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 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 75 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. 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. The cartridge system also 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 that 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, it 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 need a printer with a supertank, go with the Epson.
The best laser printer for students we've tested is the Canon imageCLASS MF743Cdw. This all-in-one laser model has an exceptionally high page yield for both black and color ink, which keeps its cost-per-print excellently low since you shouldn't need to replace them often. It has a wide range of connectivity options, both wired and wireless, and it also supports Apple AirPrint and Mopria Print Service.
It has great scanner features, equipped with an automatic document feeder and a flatbed scanner. The scanner lid's hinges can raise to accommodate thick items like a textbook. While the flatbed's resolution isn't as high as other options, it should still be good enough for scanning notes or pages. It has impressive color accuracy if you need to add a splash of color to a document, but it isn't recommended if you're in a program that requires exact color reproduction.
Unfortunately, although it prints color documents and photos remarkably fast, it's quite slow at printing black documents. It doesn't support Bluetooth printing, which might be annoying if this is something you value. Also, the cost of replacing all three color cartridges at once can get expensive, but at least you shouldn't need to replace them too often. Overall, this is an exceptional laser printer if you're looking for something with a remarkably high page yield.
If you're looking for a cheaper monochrome alternative, the Canon imageCLASS MF445dw is a good option. This all-in-one laser printer is just as well-built as the Canon imageCLASS MF743Cdw, but it's cheaper and prints documents significantly faster. It has a much higher page yield, and, since it only uses a black toner and doesn't use color toners, the cost-per-print is lower. Unfortunately, it's worse at printing photos since they look washed out and lacking detail.
If you're looking for a laser printer that lets you print in color, get the MF743Cdw, but if you only print in black-and-white and want to spend less money, get the MF445dw.
The best printer for students we've tested in the budget category is the Canon PIXMA TR7520. It's a fairly compact, all-in-one inkjet model that should fit well in tight spaces, like a dorm room or on a small desk. It has a high-resolution scanner that's great for scanning notes and pages from a textbook, and it also has an automatic document feeder to quickly process multiple pages at once.
It has great connectivity options, letting you print via USB cable, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, and through its Apple AirPrint and Mopria Print Service support. Produced photos look great, with well-defined, deep, and reasonably-accurate colors. It has a great cost-per-print, and there are high-yield versions of the cartridges that are expected to last even longer and save you more money in the long run, but we don't test for this.
Unfortunately, the black page yield is poor, so you may need to replace the cartridge often, especially if you print a lot. While it prints photos very quickly, it's quite slow at printing black-only and color documents. Also, it can't print directly off a USB thumb drive or SD card. That said, this is still a great printer for students if you're on a budget but still need a model that is packed with features.
Feb 12, 2021: Replaced the Canon imageCLASS MF644Cdw with the Canon imageCLASS MF743Cdw for 'Best Laser Printer for Students' due to better performance, and replaced the Canon PIXMA TS8220 with the Canon PIXMA TR7520 for 'Best Budget Printer for Students' because the TS8220 is discontinued. Moved Canon PIXMA TS5320 from 'Cheaper Alternative' to Notable Mentions since it's no longer cheaper than the budget pick.
Dec 15, 2020: Updated text for accuracy and clarity; no changes to product picks.
Jul 23, 2020: Replaced the Canon PIXMA TR7520 with Canon PIXMA TS8220, replaced the Brother MFC-L2750DW with the 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.