetooth, this printer has some great connectivity options, including external storage support, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet. It's also compatible with the outstanding Canon PRINT Business app, where you can scan directly to your phone and print webpages and other file formats.
Unfortunately, photo quality is terrible due to missing detail and a lot of banding present. Color accuracy is still decent enough, but this would be a poor choice for a photography class. Furthermore, buying new color toner is quite expensive and printing in color does get more expensive the higher your volume increases. That said, this is a good choice for students who need to print out black and white documents.
If you plan on only printing in black, then you can save a bit of money with a cheaper monochrome printer, like the Canon imageCLASS MF445dw. It's just as well-built as the Canon imageCLASS MF644Cdw, with the main difference being that it can only print in black. Its single toner cartridge can yield a sizable number of pages, making its overall cost-per-print exceptionally low. It prints quickly, it has many connectivity options, and it also works with Canon's superb mobile app.
Overall, if you want to be able to print in color, go with the MF644Cdw; otherwise, the MF445dw is a good monochrome alternative that'll save you some money.
The Canon PIXMA TS8220 is the best printer for college students in the budget category that we've tested. This all-in-one inkjet printer is ideally suited for college dorms thanks to its compact and sleek design. Its flatbed scanner can be extended to allow for thicker items like textbooks to be copied and it has an excellent and easily visible touchscreen menu.
It has a great cost-per-print, with color prints costing just a bit more than black. The yield of the black cartridges may be low, but their upfront cost is also low, ensuring you won't be spending too much when it's time to change them. Fortunately, If you plan on doing tons of printing, Canon has higher-yielding XL and XXL cartridges available to purchase. Also, it has outstanding connectivity options and is fully compatible with the Canon PRINT Inkjet/SELPHY app.
Unfortunately, it has an unremarkable scanner that lacks an automatic document feeder and duplex scanning, so you'll have to manually load each page when scanning. Because of its design, getting to paper jams can also be a bit difficult and the speed at which those documents are printed is very slow. Overall, if you're looking for a budget printer that won't take up much room in your dorm, this one is a great choice.
If you find the Canon PIXMA TS8220 too expensive, then check out the Canon PIXMA TS5320. It's a pretty basic printer meant for those who print occasionally. It has a small but functional display screen and the overall build quality is unremarkable. It has a rather bad two-cartridge system, so the cartridges need frequent replacement. The ink cartridges aren't expensive, making its overall cost-per-print fairly decent. The printing speed is mediocre, but on the bright side, it prints great-looking photos. It supports wireless connections through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and direct printing from mobile devices using AirPrint or Mopria.
Overall, if you can afford it upfront, the TS8220 is a better choice and can probably end up being cheaper in the long run due to its higher page yield. However, if you just need a basic printer to print a report once in a while, the TS5320 is a decent alternative.
09/04/2020: Updated text for accuracy and clarity; no changes to product picks.
07/23/2020: Replaced Canon PIXMA TR7520 with Canon PIXMA TS8220, replaced Brother MFC-L2750DW with Canon imageCLASS MF445dw.
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.