Skip to main content

Best student printers for 2021

Canon Pixma TR8620 review
(Image credit: Canon)

The best student printers are perfect for printing homework and getting information in hardcopy, whether it's for kids in grade school or adults in grad school. Whether you want the best affordable printer or the best laser printer for students, a printer is essential for today's learning environment, where the research may be online, but the assignments may need to be handed in physically, or whenever a professor's presentation needs a good markup for your notes.

The world may be going paperless, but the classroom often lags behind, making a good printer a must-have for the start of the school year. So skip the trip to Kinkos or the pay-per-page printer at your school library by outfitting yourself with one of the best printers for students. When you need to hand in a paper, print a report, put together a project or prep a presentation, having your own printer to do it on will make hitting those due dates a lot less nerve-wracking.

What are the best student printers?

The best student printer overall is also one of the best inkjet printers you can buy, the Brother INKvestment MFC-J995DW. With an ink-saving that features high-capacity refillable tanks and all-in-one functionality to copy, scan and fax in addition to great printing, it's our top recommendation for school-minded shoppers.

Similarly, the Epson EcoTank ET-4760 is the best ink saving printer for students, leveraging a similar set of user-refillable ink tanks to drop ink costs down to a fraction of a cent per page. And with plenty of ink included in the box, you won't have to refill anything for the first few thousand pages – enough to get you through the busiest semester without a single panicked ink purchase.

And you can ditch regular ink entirely with the Brother HL-L2390DW, the best laser printer for students. With a reasonable price and crisp black-and-white printing, it's perfect for printing off page after page of assignments, provided you don't need color.

The best student printers you can buy now

Brother INKvestment MFC-J995DW

(Image credit: Brother)

1. Brother INKvestment MFC-J995DW

Best student printer overall

Specifications
Printer Type: Inkjet
Features: Print, copy, scan, fax
Display: 2.7-inch color touch screen
Ink/Toner: Four cartridges (black, cyan, magenta, yellow)
Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Reasons to buy
+Very low cost per page+Fast at printing text and graphics+Quick scanning and copying speeds
Reasons to avoid
-Specialty media tray limited to one sheet-Mediocre color-photo scans

The best printer for students overall is the Brother INKvestment MFC-J995DW, which does more than just offer solid printing, scanning and copying capabilities. It also delivers the best balance of purchase price and operating costs, coming with enough ink in the box for an estimated year's worth of printing, and extra large user-refillable ink tanks that drop printing costs to the lowest cost-per-page we've seen.

The all-in-one inkjet is impressive on other fronts, too. Printing is quick and better than average compared to other inkjets. It also has built-in scanning, copying and fax capability, with an extra specialty media tray for handling photo paper and other unique paper types. All told, it's a great printer even without the extra savings on ink. Between the excellent printing and speedy copying, it's a great printer for any student, whether it's a highschooler at home or an older student living in the dorms.

Read our full Brother INKvestment MFC-J995DW review.

Epson EcoTank ET-4760 review

(Image credit: Epson)

2. Epson EcoTank ET-4760

Best ink saving printer for students

Specifications
Printer Type: Inkjet
Features: Print, copy, scan, fax
Display: 2.4-inch color touchscreen
Ink/Toner: Four refillable ink tanks (pigment black, cyan, magenta, yellow)
Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Reasons to buy
+Fast printing and copying+Very low ink costs+Quick duplexer+High image quality
Reasons to avoid
-No secondary paper tray-High price-Duplex prints look lighter than single-sided prints-Does not make two-sided copies/scans via ADF

For another excellent student printer that puts savings at the forefront, the Epson EcoTank ET-7460 is a great choice. Built to handle thousands of pages, it's ideal for a busy home, whether it's a family with many students or a shared apartment where everyone has a heavy course load. The printer comes with the first set of ink bottles, and enough ink for an estimated 7,500 pages (black) and 6,000 pages (color) before ever worrying about refills. Even when you buy new ink, you'll get plenty of bang for your buck, with costs of less than a cent per page.

Speedy printing and copying make it a smart pick for any busy home office or small team, though you might miss having a second paper tray. Regardless, the printer's relatively compact footprint and convenient two-sided printing make it a winner for day-to-day productivity.

Read our full Epson EcoTank ET-4760 review

Brother HL-L2390DW

(Image credit: Brother)

3. Brother HL-L2390DW

Best laser printer for students

Specifications
Printer Type: Laser
Features: Print, copy, scan, fax
Display: 2-Line backlit LCD
Ink/Toner: Black cartridge
Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n, Hi-Speed USB 2.0, Wi Fi Direct
Reasons to buy
+Fast printing and black-and-white scanning+High image quality+Very low cost per page+Above-average color scanning speed
Reasons to avoid
-No document feeder-No fax capability

The best laser printer for students is the Brother HL-L2390DW, a monochrome all-in-one printer that offers one thing rarely seen in a laser printer: a low price of entry. That should be enough to attract the attention of shoppers that might consider most laser printers too pricey, but its performance and feature set are nothing to scoff at, either. Prints are sharp and faster than average; this printer handles scans and copies quickly, as well. And while the monochrome printer is limited to black-and-white printing, the full-color scanner delivers true-to-life color capture and fast scanning.

But it's not just affordable at purchase; operating costs are low, too, with a cost per page of 3.7 cents using standard-capacity toner cartridges and just 2.7 cents with high-capacity toner. If you want the benefits of a laser printer without the usual expense, the Brother HL-L2390DW is our best pick for students.

Read our full Brother HL-L2390DW review.

Canon Pixma TR8620

(Image credit: Canon)

4. Canon Pixma TR8620

Best photo and art printer for students

Specifications
Printer Type: Inkjet
Features: Print, copy, scan, fax
Display: 4.3-inch color touchscreen
Ink/Toner: Five cartridges (black, pigment-black, cyan, magenta, yellow)
Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Reasons to buy
+Fast photo printing+Quick to make copies+High image quality+ADF and duplexer
Reasons to avoid
-Ink costs are above average-Does not make two-sided copies/scans via ADF-Some scan/copy settings not in LCD menus

The Canon Pixma TR8620 is a great printer for students, with a ton of features, from scanning and faxing to a 20-page automatic document feeder (ADF), a duplexer for two-sided printing, and two paper trays for keeping two types of paper at the ready. A big 4.3-inch color touchscreen makes it easy to control, and the printer supports smart home integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

It's a great student printer, with faster-than-average print speeds and high print quality overall. But it's an especially good printer for art and photography students. Text and color graphics all look great, but we noted that glossy photos printed impressively fast, and the use of a 5-ink cartridge system with two types of black ink resulted in photos with high-quality accuracy: Natural-looking colors, sharp details and smooth transitions. Really, our only big complaint with the Pixma TR8620 is the above average cost of ink, due partially to the expense of the extra ink cartridge.

Read our full Canon Pixma TR8620 review.

HP Tango X

5. HP Tango X

Best compact printer for students

Specifications
Printer Type: Inkjet
Features: Print (Scan and copy via smartphone app)
Display: None
Ink: Two cartridges (black & tri-color)
Connectivity: Wireless, Wi-Fi Direct
Reasons to buy
+High print quality+Quick graphics and photo printing+Text printing is faster than average+Compact, stylish design
Reasons to avoid
-No flatbed scanner-No control panel for stand-alone operation-Copy/scan quality from smartphone app is poor-Copying is slow

When it comes to fitting a printer into a small living space, like a dorm or an apartment, the HP Tango X is the best printer to get. The compact printer's tiny footprint makes it easy to keep on a desk without giving up usable space, and it's easy to move, weighing just 7.5 pounds. But you do have to give up some features for that tiny size and weight, like a built-in scanner (you can use the accompanying phone app for document capture) and no physical USB port (you'll have to connect via Wi-Fi).

But this little inkjet still offers reliable high-quality printing, even for photos, and ink costs aren't too bad. The biggest issues stem from its reliance on using a smartphone for scanning and copying, but in today's mobile environment, that might be as much of a selling point as a complaint.

Read our full HP Tango X review.

Canon Pixma TR150

(Image credit: Canon)

6. Canon Pixma TR150

Best portable printer for students

Specifications
Printer Type: Mobile inkjet
Features: Print only, optional battery for mobile use
Display: 1.4-inch monochrome OLED display
Ink: Two cartridges ( four-color cyan, magenta and yellow, dye black cartridge + pigment black cartridge)
Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n/a, USB 2.0
Reasons to buy
+Fast text printing+Low ink costs+Attractive photo prints+Optional battery pack
Reasons to avoid
-Print quality is middle-of-the-road-No copy or scan functions-Small, monochrome OLED display

If you want a printer that you can actually take with you to class or the library, then our pick is the Canon Pixma TR150, a portable inkjet printer that's small enough to carry in a backpack, but big enough to print everything from 4x6 photos to 8.5 x 11 documents. With a two-cartridge system, its ink is affordable and lends itself well to a variety of printing uses. But where the Canon really stands out is photo printing. 

The Pixma TR150 made high-quality photos faster than other competing portable printers, and delivered excellent color and detail. It can also handle larger photo prints, but unlike some of our photo printing favorites, there is no copy or scan capability. You do get a solidly built portable printer with optional battery and even support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice controls, but we love it for the great photos and low ink costs it offers.

Read our full Canon Pixma TR150 review

HP Smart Tank Plus 651

(Image credit: HP)

7. HP Smart Tank Plus 651

Best ink saver for a full house

Specifications
Printer Type: Inkjet
Features: Print, copy, scan, fax
Display: 2.2-inch monochrome touch screen
Ink/Toner: Four ink tanks (black, cyan, magenta, yellow)
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Ethernet, USB 2.0
Reasons to buy
+Extremely low ink costs+High print quality+Fast scanning of black-and-white pages to PDF
Reasons to avoid
-Frustratingly slow copying and color scanning-Sluggish printing of color graphics-Small, monochrome touch screen

If you've got a crowded house full of students, you may want to plan ahead to keep printing costs to a minimum. The HP Smart Tank Plus 651 is HP's answer to the Epson EcoTank and other printers that reduce ink costs by using refillable ink tanks instead of expensive cartridges. With thousands of pages worth of ink included with the printer, the Smart Tank Pro 651 delivers high-quality prints for only a fraction of a cent per page. Aside from the inexpensive ink, The HP also delivers high quality across the board, with sharp looking prints that have sharp letterforms and well-saturated colors, and natural-looking color when printing glossy photos.

Unfortunately, that level of quality wasn't matched with great speeds, and the HP's printing, scanning and copying capabilities were all hobbled by significantly slower-than-average output. Additionally, the Smart Tank Pro 651 has a tiny 2.2-inch touch screen for controlling printer functions, and the monochrome readout did not impress.

Read our full HP Smart Tank Plus 651 review.  

How to choose the best student printer

When it comes to buying a printer for back to school season, there are a lot of things to consider. Whether you have a preteen student, or you're In the classroom yourself, there are several things to consider when buying a new printer.

Price: The biggest factor for most back to school shoppers will be fitting it into the budget. Whether you're a student buying a printer for yourself or a parent helping get your kid outfitted for the school year, you want something that performs, but won't be too expensive.

The cheapest inkjet printers can come in at tantalizingly low prices – our best printer deals page includes several models for under $100 – but we've found the sweet spot for affordability to sit between $200 and $300. Anything less, and you risk getting shoddy print quality, or you'll likely lose the savings through expensive ink refills the first time you have to buy cartridges. And laser printers tend to be more expensive to buy, starting at around $250 for the cheapest models.

Laser vs. Inkjet: As a rule, inkjet printers are cheaper to buy than laser printer models, even among the best all-in-one printers, but laser printers offer a lower cost-per-page for printing. Laser printers also deliver higher quality text printing, with sharper letterforms and virtually no print errors. If you anticipate printing at a high volume or wanting a cleaner look for your printed work, one of the best laser printers may be worth the investment. On the other hand, inkjet printers are far better at printing in color, offering better printing for graphics and photos. (Learn more about print technologies in our article Inkjet vs. Laser: Which printer is right for you?)

Dimensions: Size is a big issue, especially for college students who may be adapting to dorm life, or who might be moving with each semester change. Printers can be large or small, but laser printers tend to be significantly larger than inkjet printers, even those with built-in scanning and copying functions. If you really want something small, you can select one of the best portable printers, which include several tiny inkjet models, but you'll be giving up functions and print quality to get that smaller size.

Cost per page: The cost of a printer starts with the initial purchase price, but it doesn't end there. Using a printer entails buying paper, ink or toner, and refilling both as you go. As a result, some printers will cost more to print a single page than others. Generally speaking, laser printers offer the cheapest cost per page (often for just pennies per page), but newer tank-based inkjet printers frequently drop printing costs down to a fraction of a cent.

Use case: Finally, look at your own specific use case, and find a printer that fits your needs. If your course load requires lots of printed reports and essays, then a laser printer might be the best option, offering fast printing for a low cost per page. If you are studying art or photography, then you should consider one of the best photo printers, which support more advanced printing options, such as a wider selection of inks, broader symbol support for different types of paper, and high quality image printing. 

Check out the rest of our printer coverage:

Best printers | Best all-in-one printers | Best photo printers | Best portable printers | Best laser printers 

Brian Westover
Brian Westover is an Editor at Tom's Guide, covering everything from TVs to the latest PCs. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.