The Best Printers for $150, $300, $500, $750

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Standard features include automatic duplexing; a 500-sheet main input tray and a 100-sheet multipurpose tray for envelopes and other thicker media; and a 350-sheet output tray. You may add up to two more bottom-mounted, 500-sheet feeder trays. One concern: The transfer belt (a page-wide plastic band that helps convey toner from the cartridge to the paper) is fully exposed when you open the printer’s front panel, just asking you to drop something on it.

With a 600MHz dual-core processor and 384MB of memory (expandable to 896MB), the CLP-775ND posted a fast time of 18.1 pages per minute printing plain text. Even color photos came out quicker than average. But the quality of the pictures is more pedestrian: Color images have an orange tinge as well as a noticeably grainy background.

No need for color? The Oki B710dn monochrome laser printer is a classic workhorse. At $775 (list), it has a tremendous duty cycle of about 250,000 pages per month, and paper capacity to match, offering a 550-sheet main input tray and a 150-sheet multipurpose tray for thicker media; a second 550-sheet input tray is optional. The output tray holds 500 sheets.

Printing plain text, the B710dn had a fast time of 22 pages per minute. The 15,000-page combination toner cartridge and drum costs $301, or just 2 cents per page. Oki is known for ease-of-use shortcomings, but this model re­­mains a good buy.

Xerox’s WorkCentre 6505/DN offers better speed and print quality than many color laser MFPs we’ve seen, especially for $749. While other models might create garish or grainy images, the WorkCentre’s were realistic (though slightly light in coloring). Its replacement toner is expensive.

If you’d rather just save money, consider the $700 Brother MFC-9970CDW, which tackles the full laundry list of small-office and workgroup print/copy/scan/fax needs, includes a legal-size scanner, and offers cheap toner to boot. Just note that this unit’s photo quality is middling, and that its color scans can be overly dark.

These days, good printer choices can be had at any budget level. Check your wallet and gauge your needs, and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

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