Back to School Buyer’s Guide: Top 10 printers

by Reads (6,796)

Much to the chagrin of students everywhere, it’s August and the summer is officially winding down. But the season brings one bonus to kids and parents alike: back to school sales!


The staff at has put together a top ten list of printers for those students, teachers, and parents getting ready to hit the books again this fall.

And since the sluggish economy has hit us all, we’ve included tips on finding cheap(er) supplies to keep your new printer running. So what are you waiting for? Go on – find the perfect printer for your student!


Canon Pixma MP990

1. Canon Pixma MP990 –

The Canon PIXMA MP990 Wireless Photo All-in-one printer is number one on our list because it’s a great all around printer as well as an Editor’s Choice Award winner. 

The photo quality is fabulous and the MP990 allows users to scan in old film negatives for making duplicates easily.  The MP990 also features a 2-way feeding allowing the printer to hold more paper as well as allowing users to separate media (copy paper vs. photo paper).

We originally recommend this printer to any household, student or small workgroup but it could be particularly useful for a student since it has wireless as well as Hi-Speed USB connectivity (depending the dorm or apartment) as well as multiple devices and great all around print quality. 

The only potential downside is the high initial cost: $299.99 combined with ink replacement.

Read the Canon Pixma MP990 full review

2. Samsung ML-2855nd

The Samsung ML-2855ND makes it high on our list for two reasons: it’s a great value for a laser printer at $249.99 and its compact build perfect for the tiniest of dorm rooms.

No, the Samsung ML-2855nd doesn’t include multiple devices or even color printing but for students with a high print volume, it doesn’t get much cheaper to run at a measly $0.02 per page ($99.99 for a 5,000 page cartridge).

 Read the Samsung ML-2855nd full review

3. Lexmark Pinnacle –

The lexmark Pinnacle All-in-One received the number three spot on our back to school list even though it actually fell below the Photosmart Premium based on star rating (4 vs. 4 1/2 stars, respectively) because of Lexmark’s low cost ink.

Students can’t miss with the “world’s lowest cost black ink,” a $4.99 black ink cartridge that prints in excess of 500 pages (that comes down to about $0.01 a page).  The negative is the $4.99 cartridge is only available on the higher end models; the Pinnacle is regularly priced at $299.99.

Other features include: Lexmark’s SmartSolutions Technology, a large touch LCD, decent print speeds, automatic duplexing, built-in card reader with a front side USB port and wireless connectivity.

Read the Lexmark Pinnacle full review

HP Photosmart Premium

4. HP Photosmart Premium –

The HP Photosmart Premium All-in-One is a real gem for the whole family (not just the student in question) and the least expensive printer in the top five, based on the initial cost (a suggested retail value of $199.99).

The Photosmart Premium is a 3-in-1 device featuring HP’s TouchSmart screen along with good print quality (both photos and documents, print speeds up to 12 ppm in normal mode, print resolution: up to 9600 x 2400 optimized dpi, built-in memory card reader (compatible with USB), built-in duplexing and wireless, connectivity.

Read the HP Photosmart Premium full review

5. Epson PictureMate Show

The Epson PictureMate Show makes the number five spot on our list because of its unique functionality: it’s a dedicated photo printer AND a digital photo frame coming in at $299.99.

Normally, a dedicated photo printer might not make our back to school guide because it’s a bit overkill when you consider all the great photo printing AIO’s on the market.  But these days students are relying on digital media to show off their photos as well as wanting hard copies to post on their dorm room door or on their dart board after a bad breakup.

In comes the PictureMate Show!  With a 7-inch 16:9 WVGA tilt screen featuring a screen resolution of 800 x 480 dpi, the PictureMate Show can show off photos saved on a hard drive, memory card, USB flash drive or digital camera (basically anything that is compatible with a USB port). Plus, the supplies come in handy photo packs with dye cartridge for zero mess. 

Read our Epson PictureMate Show review

arrow The Supply Side

Laser Printer

When purchasing a new printer, one of the most important considerations should be the cost of supplies.  Whether you purchase an inkjet, laser or dye sub printer, before handing over the plastic, do some research on what it will cost over the long run to print from your potential new printer.  Here are three questions that every new customer should consider BEFORE purchase:

1.  How much does it cost to purchase an entire set of replacement ink or toner? 
2. What kind of printing will I be doing and what type of paper will I need to accomplish it? 
3. Does the brand offer a low cost alternative if I purchase a certain model?  Does the manufacturer offer high capacity cartridges and what are the potential savings?

Get more advice on finding the lowest cost supplies with our Supplies Buying Guide.

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