If you're a college student looking for a printer, the good news is that there are many choices out there. There are a variety of printers that are well suited for producing detailed photos, quickly printing out many black-and-white sheets, or giving you the lowest cost-per-print possible. It's important to choose the printer that's best suited for your needs so that you don't end up spending more on replacement cartridges than the printer itself or too much for an expensive printer you only plan to use a few times a year. You'll also want to consider the printer's printing speed, connectivity options, and mobile app support. We've included both inkjet and laser options while keeping your budget in mind.
We've tested over 105 printers, and below are the best printers for college students that we recommend. 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 that we've tested is the Brother MFC-J4335DW. This model is the replacement for the Brother MFC-J805DW INKvestment Tank. Like its predecessor, it uses the INKvestment Tank, a hybrid cartridge–tank system, for excellent page yields at an outstandingly low cost-per-print. It means you'll rarely need to replace the cartridges, even if you print often.
The build quality is great, with easy access to paper jams. It warms up very quickly to print out the first page, and the overall printing speeds are great. The scanning features are great, including a flatbed with an outstanding scan resolution and an automatic document feeder for multi-page documents. The connectivity options are great, including Wi-Fi Direct, Apple AirPrint, and Mopria Print Service, and you can use the companion app to print, scan, and copy from your phone.
Unfortunately, it doesn't support Bluetooth, which might be inconvenient for some. The photos it prints look only okay, with washed-out blacks and plenty of grain throughout the photo. It also takes a long time to print them. Fortunately, colors have decent accuracy, which should be fine for normal use. All in all, it's a great all-in-one printer that should fit the needs of any student, and it's also one of the best printers with cheap ink that we've tested.
If you know you'll be printing very frequently, you're probably already considering a printer with a supertank like the Epson EcoTank ET-2760. It doesn't print nearly as quickly as the Brother MFC-J4335DW, and it doesn't have an automatic document feeder to quickly process long documents. However, it uses a supertank system and has far superior page yields at a significantly lower cost-per-print. It also prints somewhat better-looking photos. Sadly, colors are significantly less accurate, which might be a problem even for casual use. It also doesn't feel as well built and sturdy.
If you want a printer with better scanning features and fast print speeds, go with the Brother. However, if you want a printer with a supertank, far superior page yields, and an exceptionally low cost-per-print, go with the EcoTank.
The best printer for students for black and white printing that we've tested is the Brother HL-L2390DW. This monochrome laser model feels amazingly well built and solid, with easy access to paper jams from the rear and a paper tray cassette that expands to accommodate different paper sizes. While it doesn't have a large footprint, it's fairly tall.
The cartridge system has an amazing black page yield, so you won't need to replace the cartridge often, and because the toner is fairly inexpensive, the cost-per-print is superb as a result. Printing speed for black-only text documents is superbly quick, so essays print in no time. Its flatbed scanner has a good resolution and color depth, and the lid's hinges lift to easily scan thicker items.
Unfortunately, the photos it prints are monochrome and have terrible quality, but this is expected from a laser printer. Keep in mind, because the drum unit is separate, you also need to replace it eventually. While its connectivity options are decent, it doesn't support printing via Bluetooth or directly from external storage. All in all, this is a great black and white printer for college students, and it's also one of the best laser printers we've tested.
If you don't need a scanner and want to save a bit of money, check out the Brother HL-L2370DW. It doesn't have a flatbed scanner like the Brother HL-L2390DW, and its display screen is even worse, but it's cheaper and has an even better cost-per-print. It's a simple, straightforward monochrome laser unit that prints black-only documents faster and has an even better black-only page yield. You can also get an XXL-size high-yield cartridge that should give an even better page yield and cost-per-print, though we haven't tested this. You can also use its Ethernet port for network printing if you need it. Unfortunately, it isn't any better suited for printing photos.
If you need a monochrome laser printer with more features, including a scanner, go with the L2390DW. If you want to save some money and don't mind not having a scanner, go with the L2370DW.
The best printer for students for photos that we've tested is the Canon PIXMA TR4520. This unit is within the budget range but includes very good scanning features like a flatbed with a high scan resolution and an automatic document feeder for multi-page documents. The connectivity options are decent, including Wi-Fi via router and Apple AirPrint.
It prints impressive-looking photos with clear details and vibrant colors that are decently accurate. Automatic duplex printing is supported, so you can easily print double-sided documents. Also, the cost-per-print for color documents and photos is decent, thanks to the cheap tri-color cartridge. You can also use the Canon PRINT Inkjet/SELPHY companion app to print, scan, and copy directly from your mobile device.
Unfortunately, it yields a terrible number of black pages, and the color page yields are disappointing. It prints very slowly overall, so you'll have to wait for long documents. There's no support for Wi-Fi Direct or external storage, which might make it difficult to print from different devices. Overall, this is a good choice for students who need to print great-looking photos for classes or just for fun.
The best cheap printer for students that we've tested is the Brother MFC-J1205W. It feels very well built, with easy access to paper jams via a door on the rear and the ink cartridges in the front right. You can push the output tray all the way in to make the printer more compact if you aren't using it, which is good if you're low on desk space.
It uses Brother's proprietary INKvestment Tank, a hybrid cartridge–tank system, for great page yields at a superbly cheap cost-per-print, which is great if you print plenty of research papers or essays. There's also a flatbed scanner with a good scan resolution, meaning you can digitize handwritten notes, and the lid hinges raise slightly for scanning thicker media. Also, printed photos look decent and have acceptably accurate colors. You can print via Wi-Fi Direct, Apple AirPrint, and Mopria Print Service.
Unfortunately, it prints slowly, so you'll need to wait a little while for longer print jobs to finish. There's also no Bluetooth support, which might be inconvenient for some, and you can't print directly from external media. Although it doesn't have a display, there are five buttons with LED indicator lights that tell you the printer's status. All in all, this printer is an excellent choice for students who need to print on a budget.
Oct 08, 2021: Made the Brother MFC-J4335DW 'Best All-In-One', replacing the Epson EcoTank ET-3820. Added the Canon PIXMA TR4720 to Notable Mentions. Verified accuracy and availability of picks, and updated text for clarity.
Aug 10, 2021: Made the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-3820 'Best All-In-One', and the Canon PIXMA TR4520 'Best Photo', as the Brother MFC-J805DW INKvestment Tank and the Canon PIXMA TS6320 are difficult to find in stock at a reasonable price. Made the Brother MFC-J1205W 'Best Cheap' as it has much better page yields than the HP DeskJet 3755. Moved the Brother MFC-J805DW INKvestment Tank, the Canon PIXMA TS6320, and the HP DeskJet 3755 to Notable Mentions.
Jun 11, 2021: Changed the categories and pick recommendations to better line up with student needs. Added the Brother MFC-J805DW INKvestment Tank, Brother HL-L2390DW, Brother HL-L2370DW, Canon PIXMA TS6320, and HP DeskJet 3755 as picks.
Apr 13, 2021: Verified accuracy of picks. No change in recommendations.
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.
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.