Best Small Printers of 2021

When desk space is tight, these models from Brother, Canon, and HP can help

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With space at a premium as so many of us work from home these days, a printer can take up more room than we care to spare. If you know where to look, though, it’s possible to find a compact model that performs well without monopolizing your real estate.

One option is to choose a portable printer. Designed for on-the-go use, they can run on battery power and they’re small enough to stash in a drawer.

But many lack convenient features such as an LCD screen, a memory card reader, and support for PictBridge software, which allows you to print photos directly from a camera without the use of a computer.

Most portable printers are also expensive to buy and operate, with per-page ink and maintenance costs sometimes running two to three times higher than other inkjets, according Rich Sulin, who leads CR’s printer testing program. The cartridges tend to be smaller, too, so they hold less ink, which means more trips to the store.

“Unless someone really needs the printer to be portable or needs to stow it away in a very small space, such as a mobile home, I would consider one of the smaller conventional all-in-one models, such as the Canon Pixma MG3620,” Sulin says.

We’ve picked out four of the best small printers in our ratings, including the only portable model we currently recommend and two laser printer models—notable because it’s less easy to pare that tech down. All the options have been scored by our testers on almost 250 data points. To make sure the model you buy is no different from the one we test, we purchase every product that enters our labs from a retailer—just like you would.

No matter which printer you choose, keep in mind that manufacturers often cut down on size by shrinking the capacity of the feed trays. Many small printers can handle only about 10 to 50 pages at a time.

The measurements we list for each printer are taken when it’s ready for operation, with paper trays in place.

Size: 6.1 inches high x 17.6 inches wide x 22.7 inches deep

If you want a bargain-priced all-in-one inkjet that won’t drown you in maintenance costs, the Canon Pixma MG3620 is a great option.

For $80, it will let you print, copy, and scan to your heart’s content. And when you factor in the estimated yearly ink cost of $108, your overall investment remains relatively low for an inkjet.

On the downside, you have to replace the entire color ink cartridge each time a single shade runs out. And while the model gets a solid rating for photo quality, it’s just okay for text quality. But if you’re using it to spit out forms and driving directions, that might not matter much.

Size: 10.5 inches high x 14.9 inches wide x 21.7 inches deep

If portability is what you want, the HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile is ready to go, powered by a plug or a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (sold separately for $80). And it collapses into an even smaller footprint when not in use.

At $379, the model is pricey. But it has helpful features that other portable printers lack, including a built-in LCD screen (for viewing and editing images from a memory card) and scan and copy functions—though the sheet-fed scanner processes only one page at a time.

“It requires a little care and patience,” Sulin says. “And it’s not ideal for batch scanning.”

The printer has a few other drawbacks. It gets a middling score for text and photo quality, the multicolor ink cartridge needs to be replaced when a single hue runs out, and the paper tray fits only 50 sheets. But we estimate the annual ink cost to be $97, which is typical for an inkjet.

Size: 7.2 inches high x 14.2 inches wide x 14.9 inches deep

If you don’t need to do much beyond printing term papers and recipes, this is a smart choice. It won’t scan or copy, and like a great majority of black-and-white lasers, the graphics quality is unimpressive, but the model receives exemplary scores where it counts: text quality and speed.

It also has autoduplexing capability (meaning it can print on both sides of a page). The estimated toner cost comes to about $48 per year, which is a lot cheaper than you’ll find on most other options. And laser printers tend to rate higher than inkjets for reliability and owner satisfaction.

Size: 7.5 inches high x 14.2 inches wide x 17.4 inches deep

For those who want more features, this black-and-white laser offers a good mix of space savings and functionality (copying, scanning, and a fairly generous—150 sheet—feed tray). When the feed tray is stowed away, the unit is a mere 10.4 inches deep—small enough to perhaps sit on a bookshelf.

At $79 per year, though, the estimated toner cost is high for this type of machine. And the model accepts only HP-brand cartridges. The graphics quality is poor, too, so it’s best to stick to printing text.


Image of Octavio Blanco, editor at CR with Money CIA

Octavio Blanco

My mission: To write stories that broaden readers' horizons and offer new solutions they can apply to their lives. Who I write for: My family, my friends, my neighbors, myself, and—most important—you. My passions: Music, art, coffee, cheese, good TV, and riding my electric bike (for now). Find me on Twitter: @octavionyc