Today small offices have a wide selection of printers to choose from. Color printers may be inkjets, lasers, and models based on other technologies; and monochrome lasers remain an economical choice. Another option is a multifunction printer, sometimes called an "all-in-one," which combines printing, scanning, copying, and faxing functions.
The first part of this guide details how four printers we've recently tested could work well in your small office, with links to the charts in which they are ranked and to our Shop & Compare pricing tool. (Keep in mind that online prices fluctuate constantly.) The second part of the guide offers tips on how to find the best printer for your particular work situation.
Best Printers for Small or Home Offices
The best printers for a small office or home office generate pages quickly and produce crisp output on plain paper as well as on special media. Higher-end models can hold more paper or can print in duplex mode. Multifunction printers perform a wider set of tasks without skimping on efficiency.
- PCW Rating: 82 (Very Good)
- Rank: #2 on PC World's Top 10 Inkjet Printers chart (November 2007)
- Recent low price online: $125
What you get: Canon's Pixma iP4500 color inkjet printer rivals low-end color laser printers in speed--and leaves many higher-priced inkjet competitors in the dust. The text quality on plain paper was very nice: crisp, black, and just a little jagged in more-complicated fonts. Though a laser could print better text, it couldn't compete with the Pixma iP4500's photos, which (aside from yellowish flesh tones) looked vivid and natural. Automatic duplexing is a big bonus at this price.
Our review unit earned a performance score of 90, one of the highest scores we've seen from an inkjet printer. (Note: Performance is one of four attributes we use in computing the total rating for a product. The others are price, specifications, and design.)
- PCW Rating: 80 (Very Good)
- Rank: #1 on PC World's Top 5 Monochrome Lasers chart (January 2007)
- Recent low price online: $99
What you get: Dell's 1720dn Laser Printer is a reasonably priced, well-equipped, capable monochrome laser. It would work well in either a SOHO setting or a small workgroup. Plain-text pages popped up at
Our review unit earned a good performance score of 79.
- PCW Rating: 77 Good
- Rank: #7 on PC World's Top 10 Inkjet Multifunction Printers chart (September 2007)
- Recent low price online: $319
What you get: The HP OfficeJet Pro L7680 All-in-One is pricier than many other inkjet multifunction printers, but it comes loaded with nearly everything a small office could want in a networked MFP. What's more, its speed and low consumables costs make it a viable alternative to color laser devices that cost much more. It can even fax in color to a compatible machine.
Our review unit earned a performance score of 80, making it one of the faster color inkjet MFPs we've tested.
Drawbacks: It's expensive, and print quality is middling overall.
- PCW Rating: 84 (Very Good)
- Rank: #1 on PC World's Top 10 Color Lasers
chart (August 2007)
- Recent low price online: $229
What you get: Despite its
Our review unit earned a performance score of 79, a middling score for a color printer.
Drawbacks: The 1320c's text print speeds were