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 it'll grow as we review more printers.
We've tested over 120 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. This compact all-in-one is a great option if you travel for work, as it fits easily into a medium to large backpack, and you don't even need an outlet to use it because it has an internal rechargeable battery. The battery is good for about 225 prints and takes around two hours to charge. Despite the printer's compact size, you still get a sheetfed scanner that produces high-quality scans and a touch-sensitive color display to make navigating the settings easier. It has USB and Wi-Fi connectivity and can print directly from a USB flash drive.
As for its print quality, it 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 it's even slower when running on battery. Also, it can only print 100-150 pages before the ink runs out, meaning you'll need to replace the cartridges often. The cartridges aren't overly expensive, but the cost will add up quickly if you print a lot. On the upside, 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 print quality for black and color documents is good; text looks sharp, and fine elements are present. However, colored areas, like in a graph or pie chart, look noticeably grainy, and that graininess is also visible in photos. As for its printing speed, it's very slow at seven black or three color pages per minute, and while it can print double-sided sheets, it can only do so manually, meaning you have to flip the pages yourself when prompted. The cartridges yield about 180 black and 190 color prints, which isn't a lot, but they're cheap, so it won't cost too much to maintain over time.
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 isn't as suitable for on-the-go use as it lacks an internal battery, meaning you have to use it plugged in. It's also a little more cumbersome to carry because it's wider and taller. That said, 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 that can scan sheets up to 8.5" x 14" in size.
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. It supports Wi-Fi Direct, meaning it can generate its own Wi-Fi signal, so you can pretty much use it anywhere, even outdoors. Naturally, as it's a portable printer, it runs on battery, and the battery is only good for about 20 prints.
As for its print quality, it isn't nearly as good as a desktop printer; however, that's normal because it's designed to produce 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. It works with Canon's SELPHY Photo Layout mobile app, which you can use to create collages and add decorative elements like borders and overlays.
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.