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 65 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, 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 need a printer with a supertank, go with the Epson.
The best laser printer for college students that we've tested is the Canon imageCLASS MF644Cdw. Its superb design gives easy access to paper jams and toner cartridges, and its input tray has sliders to accommodate almost any paper size you need. It has a flatbed scanner, an automatic document feeder that can perform duplex scanning, and the scanner lid has hinges that can open wide enough to scan a thick textbook.
The cost-per-print is impressively low thanks to its outstandingly high page yield for both color and black-only documents. Although the color cartridges are quite expensive, especially if you need to replace all three at once, you shouldn't need to replace them too often. Black-only and color documents both print out quite fast, so you can get those last-minute assignments in your hand quite quickly. It also has great connectivity options, letting you print via Wi-Fi, an Apple or Android device, or an external storage device.
Unfortunately, it's pretty terrible at printing photos, with some areas missing detail and others containing a lot of banding, but this is common for a laser printer. Colors aren't very accurate, but it should be decently accurate enough for a pop of color in a report. Although you might have trouble finding a spot for its bulky size in your dorm room, this printer might be worth the compromise if you want a very good laser printer with a high page yield and low cost-per-print.
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 MF644Cdw, but it's cheaper and prints documents significantly faster. It has a much higher page yield, and its cost-per-print is even lower, so you can print a large number of lengthy documents before you need to replace the cartridges. Unfortunately, it's worse than the MF644Cdw at printing photos since they come out looking washed out and lacking detail.
If you're looking for a laser printer that lets you print in color, get the MF644Cdw, but if you only print in black-and-white and want to spend less money, get the MF445dw.
The best printer for college students in the budget category is the Canon PIXMA TS8220. This all-in-one inkjet printer is an excellent option for students, thanks in part to its compact design that fits great in small apartments or dorm rooms. It feels pretty sturdy overall and has a removable power cable, making it easy to replace in case it gets damaged. There's a scanner flatbed with extendable hinges that allows thicker documents or textbooks to be copied.
While the black cartridges don't hold much ink, they aren't very expensive, ensuring a very low cost-per-print. Color cartridges are significantly more expensive, but they have a higher page yield, meaning you won't have to replace them very often. It's pretty slow at delivering both black-only and color documents, but photos come out relatively quickly. The photo quality is great, with very little graininess or banding.
Unfortunately, because it only has a flatbed scanner, scanning multi-page documents might be very time-consuming and tedious since you'll have to do it all by hand. Also, paper jams are an even bigger pain because you need to lift quite a few parts to reach them. Colors are inaccurate, but this shouldn't matter unless you need great color representation in your assignments. Nevertheless, the Canon is still an amazing budget printer for students and is among the best wireless printers that we've tested.
If you were looking for something cheaper, check out the Canon PIXMA TS5320. Although its cost-per-print is higher and its page yield is significantly lower than the Canon PIXMA TS8220, it's cheaper upfront and has a slightly better photo quality, which could be important if you need to submit images with your school assignments. As for printing speeds, the two are almost identical for black-only documents, but color and photo prints are significantly longer with the TS5320. Also, colors are fairly inaccurate, but this shouldn't be a problem for occasional splashes of color on a document.
If you want a printer that will cost you less per print and has a higher page yield, go for the TS8220, but if you want something cheaper upfront that prints better photo quality, get the TS5320.
10/28/2020: 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.