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 85 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 isn't 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 is a feature-rich all-in-one with an excellent cost-per-print. It isn't the most compact, but it's amazingly well-built and designed to give easy access to toner cartridges and paper jams. It has a flatbed scanner with a lid that can extend for thicker items like books and an automatic document feeder that supports duplex scanning.
The cartridge system is exceptional because it yields an incredible number of black and color pages, which means you shouldn't have to replace the toner cartridges often, saving you money over time. Plus, the drum unit is built into the cartridge, so you don't have to replace it manually. It isn't the fastest for printing black-only documents, but it churns out color documents very quickly. It can perform double-sided printing, and its input tray can hold up to 300 sheets of paper.
It has a lot of connectivity options, including support for USB drives, NFC, and direct printing via AirPrint or Mopria. Its companion mobile app is available for Android and iOS, and it lets you print, scan, and make copies directly from your smartphone. Unfortunately, while its color accuracy is impressive, its photo printing quality is only mediocre, which is expected of most laser printers. Nonetheless, it's an excellent color laser printer that should meet most student's needs.
If you only print in black and want to save some money, then check out the Canon imageCLASS MF445dw. It's very similar to the Canon imageCLASS MF743Cdw, but it can only print in black. It has a higher black page yield that leads to a much lower cost-per-print, which is great for students on a budget. It prints very quickly, and its input tray can hold up to 350 sheets of paper. It has the same scanner features and connectivity options, and it's also compatible with the Canon PRINT Business mobile app.
Overall, the MF743Cdw is a more versatile option because it can print in color. However, if you only print in black and shopping on a smaller budget, the MF445dw is a good alternative.
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 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's packed with features.
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.
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.