While small printers generally lack features and don't have the best print quality, they're very convenient, especially if you need to travel with one or have a small room where every inch counts. Small printers come in many forms; you can find all-in-ones designed for home use, portable models with a built-in rechargeable battery, and even film-based printers that produce polaroid-like pictures. To help you with your purchasing decision, we've put together a few top picks for different budgets. The list is short for now but will grow as we review more printers.
We've tested over 135 printers, and below are our recommendations for the best compact printers you can buy. You can also check our picks for the best printers, the best printers for college students, and the best wireless printers.
The best small printer we've tested is the HP OfficeJet 250, a portable model with a built-in rechargeable battery. This compact all-in-one is great for people who travel a lot for work or need to run a kiosk at an outdoor event, away from any electrical outlet. It fits easily into most mid-size backpacks, and its battery is good for about 225 prints. Despite its compact design, you still get a sheetfed scanner. It's a little slow as it only processes four sheets per minute. Still, it's convenient, and the scan quality is great. You can connect to the printer via USB or Wi-Fi and print directly from a USB flash drive.
This printer produces sharp black and color documents that look good enough for a professional work environment. However, it prints very slowly at three black or six color pages per minute when plugged in and even slower when running on battery. Also, it can only print 100-150 pages before the ink runs out, so you'll need to replace the cartridges often. The cartridges are relatively cheap, but the cost will still add up if you print regularly. Also, it uses a tri-color cartridge, which means you'll have to replace the color cartridge even if one color runs out. You can get XL cartridges that'll last longer, and the printer accepts third-party ink, which might help save some money.
If you find our top pick too expensive, check out the Canon PIXMA TR150. It's even smaller than the HP OfficeJet 250, so it takes up less space and is easier to carry around, but it's a print-only unit, meaning it doesn't have a scanner. You can connect to the printer via USB or Wi-Fi, and thanks to its support for Apple AirPrint and Mopria Print Service, you can print easily from your mobile device without installing any drivers or third-party apps. The printer can generate its own wireless signal (Wi-Fi Direct) if you aren't in range of an existing Wi-Fi network.
The print quality of black and color documents is good; text looks sharp, and most of the fine elements are visible and clear. However, colored areas, like in a graph or pie chart, look noticeably grainy, and that graininess is also visible in photos. Unfortunately, it prints slowly at seven black or three color pages per minute, and while it can print double-sided, it can only do so manually, meaning you have to flip the pages yourself when prompted. You can expect to get around 180 black and 190 color prints from a set of ink cartridges, which isn't a lot, but the cartridges are cheap, so you won't have to spend too much on replacement ink.
For those on a tighter budget, we recommend the HP DeskJet 3755, the best small home printer we've tested. You may find this printer under a different model number, as it changes depending on the region and retailer, like the HP DeskJet 3772 or 3752. You can see all the variants in our full review. Unlike our picks above, this model is less suitable for on-the-go use as it lacks an internal battery, meaning you must use it plugged in. It's also a little more cumbersome because it's wider and taller. It's still a very compact printer and a great choice for tight spaces, like a bedroom or dorm room.
The biggest drawback is its page yield. The ink cartridges are only good for about 100 black and 40 color prints, and even though they're cheap, you'll have to buy them often, which adds up quickly. Another downside is its slow printing speeds; it prints five black or three color pages per minute and takes over a minute and a half to print a 4" x 6" photo. It has the usual Wi-Fi and USB connectivity and even packs a sheetfed scanner to scan sheets up to 8.5" x 14".
If you need a portable photo printer to take to parties or gatherings, the Canon SELPHY Square QX10 might be what you're looking for. This model feels well-built and is tiny enough to fit easily into a handbag. You can connect your smartphone or tablet to the printer via an existing wireless network and easily print via the Canon SELPHY Photo Layout mobile app. You can also use this app to create collages and add decorative elements like borders and overlays. It has an internal rechargeable battery, but it can only print about 20 photos before needing a recharge.
As for its print quality, it isn't nearly as good as a desktop printer; however, that's normal because it produces Polaroid-like pictures that you can put in a wallet or stick on a fridge door. The dye cartridge and proprietary film always come together in packs of 20, and unfortunately, the package isn't exactly cheap, so it can get very expensive if you print a lot.
The best small laser printer we've tested is the Pantum P2502W. This monochrome print-only unit is super compact compared to most laser printers, making it a great option for people in small apartments or dorm rooms. It produces high-quality black-and-white documents and prints up to 23 pages per minute. With a page yield of around 2000 prints, you won't have to replace the toner often unless you have a large print load. Plus, the toner cartridge is relatively cheap. The drum is in the cartridge, which makes maintenance easier; however, this can also be an inconvenience if the drum gets damaged while there's still toner left, as you would have to discard the remaining toner.
Unfortunately, this printer doesn't support automatic duplex printing, meaning you'll have to flip the pages manually when printing double-sided. It also sometimes pushes printed pages off the output tray, resulting in out-of-order sheets, which can be frustrating during large print jobs. Lastly, remember this is a print-only unit, so you need to be sure you won't need to scan anything.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best compact printers for most people. 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.