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Best Small Printers of 2019

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

An illustration of a small printer.
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Printers can take up more room than some apartment dwellers and space-strapped homeowners want to spare. But if you can live with a few compromises, a number of compact printers may meet your needs.

In fact, some printers take up less than a third of the space of some inkjets without sacrificing performance.

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

They're good choices for some people, but many portable models 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 three of the best small printers in our ratings, including the only portable printer we currently recommend. All of the models in our ratings have been scored by our testers on nearly 250 data points. To make sure the one you buy is no different from the one we test, we purchase every model 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.

1
All-in-One Inkjet
Canon Pixma MG3620
Canon Pixma MG3620

    Canon Pixma MG3620

    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.

     

    You can find it for less than $50. Combined with estimated yearly ink costs just over $100, that gives it a total cost of ownership that's low for an inkjet.

       

    On the downside, you have to replace the entire color ink cartridge each time a single color runs out. And while it gets a Very Good rating for photo quality, it scores just Fair for text quality. But if you’re using it to spit out forms and driving directions, that may not matter much.

    2
    All-in-One Portable Inkjet
    HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile
    HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile

      HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile

      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 $280, the printer is pricey. But we estimate the annual ink costs to be $100, which is typical for an inkjet, and it's the only portable printer that currently earns our recommendation. It also has helpful features other portable printers lack, such as a built-in LCD screen for viewing and editing images from a memory card, and scan and copy functions—though the sheet-fed scanner on this model 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 color runs out, and the paper tray fits only 50 sheets.

      3
      Single-Function Laser Printer
      Brother HL-L2315DW
      Brother HL-L2315DW

        Brother HL-L2315DW

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

         

        The Brother HL-L2315DW replaces our previous pick for a small, single-function monochrome laser printer. It's more compact, scores almost as well, and is cheaper, too. You can buy it for about $90, and estimated toner costs come to about $50 per year.

         

        It won't scan or copy, and like a great majority of black-and-white lasers, its graphics quality is unimpressive. But it gets Excellent scores for text quality and speed, and laser printers tend to rate higher than inkjets for reliability and owner satisfaction. Those factors make this Brother a great choice if you plan to use it mainly for printing text.

         

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