Do you need a printer in 2024?
You might wonder whether you need a printer at all in 2024, but the reality is that ‘hard copy’ is alive and well.
The most obvious moment you’ll long for one is when printing a courier or post label. Using Royal Mail can be cheaper when you go through the website, but this requires a home printer. Clothing return labels present a similar challenge, especially when the return has been organised by the retailer.
Parents will be familiar with the demands of printing homework for schoolage children, of course, and while many important documents can be stored online, printing them is helpful as a backup.
Finally, you might need to print legal contracts or travel documents like a boarding pass or ticket in case you lose your phone (or the battery dies). See, having a capable home printer isn’t a bad idea.
How much does a printer cost?
Printers come in all shapes, sizes and prices. Many home printers offer a convenient ‘allinone’ configuration, so you can scan, photocopy and print from the same unit.
These are invaluable for offices and remote work and don’t cost too much more than standard printonly models. Look at running costs too. Paper and ink add up, so always check out the cost per page (especially for highvolume use).
If you just need a basic printer and don’t mind compromises on speed and a screen, you can pick up a model like the HP DeskJet 2721e or the Canon Pixma TR4650 for between £60 and £70. Or if just want to print your favourite snaps straight from your phone, it’s worth looking at portable photo printers from brands like Instax, Polaroid and Kodak.
They won’t be fast, but if you only print one page every two weeks they’re more than enough. The printers on our list are a bit more expensive – around the £150£250 mark – as they have better build quality and features, but it’s not necessary to splurge on a highend model if you won’t use it a lot.
What to consider when buying a printer
So there’s a very good argument about why you need a printer, even now. Hold off for one second, here’s everything you need to think about before buying one:
The world of printers is confusing, but there are two types you need to know about. Laser printers are designed for office use – as they excel at speedily blasting out black and white documents – but are usually more expensive than the second type, and that’s inkjet.
These are made for the home user and are more affordable and better at handling colour jobs.
Although most of the printers on our list are inkjet, smaller laser printers are available and are worth considering if you need lots of highquality printing. Assuming you’re looking at home use, inkjets are broken down into ‘allinone’ devices, and basic printers.
The basic models are ideal if you want to get the very lowest price point, but the ‘allinone’ printers offer more flexibility, tend to be only slightly larger and have a flatbed scanner on top so they can be used as photocopiers and scanners, too.
A consistent wifi connection is essential for most modern printers to work well wirelessly, so you don’t want to place it too far from your home’s internet router. Luckily, a cable connection directly connecting the model to your computer via USB is usually an option too, and that approach can be useful if your wifi is fussy.
Consider whether you want a builtin screen. While that might sound excessive, it helps when pairing a printer to your wifi for the first time, and the chances of needing to reconnect the printer at a future point are strong, whether due to a change of your internet provider, if you suffer a power cut, or you’re moving the printer to another home.
Most brands have an app that is helpful for the connection process, and for printers without a screen, it’s a crucial aid.
While most home printers can connect to your laptop or desktop computer using a supplied USB cable, you’ll want to consider if the model also has any additional options. Most models pair to your computer via your wifi or link up wirelessly and let you send documents or photos from a smartphone app.
Apple’s approach is AirPrint, and the option for Android is Mopria. Manufacturers usually have their own app for setting up and sending documents from your smartphone or tablet, such as the Canon Print app or Brother iPrint and Scan.
Ink subscriptions are growing in popularity, with each manufacturer pushing their own version.
The benefits are discounts on the retail costs of refills, and the (genuinely helpful) avoidance of running out of ink at an inconvenient moment. The downside is an ongoing cost, but these are usually affordable if you don’t print too much.
The cost will vary depending on the model of your printer, and the amount of ink you need, but manufacturers in general have opted for tiered pricing systems so there should be an option that suits you.
However, for occasional users, it might prove less hassle to buy cartridges as needed, in spite of the higher cost per page. Luckily, there are lots of thirdparty options available on sites like Inkfactory, Cartridge World and Cartridge People.